Updated: Feb 29
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If you've been breeding for a while, no matter how clean and how careful, you've likely had a parent (or two or three) call and ask about puppy urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Puppies are like kids, they can get several conditions that need attention but aren’t anything to panic over. One of those is UTIs.
UTIs are common in puppies. They are more common in females than males by about a ratio of 4 to 1, but can affect either sex.
Frequent urination and incomplete bladder voiding are signs. Before you get worried, puppies pee a lot, so that alone isn’t enough to be worried. But if your puppy squats three or four times for each potty break and is only urinating a little each time and is having trouble with housetraining, then that would be a good reason to go see the vet.
UTIs reduce success at housebreaking and are very uncomfortable for pups. Untreated, they can progress to bladder infections. It often takes a few rounds of antibiotics to resolve them. If your pup gets a UTI and needs antibiotics, don’t wait to go back to the vet if you see any indication of a return. Ask the vet to do a culture and sensitivity test since UTIs can be resistant to some antibiotics. Also be sure that your puppy’s urine sample is collected using a “clean catch” so that you avoid contaminating the sample with any material on the outside of your pup’s genitalia.
Here are some things you can do if your puppy seems prone to UTIs:
Give about 200 mg d-mannose daily for puppies, more for adults (about 100 mg per 10 lbs). D-mannose is a non-metabolizable sugar effective for UTIs that are cause by E. coli. E. coliinfection persists because the bacteria are able to adhere to the urinary tract through sticky little appendages. The d-mannose is more attractive to the bacterial appendages than the urinary tract, so when you give this supplement, the bacteria let go of the urinary tract and grab onto the d-mannose and can be easily flushed out. Ensure your puppy drinks well to help facilitate this. We use Bladder Support Plus; this product also contains cranberry extract for proper urine pH and soothing herbs to help with any discomfort. If this supplement doesn’t help in a day or two, please see your vet and ask for a urine culture to see what bacteria is causing the infection, as it may require antibiotic treatment. NOTE: if you or a puppy parent see blood in your puppy’s urine, please go to the vet right away and don’t try any at-home treatments.
Wild Alaskan Salmon oil is high in anti inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and will help reduce inflammation in the urinary tract caused by infection and/or stones. Be sure your salmon oil is wild sourced. Farmed salmon produces oil that is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which is pro-inflammatory and will have the opposite effect you desire. Also, your fish oil should not smell fishy. If it smells fishy that means it hasn't been purified well and is diluted with cellular contaminants.
Trim the hair around her vulva or the end of his penis so it doesn’t wick bacteria from the ground. We do a sanitary clip on our puppies to help habituate to grooming but also for health as it helps prevent UTIs. Remember to not cut the hair too close or you will cause irritation. The blade should be sanitized before clipping the hair on the vulva or tip of the penis. A good sanitary clip cuts the hair from the genitalia to the anus. NEVER clip the hair on the vulva or tip of the penis using a clipper blade that has been used to clip the anal area.
Once or twice a day, wipe her vulva or the tip of his penis after urination with an antibacterial wipe to help keep things extra clean
Puppies live in groups, often lay in litter, and even when living as single dogs in homes are not yet house trained so are often exposed to soiled conditions. Puppies have immature immune systems and cannot fight off infection as effectively as adults. These all contribute to the higher rate of UTIs in puppies.
UTIs are bacterial infections. They are caused by bacteria that infect the urinary tract due to exposure at the genitalia. UTIs are not directly caused by food. Bladder stones can be caused by food, but bladder stones are not UTIs, although infections often accompany some types of bladder stones.
Bladder stones are little rock-like aggregates of minerals and other materials.
Urinary stones can cause an obstruction in the urinary tract and should be treated as an urgent situation.
There are two main types of bladder stones found in puppies: Struvite stones and calcium oxalate stones.
Struvite stones are formed by a diet that is too alkaline (over pH 7) and are the most common type of urinary stone found in puppies. Struvite compounds are normally found in urine, but when urine is too acidic, struvite will aggregate into stones. Struvite stones are often the result of a bacterial infection, as some bacteria generate ammonia, which causes the urine to become more alkaline. Often, resolution of the infection will eliminate the stones.
In many cases struvites respond to an acidification of the diet or urine. Struvite stones can also be caused by antacids or other drugs or supplements that raise the pH of urine.
If struvite stones form as the result of a bladder infection, then it’s important to keep your dog on antibiotics until the struvites are completely dissolved and gone, since as the stones dissolve bacteria can be released from them and cause a flare-up of the infection. This is another reason that UTIs re-occur and can take several courses of treatment to eliminate.
Care must be taken, however, when acidifying urine, as too much acidification can cause the formation of calcium oxalate stones. Some home remedies include adding apple cider vinegar, but this is not advised unless under the close supervision of a vet as it can swing the pH of the urine a little too far in the other direction and inadvertently cause calcium oxalate stones.
Calcium oxalate stones form in an acidic environment (pH 5.0-6.5) and are less common in puppies and younger dogs. Unlike struvite stones, calcium oxalate stones can’t be dissolved and must be passed or removed surgically.
Calcium oxalate stones are sensitive to diet and care should be taken to avoid high protein, high sodium (salt), high calcium, and oxalate-rich foods like You don’t want to cut all calcium and oxalate foods from your dog’s diet, but a lower protein diet (20-24%, and specifically lower in a type of protein called purines) and avoidance of dairy, excess calcium, vitamin C, spinach, sweet potatoes, and brown rice as major ingredients in their diet. It’s also wise to avoid rawhide, bully sticks (pizzle), cow hooves, pig ears, and other chews that are high in collagen (protein).
If your puppy has an infection or stones one of the most important things you can do is to increase her intake of fresh water. Some ways to increase water intake include:
Place multiple bowls of water around the house.
Use a dog drinking fountain (some dogs just love the fountains and will drink more).
See if your dog like to chew on ice cubes.
If your dog doesn’t like to drink or eat ice cubes, you can try spiking his water with a little low-sodium chicken or beef broth. Be careful, however, to add only a little as too much can add too much sodium and protein. This is especially a consideration if your dog has calcium oxalate stones.
Make a “soup” using warm water and some canned dog food.
We provide our puppy families with buyer education that includes information about UTIs and stones so that they know how to recognize and prevent them and also to help allay some of the fears and panic that puppy parents can have when their little ball of joy has a veterinary situation. We will be making our buyer education package available to breeders at a very affordable cost at a later date so that you can help educate your buyers.
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