Cystitis (bladder inflammation)

As anyone who has ever suffered with cystitis (a sore bladder) will know, it is a very unpleasant condition. Although not usually life-threatening, cystitis can be very distressing for your dog. It is important to seek veterinary advice as soon as possible since most cases can be easily treated with a short course of antibiotic tablets.

Cystitis means that the lining of the bladder is inflammed and is usually caused by an infection in the urine. Because the bladder is sore dogs want to empty it more often and so are frequently seen squatting and trying to pass urine.

Cystitis is far more common in female dogs than in males. The first sign you usually notice is your dog passing small amounts of urine very often. Sometimes you will see blood in the urine and occasionally your dog will strain as if trying to pass urine but nothing comes out. In these cases cystitis may be mistaken for constipation. A few dogs with cystitis become very thirsty and some dogs feel a bit ‘off colour’.

Your vet will probably know what is wrong with your dog from your description of the symptoms. If this is the first time your dog has had this problem your vet may well just prescribe some treatment. However, if the problem keeps coming back or does not clear up with the usual treatment, then your vet will want to do some other tests to make sure there is nothing else wrong with your dog.

Tests on a urine sample will show if there is anything wrong e.g. sugar, protein or crystals in the urine. If there is a problem then it may be sent to a laboratory see if bacteria can be grown. If bacteria do grow there are tests that can be done to find the right antibiotics to clear up the infection.

If the problem keeps coming back or fails to clear up properly, your vet may advise that the bladder is examined using X-rays or ultrasound. If your pet has signs of general illness, such as fever or poor appetite, more general tests including blood tests are likely to be carried out.

The most common cause of cystitis in dogs is an infection caused by bacteria. Usually the bacteria gain entry to the body through the urethra (which is the tube leading from the bladder to the exterior).

There are a whole range of different problems which can make it more likely that your dog will develop cystitis. In some cases a bladder stone may have damaged the inside of the bladder. Dogs which have problems emptying their bladder (either because they do not get out for exercise frequently or because they have a blockage or developmental problem) are also more at risk.

Sometimes there is another disease present that makes your dog less able to fight infection, and diabetic dogs have a lot of sugar in their urine making the bladder an ideal place for bacteria to grow.

If your dog has cystitis for the first time and there is no other obvious problem your vet may just give you a course of antibiotic tablets for your dog. In most cases the problem should start to clear up within a few days of starting the tablets. It is very important that you continue to give the tablets until the course is finished, even if your dog seems completely better. If you stop treatment too early the problem may come straight back and the tablets may not work a second time.

Letting your dog get out to empty its bladder regularly will help to make them feel more comfortable. Encourage your dog to drink plenty of fluids as this will help to flush out the infection from the bladder. Cranberry juice is supposed to relieve discomfort in women with cystitis and if you can persuade your dog to take this it may help.

Most dogs recover very quickly from cystitis. However, if there is some other problem which has caused the cystitis then this must also be cleared up or the cystitis will come straight back. If dogs have an underlying cause for the cystitis which cannot be resolved, then they may occasionally need to be on permanent (or at least regular courses of) antibiotics.