When a Puppy’s UTI Won’t Go Away
Wouldn’t you know it?! We adopted, and our new puppy’s UTI won’t go away. Based on my history with dogs, it seems I’m not allowed to have ones that are 100% healthy on arrival. So, when we got the call a week before Clover’s anticipated flight to Colorado telling us she had a urinary tract infection, we weren’t surprised. No biggie, we thought. Get her on meds, and we’ll take care of the rest from here. After weeks and weeks and weeks of meds, when the UTI remained, we headed off to see the veterinary specialist.
I mentioned the bladder issues briefly in the 5-part series of posts about Clover’s adoption. If you’d rather read that entire story in one place, use this link instead.
How Serious Was It?
I’m happy to report that the bacteria invading Clover’s young bladder was plain old e coli in the beginning and later a slightly more meds-resistant e coli. Never anything even close to MRSA, which is good. If you’re facing a puppy’s UTI not going away, that’s good news. Sort of.
In real time, from urine culture to urine culture, from veterinary appointment to veterinary appointment, we experienced a lot more worry than I’m going to convey here in this recap — somewhat after the fact.
All told, it took 16 weeks and a couple of different antibiotics before Clover finally had TWO CONSECUTIVE negative urine cultures. We tried a couple of times along the way to take her off meds — assuming things were good — only to have her symptoms roar back just 36 hours after going off antibiotics.
It’s a sad, sad thing to have your young puppy strain to pee and even cry while trying. Trust me when I say that Clover’s house training is miraculous, considering how long the UTI persisted.
When a Puppy’s UTI Won’t Go Away
We’ve taken a somewhat conservative approach to this bladder problem. So far, we’ve been able to postpone a cystoscopy (putting Clover under anesthesia and sending a tiny camera into her bladder). She has had x-rays, an ultrasound, a pretty invasive physical exam of her nether regions (poor sweetheart), blood tests, and many urine cultures with samples drawn by a needle.
Our team of veterinarians has ruled out:
- Bladder stones of any kind
- Major bladder abnormalities
It May Be a Girl Parts Issue. Fingers Crossed Your Puppy Isn’t Already Spayed!
The working theory at this point about the puppy’s UTI won’t go away is that Clover is simply immature in her “Girl Parts” region and that letting her go through 1 heat cycle might fix the problem. You can read more about puppy v*ginitis and puppy immature v*lva from a couple of veterinarian bloggers I know.
Of interest to those in the rescue community, if you’re seeing young-ish female dogs with long-term UTI issues, there is a good chance that they also had this immaturity problem and were spayed too young.
So, once we got those 2 back-to-back negative urine cultures (while still on meds), we went to a “maintenance dose” of the antibiotic (cephalexin). It’s about 1/3 the dose she was getting when she was taking it 3 times a day during regular treatment.
Essentially, we take Clover out to pee one last time before bed, then give her the antibiotic. The theory is that it concentrates in her bladder overnight and keeps any bacteria at bay … while we wait for her to go into heat — anytime between 6 and 18 months, in most dogs. Clover will be 8 months old on January 27, 2015.
Now, we wait. The maintenance dose seems to be working. Clover has been on it for nearly a month now, and there appears to be no return of the UTI. Still, I check her Girl Parts often — looking for discharge, inflammation, and watching for signs she is going into heat.
Puberty in a Female Dog
Being a long-time rescue dog girl, I’ve NEVER had an intact female dog go through a heat cycle. A local friend with MUCH more experience has agreed to be my guide — with practical advice for keeping Clover safe (from other dogs and even the coyotes in our area) and just to be around in case I freak out when it starts. I had NO idea, but the full heat cycle can last 21 days or more. Right now? That feels like a VERY long time.
Let’s hope it works.
If the UTI comes back while Clover is on the maintenance dose or if it comes back after she goes through a heat cycle, then we’ll most likely go ahead with the cystoscopy — looking for some sort of physiologic problem.
Learn more about the current debates about when is the best time to spay / neuter dogs (if at all) and why I chose a traditional spay when the time came. I may also write about how Clover’s pet insurance is treating this problem. For now, I just wanted to get this back story out there and to let you know that she has been a real trooper and seems to be doing well, finally.
Update: Did Our Plan Work?
Yes. Keeping Clover on maintenance antibiotics until she went through 1 heat cycle (just after her first birthday in June 2015) worked. She has not had a single UTI since.