Urinary tract infections in male dogs are likely less common than urinary tract infections in female dogs, but they too deserve attention. Male dogs are less predisposed to urinary tract infections because of their anatomy. Compared to female dogs who have a much shorter urethra making bacteria more likely to climb up, male dogs have particularly urethrae, making it more challenging for bacteria to crawl up and reach the bladder to set up an infection. Following is some information about urinary tract infections in male dogs from veterinarian Dr. Samantha Bartlett.
Urinary Tract Infections in Male Dogs
Your dog is suddenly having urinary accidents in the house and asking to go outside much more often than normal. You notice he has a strange odor and color to his urine. Perhaps, he is straining to urinate, but very little urine is coming out. All of these could be signs of a urinary tract infection. Most often this is indicative of an issue with the urinary bladder, also known as bacterial cystitis.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) often come with symptoms as described earlier or may not have symptoms at all. Although female dogs are most often affected, urinary tract infections in male dogs occur as well. Male dogs though are at risk of certain complications including urinary blockage and prostate issues which don’t affect female dogs.
Most often an infection ascends from outside the body through the urethra and then reaches the bladder. Occasionally an infection passes through the bloodstream or descends down the ureters from the kidneys. Dogs with urinary stones or crystals, endocrine disorders or that are otherwise immune suppressed are at increased risk of urinary tract infections.
Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections in Male Dogs
Sometimes urinary tract infections in male dogs produce no obvious symptoms until they have become quite severe. This is one reason that it is a good idea to include a urinalysis in the routine lab work for your dog every year or twice yearly depending on your dog’s age and overall health.
The most common signs of a urinary tract infection are difficulty urinating or straining to urinate, frequent urges to urinate with a small quantity of urine produced, urine with a strange color or odor, blood in the urine and accidents in the house.
These symptoms can indicate something other than a bacterial cystitis so it is important for your veterinarian to do a full workup to determine other underlying causes.
At the Vet's Office
Signs of a urinary tract infection in male dogs should prompt a veterinary visit. The first thing your veterinarian will want to do is a physical exam. Your veterinarian will examine the dog's reproductive tract for irritation of the tissue on and around that area. He or she will palpate the abdomen to feel for abnormal masses or pain in the urinary bladder or abnormal kidney shape or size.
Your veterinarian will also do a rectal exam to evaluate size and shape of the prostate and inflammation of the urethra. Other abnormal physical findings such as pot-belly, hair loss, skin infections, et will be checked for.
It is important to give your veterinarian a thorough account of all changes in diet, routine and behavior. This includes how often your dog needs to urinate, quality of urination, amount of water intake, changes in diet and appetite, weight loss or gain, and changes in energy levels.
Once the physical exam is complete, your veterinarian will want to perform a urinalysis. This will determine the pH and concentration of the urine, along with protein content and an examination of the sediment to look for evidence of infection, abnormal cells or crystals.
If the urine is very dilute (not concentrated), infection may not be seen on the sediment. It is a good idea regardless if bacteria are identified to perform a urine culture and sensitivity to identify the type of organisms present (if any) and the appropriate antibiotic to treat the infection.
If the symptoms or infection is not resolved with antibiotics or if the infection comes back, your veterinarian will need to perform further testing to determine the underlying cause of these recurrent infections.
Bloodwork will be performed to determine any underlying kidney disease, endocrine disease (diabetes mellitus, hyperadrenocorticism, etc.) or immune suppression. X-rays and possibly ultrasound will also be recommended to determine if urinary stones are present.
Sometimes your vet will need to perform a contrast study where air or dye is introduced into the urinary tract to determine defects in the bladder wall, such as a tumor or abnormally positioned ureter, or the presence of urinary stones that do not show up on x-rays.
Treatment of Urinary Tract Infections in Male Dogs
In general, uncomplicated urinary tract infections in male dogs are easily taken care of with a course of antibiotics. If your veterinarian is performing a culture, he or she may opt to go ahead and start a likely antibiotic until the results are back. Urinary cultures often take up to a week to get full results. Most uncomplicated infections are treated for 10 to 14 days.
Recheck urinalysis is recommended to ensure the infection is resolved. UTIs involving the kidneys are often treated 4 weeks or longer. If urinary stones are present, treatment may involve a change in diet or surgical removal of the stones.
Intact male dogs are more susceptible than neutered males to prostate infections that can cause ascending UTIs and difficult and painful urination. Prostate cancer in dogs can also cause secondary infections and painful, difficult urination. Prostate cancer is a problem of both intact and neutered male dogs.
If an underlying endocrine disease is identified, the urinary tract infection will be treated as discussed above in addition to treatment for the underlying disease. For dogs identified with an underlying disease, especially diabetes mellitus, a routine urinalysis every 3-6 months is recommended as these pets are prone to urinary tract infections and often do not present with physical clinical signs.
Prostatic cysts and abscesses often require months of antibiotic treatment and flushing of the prostate. More difficult cases may require surgical intervention to remove a portion of the prostate. Castration of intact males may be recommended depending on the type of infection and the lifestyle of the dog.
If your dog has an underlying complication, your veterinarian may recommend referral to a veterinary specialist. Many dogs with underlying, non-responsive prostatic disease are referred to an internal medicine or surgical specialist. Likewise, if cancer of the bladder or prostate is identified, your veterinarian may consult with or recommend referral to a veterinary oncologist to ensure your pet receives the best care possible.
About the Author
Dr. Samantha Bartlett is an associate veterinarian at Case Veterinary Hospital in Savannah, GA. She received her undergraduate degree in Biology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and continued to get her DVM at Auburn University.
Before returning back to work in Savannah, Dr. Bartlett spent time as a veterinarian in the Florida Keys where she was able to learn about holistic medicine and gain more experience in feline medicine – two fields that hold great interest for her. Dr. Bartlett is also working to broaden her skills in dentistry.
Dr. Bartlett shares her home with her dog, Boone and her three cats, Isabelle, Amelia and Oswald. In her free time, she enjoys walking the beach, paddleboarding and lazy days with a good book.