Treating Chronic Urinary Tract Infections in Older Dogs

Urinary Tract Infections in Dogs

The first time your dog gets a urinary tract infection it can really be scary for the owner. The symptoms may occur suddenly and progress quickly.

We first noticed Titan had increased urinary frequency and urgency, to the point that he was severely incontinent of urine when he was totally continent the day before. As we tried to get our heads around why he was so suddenly incontinent we quickly noticed other troubling symptoms like after a few urgent urinations, the urine started to have a remarkable odour. Once you smell it, you can never forget that pungent odour of bacterial overgrowth in the urine.

Only a couple of hours after the urine started to smell, it also started to look red, and blood-tinged. At the time, with Titan’s advanced age and increasing health issues, we assumed it would be all the worst things. A urinary tract infection, or UTI as it is referred to medically, was the least of our worries, and easily treatable, or so we thought.

Sick Dog.  Retrieved from Google Images November 1st, 2013.
Sick Dog. Retrieved from Google Images November 1st, 2013.

When Are UTI's Considered Chronic?

UTI’s are diagnosed as chronic in dogs if they have 2 or more in a month. So Titan fits the criteria. Chronic UTI’s can affect young dogs too, but usually for different reasons. With older dogs, UTI’s are more common in spayed female dogs and regardless of gender, are usually related to secondary symptoms of a primary health issue. Such as diabetes, kidney disease, weakened immunity, obstructive processes in the urinary system and central nerve issues.


We were relieved at the diagnosis of this seemly mild health issue. Even more relieved when after twenty-four hours of treatment we started to see great improvement. Titan was continent of urine again, his urine did not smell and it was amber yellow, not red. So we kept up with the 2 week course of antibiotics as our veterinarian had ordered.

However, only days after finishing the 2 weeks of antibiotics, Titan started to develop the symptoms again, just as he did the first time. Very sudden and quick progression. I called the veterinarian and let him know what we were observing. He asked us to wait one more 24 hour period so the antibiotics were cleared completed from his system, and then we would proceed with a urine culture and sensitivity test. Which is when the vet collects absolutely sterile urine from the dog and sends it to a lab. It tells the vet what bacteria are causing the infection and what antibiotics will be effective. Most UTI’s in dogs are caused by E.Coli and so was Titan’s. The antibiotics he was on where shown to be effective. Even though he had minimal levels of bacteria in the culture the vet felt that we should do another 2 week course of antibiotics because he was symptomatic. So we did.

At this point, Titan was better for up to almost 2 weeks before he started getting symptoms a third time. Once again we saw the vet. The vet now thinks that Titan may have kidney stones that are obstructing his urinary system and preventing him from voiding fully, and therefore getting repeat UTI’s due to retained urine. Unfortunately, Titan is not a surgical candidate due to his age to have the stones removed. That’s when we started to discuss chronic antibiotic therapy. Apparently, preventing the UTI’s by using this particular antibiotic would also decrease any pain caused by the stones.

However, I have my own theory about Titan’s recurrent UTI’s. Because he has a progressive central nerve issue secondary to aging, I think it’s that he retains urine because he doesn’t know he has a full bladder, or voids only some of the full void because he may have lost sensation to his bladder. But for either cause, chronic antibiotics would be the option in Titan’s case.

Titan, at age 13, enjoying a bone.
Titan, at age 13, enjoying a bone.

Are UTI's Common in Aging Dogs?

Has Your Senior Dog Had a UTI?

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Chronic Antibiotic Use

We have all heard the lecture on how taking antibiotic improperly leads to antibiotic resistance; the same is true for dogs when treating UTI’s. But in the case of a chronic infection that chronic antibiotics are being used for, it is inevitable that at some point, the bacteria causing the infection will become resistant. This is usually only an option in older dogs, who have some obstructive issue or a neurological issue who are not fit for surgery due to advanced age and co-morbidities. In cases where the dog’s quality of life is still good, daily antibiotics will prevent infection and even decrease discomfort. The veterinarian can provide you with options and provide their professional opinion regarding your dog’s individual circumstances.

Titan at age 10, full of energy and mud!
Titan at age 10, full of energy and mud!

Chronic UTI's in Senior Dogs

  • Can occur suddenly symptomatic and progress rapidly
  • Usually occur because of underlying health issues; diabetes, weakened immunity, obstructive processes due to aging, or central nervous issues due to aging
  • Treatment options may be limited do to advanced age

Adding Up The "It's Just..."

For Titan we chose to trail him on chronic antibiotic therapy to see if we could achieve symptom management. Evaluation would include increased urinary continence, and visible relief from discomfort. At this point it seems to be working as Titan is able to hold his urine well until he gets outside, and he no longer is restless in the house or frequently licking himself.

However, the overall bigger picture remains. When is there too many “It’s just…, it’s just…” It’s just congestive heart failure, treated with medication, it’s just severe hip, and hind leg weakness, treated with weekly swimming, now it’s just chronic UTI’s being treated with chronic antibiotics

Every situation is different and changes fluctuate daily. There are many fancy charts designed to help owners score their dog’s quality of life, but when it comes down to it, they are not that effective because there are too many individual variations of each dog’s circumstances.

Share Your Story of a Senior Dog 1 comment

Dorene 2 years ago

Hi my little 4lb, 13 year old ( Vali Girl )

Had blood in her urine. Took her to the Vet and had a number of urinanalysis,blood test and x-rays..

We found out she had a bladder stone and we had it removed. She was on antibiotics after the surgery. For about a month she had no blood in the urine. Than it started again. We took her to the vet again with all the testing also again with antibiotics and antibiotic injection. Now it's brownish/yellow somedays and others small trace of blood. Can someone please help on what I should do ? Please email me at:

tresbravos@comcast.net

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