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January 16, 2015

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.

puppy's UTI won't go away

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.

About the Author Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related.

I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

  1. I’ll say it again. You’re a good momma Roxanne. And you’ll survive her heat like nothing. Thanks for choosing to let her go through a heat and waiting to spay her until she grows up. Wishing you well.

  2. My golden retriever had a bladder infection for much of her first two years of life. We tried all the same tests you’ve done … used a variety of antibiotics … tried dosing her with a combination of estrogen (she was spayed) and phenylpropanolomine for several months … and when she turned 2, she just seemed to mature out of the trouble. She’s 11 today. Good luck! It helps to keep a sense of humor.

  3. We adopted a dog this last year that was just coming out of heat. That is something I don’t want to go through again.. I was so worried about the neighbors dog jumping the fence that I hated letting her go outside! Hope she stays infection free.

  4. Aw, poor kiddo! I hope that she’s feeling better soon. Bella was always battling UTIs throughout her life, so I understand how hard it is to watch your fur kid deal with one. Sending healing vibes to Ms. Clover!

  5. I have heard of immature vulvas contributing to UTIs, so hopefully waiting for Clover to grow up a bit helps her out! I am glad the maintenance dose of the meds seem to be doing it for her, and fingers are crossed that they continue to do so.

    She’s so darned cute!

  6. Oh good luck! The easiest thing to do is buy a double pack of the dog “panties” – so you always have one in the washer and one on the dog, and a pack of woman’s pads. So much cheaper than the dog version. Harlow was a full 21 days – and we were told she was already spayed! In a way it was almost a relief, she’d been treated so questionably by her prior people that we could only imagine how they would have dealt with getting her spayed. I’ve been lucky to never have a dog with a UTI, but we’ve had cats with chronic issues.

    Monty and Harlow

  7. It seems like a great plan. Shyla is my first who we decided to wait to spay until after a heat, because our previous two females, who were spayed very young, had terrible UTI problems for their whole lives. Of course, it couldn’t be simple with Shyla. She got to 18 months old without an obvious heat. So, we decided it was time to spay. The vet saw signs during surgery that Shyla had indeed had a “silent heat”. And, her girl parts are configured just right. No adult UTI’s yet!!!!!

    You might consider a laparoscopic spay when the time comes because more mature dogs apparently have a tougher time with the spay surgery. My insurance paid the difference between a conventional and a Lap spay because the complications are far fewer after a Lap spay. You might ask you insurance about that. (Shyla was literally feeling perfect within about 48 hrs of surgery and was allowed to run soon after that).

  8. It’s interesting about the early spay problems. I have a 1 year old male kitty that almost died last month with a UTI infection , week long hospitalization .He had a terrible infection that required surgery on his eurethra . My vet suspects the cause was contributed from early neutering. He was a shelter cat. It probably could have been prevented if neutering was delayed until he was fully developed. I wish I would of known this before.

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