Potty training a pup is often frustrating all on its own, and if your puppy continuously has accidents, you might think they simply aren't getting it. However, there could be a medical reason behind the messes. Puppy urinary tract infections (UTIs) are more common than most pet owners realize. Unfortunately, they can interfere with potty training, besides being incredibly uncomfortable for your pup. If your new puppy keeps having accidents in the house, licks their genitals excessively, or has foul-smelling urine, there's a good chance they have a puppy UTI. You'll need to identify the cause of the UTI and successfully treat it before proceeding with house training.
Puppy UTI Symptoms
Are you wondering how to tell if your puppy has a UTI? There are a few telltale signs that could point to "Yes." Just know a puppy with an infection may not show every symptom on this list.
- Bloody urine
- Foul-smelling urine
- Excessively licking the vulva or prepuce (the skin covering the male's penis)
- Urinating frequently
- Increased thirst
- Straining to urinate
- Dribbling urine
- Accidents in the house
Causes of UTIs in Puppies
Just like in adult dogs, UTIs in puppies are bacterial infections within the urinary bladder that can have several causes. Even at a young age, they can have conditions like bladder stones or diabetes, but these usually occur rarely. It's more common for a puppy UTI to result from fecal bacteria migrating into the bladder, or a structural problem with the puppy's system.
Let's face it -- puppies can be messy. They poop frequently, and it's often soft, thanks to their developing digestive tracts. If puppies don't clean themselves properly, fecal bacteria can travel into the urethra and cause a UTI.
Holding it for Too Long
The goal of potty training is to teach your puppy to hold their pee until they're safely outside, but if your little one doesn't empty their bladder often enough, they could get a UTI. Take your puppy out immediately after waking up and right before bed, and never leave a young dog for more than three to four hours without a bathroom break.
Puppy vaginitis is a common occurrence in immature female dogs, characterized by inflammation of the vagina. Some puppies experience vaginal discharge or crusts around the vulva. Puppy vaginitis usually resolves on its own after a dog goes through puberty, but it can lead to a UTI in some cases.
If your female puppy gets frequent UTIs, it's possible they could have a hypoplastic or recessed vulva. This means the puppy was born with extra folds of skin around the vulva, which can trap bacteria and lead to urinary tract infections. Some dogs with recessed vulvas show no clinical signs. However, some develop frequent UTIs or vaginitis as early as a few months old.
Diagnosing the Problem
In order to diagnose a UTI, your vet will need a sample of your puppy's urine. They'll generally run a full urinalysis on the sample, where they will measure the concentration and pH of the urine, and then examine it under a microscope to identify any red blood cells, white blood cells, crystals, or bacteria. Reach out to your vet to see if they'd like you to bring a sample or if they'd like to get a sterile sample while your puppy is in the office.
A physical exam is always important anytime your pet isn't feeling well. If you're worried about a recessed vulva, your vet can most likely diagnose it just by examining the vulva tissue. They can also check for any inflammation around the genitals caused by licking or urine scalding. Your vet might also recommend blood work, X-rays, or an ultrasound, as well.
Treatment Options for Puppy UTIs
A puppy UTI won't go away on its own; you'll need to follow a vet-recommended treatment plan to resolve it, which will usually involve antibiotics. Antibiotics come in many forms, including flavored liquids, tablets, capsules, and even a long-lasting injection, so you and your veterinarian can decide on the best one for your dog. A course of antibiotics can last anywhere from 10 to 14 days, but your puppy will usually begin to feel better within the first 48 hours. If a recessed vulva or bladder stones are the underlying cause, they may require surgery.
Preventing Puppy Urinary Tract Infections
There are a few things you can do to help prevent your puppy from developing a UTI.
- Take your puppy outside every one to two hours and allow them to empty their bladder.
- Make sure your puppy has continuous access to clean water. You can even consider a pet fountain to promote drinking.
- Feed your puppy a nutritious, balanced diet.
- Talk to your veterinarian about probiotics, which can help promote bladder health.
- Keep your puppy's bottom clean. Long-haired dogs can benefit from a "sanitary trim" around the rectum and genitals to prevent the hair from harboring bacteria.
- Have your dog examined by a vet to rule out a recessed vulva.
Dealing with a Puppy UTI During House Training
It can be challenging to know if your puppy is having accidents in the house because of a behavioral problem or a physical problem. Keep a close eye on whether your puppy shows any other symptoms of a UTI and see your veterinarian to rule out a possible infection. If your young pup has a UTI, be patient with them through their treatment; they can't control when or where they need to go. Once they're back to feeling 100%, they should pick up on house training in no time!