Canine Cystitis

"Canine cystitis refers to inflammation of the dog bladder. It is caused by a number of factors. The most common factor is bacteria. There are other causes as well such as tumors, fungus, injury and pelvic stress. However the the underlying problem associated with all reasons mentioned is bacteria, specifically opportunistic bacteria, which worsens the associated condition. Cystitis is a common problem in dogs, for a few reasons, particularly since it is easy for a pathogen like bacteria to enter into a body through the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the body. Females are more susceptible due to the shorter distance a bacterial population has to travel in order to inflame the bladder. Canine cystitis may be mild or severe depending on the cause and duration of the infection. Common signs associated with lower urinary tract infection include frequent urination, a reduced volume of urine each time a dog urinates and more specifically the passing of blood mixed with pus at the end of the urine stream. Other signs which indicate an inflammatory response in severe cases include include pain, an increase in the blood supply, loss of function, and fever. Clinical signs and a dog's history can help with making a diagnosis. However, it is only through a firm diagnosis is made thorough the use of laboratory procedures that are collectively called “Urinalysis”. Urinalysis is the physical, chemical, and microscopic examination of a urine sample (specimen). The use of antibiotics, including sensitivity tests to ensure that a dog doesn't have any negative reaction to the medication and supportive symptomatic therapy is an effective approach to treat cystitis in dogs."

Causes of Canine Cystitis:

The most frequent cause of canine cystitis is bacteria. Different species of bacteria have been identified in different cases. More than one species of bacteria can cause dual two types of infection in the urinary bladder at the same time. Species such as Staphylococcus and Proteus are the most common types of bacteria, identified in almost all cases of dog cystitis.

Bacteria naturally exists in the environment including in kennels, on bedding, and on the inguinal (groin) region of the dog. All of these sources of bacteria can enter into the urinary system through the urethra, which is how urine exits the body. For bacteria, this same passage serves as an opening into the body as well. Bacteria can travel up the urinary tract to the dog bladder. The bladder, particularly when it is storing urine before urination contains excreted glucose and other components that make the bladder a suitable environment for the multiplication of bacteria. After the bacterial population increases, it causes damage to the epithelium or lining of the bladder walls, which cause hemorrhages, blood and dead material called pus to mix together and then pass into the urine, usually at the end of the urine stream.

Other than bacteria, some uncommon but possible causes of dog cystitis are tumors, fungus, injuries and pelvic bone stress. These conditions result in damage to the bladder wall where opportunistic bacteria can cause infection.

Symptoms of Canine Cystitis:

In different studies, it has been proven that older dogs and females are more susceptible to cystitis. That is because older dogs have poor immunity while females have a shorter distance between the vagina and the urinary bladder.

Due to inflammation, tumors, injury, or stress in the urinary bladder, or on any part of lower urinary tract, the tract can possibly become congested or partially or fully blocked. As a result, dogs may feel severe pain and have difficulty when urinating. Moreover, dogs will show signs of severe stress and abdominal pain, which is more frequent during urination or if urine is stored in bladder.

Dogs will urinate frequently, but in a reduced volume. Due to stress and increased frequency, dogs will urinate in unusual places, including the possibility of urine dripping from the urethra and surrounding areas, which will also cause aggravation and stress for the owner.

In the case of a severe bladder infection, dogs may experience generalized signs of illness including fever, loss of body condition and loss of appetite. Blood may pass in the urine, mixed with puss with the color of the urine changing from pink to brown and cloudy in appearance. Apart from that, the viscosity (becomes less watery) of the urine also causes pain and makes urination difficult.

Diagnosis of Canine Cystitis:

Though clinical signs and history may help when diagnosing a problem in the urinary tract, it can never confirm the presence of cystitis as similar or like signs are noted in other conditions that affect the urinary system like in cases of cystic calculi, nephritis (inflammation of the kidney) or in the case of lower urinary tract syndrome etc.

In order to confirm an infection and inflammation in the bladder, a laboratory examination of a urine sample is compulsory. This group of tests is collectively called, “Urinalysis”. A urine sample is examined for its pH value, chemistry, contents, bacterial populations, epithelium puss, and the presence of blood. Physical consistency and appearance is also a part of this examination.

Bacterial species may not be isolated in all cases of canine cystitis; therefore, some advanced tests are also required. Similarly, in the case of tumors, obstruction and any injury, a biopsy and x-rays may also be required.

Treatment of Canine Cystitis:

Mild bacterial dog cystitis usually resolves by using antibiotics for 2 – 3 weeks. Amoxicillin and Cephadroxil are alternatives for treating cystitis in dogs. The monitoring of progress is essential, and urine examination should be conducted after every 3 – 5 days during treatment. Antibiotic therapy may be continued for 4 – 6 weeks in severe cases, but it is only recommended in case a confirmatory diagnosis has been made.

For recurring canine cystitis and infection in the canine bladder, it is highly recommended that an underlying cause for the bacterial invasion should be determined. Tumors, injury or in some cases prolonged glucocorticoids therapy and hyperadrenocorticism may be the reason. In such cases x-rays, a biopsy, biochemical profile and some other advanced techniques can help in confirming the cause.

Homeopathic supplements may also be of help during recovery from cystitis and to maintain bladder condition.  For example, DetoxPlus is formulated to help with the elimination of bacterial toxins, but only after partial recovery is achieved with conventional approaches. Other products such as UTI-Free Formula contain ingredients that can help with symptoms such as frequent urination, canine bladder discomfort and dog urine leakage.

Share Your Story:

Have a story to tell about this topic that will help others or want to ask a question? Each week 1 question will be answered by our editors. Share your story or dog health questions here.


Merck Veterinary Manual (Merck & Co. 2008)

Washington State University


From Canine Cystitis to more information on Dog Bladder Problems

To Dog Health Guide Home

Ask a Vet for Free 24/7