1. Home
  2. Small Dog Health
  3. Puppy Bladder Infections

Puppy Bladder Infection 
Housebreaking Mistake?

By Janice A. Jones   | Last Updated 02-06-2020

Puppy bladder infections may be more common than we think and especially in small breed puppies. 

When you think about it, young puppies tend to drink more and consequently urinate more than adults. 

Their tiny pee spots may go undetected on a rug, so even the most caring small breed owners may not recognize a puppy bladder or urinary tract infection in their new puppy. 

Puppy Bladder Infection or Pottying Mistakes:  How to Tell the Difference

Even if these pee spots are noticed, most owners will assume it is all part of the housebreaking routine. 

Small breed dogs are notorious for been harder to potty train than their larger cousins and will have numerous accidents before they are fully trained.

Owners generally understand this and are not likely to suspect anything other than typical house training issues.

What is a Puppy Bladder Infection?

As the name implies, it is an infection in the bladder and normally also along the urinary tract.  These infections are caused by bacteria that enter the urinary tract from the outside.

Once bacteria enter, they multiply in the urinary tract.  Vets will call these urinary tract infections or UTIs.  If the infection moves into the bladder, causing the bladder to becomes inflamed, it is described as a puppy bladder infection.  

In a healthy dog, the bladder is a sterile environment where bacteria are normally not present.   

Another name for a puppy bladder infection is cystitis.  Other symptoms often accompany these problems, and the puppy becomes miserable. 

Sadly we often mistake pottying mistakes for bladder infections and rather than treating the medical problem we try to treat it as a behavioral issue, which it is not.

Causes of Puppy Bladder Infection

Puppy bladder infections can occur in both genders, but in older dogs, it is the females that are most affected. 

Bacteria that is already in the environment enters when the puppy urinates so those puppies with short legs, and cobby bodies are the most vulnerable. 

In most cases, the puppy urinates and in so doing touches the ground or grass that is contaminated with the bacteria. 

Bacteria that are most commonly associated with bacterial bladder infections are Escherichia Coli, (E. Coli) Candida Albicans (C. Albicans) and Streptococcus Enterococcus. (S. Enterococcus) but others have been identified including fungal and viral infectious agents.

Puppies at Greatest Risk

  • Puppies are susceptible because they have immature immune systems.  A strong, mature immune system would naturally destroy the bacteria, preventing any from taking hold in the bladder for too long. 
  • Puppies that do not drink enough water to flush out their systems are also vulnerable because the urine tends to remain in the bladder which is a fertile area for the bacterial growth. 
  • Sometimes puppies that are confined and refuse to urinate in their sleeping area will end up with an infection for the same reason.
  • Puppies placed on a vegetarian or high grain diet may be at risk because it tends to turn their urine alkaline.

A UTI can also be caused by other underlying problems such as cancer, diabetes, bladder stones, Cushing's’ Disease or Renal Dysplasia.  These issues are more common in older dogs.


As I previously noted, it is often difficult to identify symptoms in small dogs, especially young puppies.  Typical symptoms are likely to include

  • Increased frequency of urination or peeing tiny amounts. You may notice dribbling in older dogs.
  • Difficulty or straining to urinate
  • Blood or puss in the urine:  This is never normal
  • Crying during urination:  Puppies should never cry when they urinate
  • Pain in the abdominal area when touched
  • Changes in the urine can include dark color, bad odor, or cloudy in appearance.  A bad smell typically signifies infection.
  • The puppy or dog is likely to spend considerable time lick their genital area.  Again, this is not normal behavior. 
  • Lethargy


So, just how do you determine if your puppy is having pottying mistakes or has a puppy bladder infection?

If you have ever had a urinary tract infection, you know how painful and irritating a bladder infection can be.  It is best not to wait too long before calling your veterinarian, if you suspect that your puppy might have an infection.

Difference Between
Pottying Mistakes and Puppy Bladder Infections

Pottying Mistakes

  • A typical healthy puppy will urinate after eating, drinking, waking up, playing, being handled and of the before going to sleep. 
  • Their urine is clear and nearly odorous. 
  • They are not likely to stop and lick their genitals. 
  • They do not cry when you pick them up or touch their abdomen. 
  • They do not appear sick, will not be lethargic, no fever, and no vomiting.

Possible UTI

  • A sick puppy will urinate randomly
  • More time is devoted to urinating and may show obvious signs of straining
  • Urine can be cloudy with a strong odor;  blood may be noticable
  • May stop to lick
  • May cry when urinating
  • May cry when picked up
  • Lethargic

If you do suspect that your dog may have a puppy bladder infection, it is highly recommended that you obtain a urine specimen. 

Obtaining a Urine Specimen

  1. The easiest way to do this is to get a small clean flat plate to slide under the dog when she squats to pee.  You won’t need much, but it should be clean. 

  2. Pour what you have obtained into a clean container. An old prescription pill container that has been washed should be sufficient if your vet has not provided a container for you.

  3. Ask your vet how fresh the sample should be.

The vet will diagnose the problem through a physical exam, urinalysis and possibly blood tests.

The urinalysis will consist of looking at the chemical makeup, the pH, the presence of blood and sometimes the vet will also do a culture to determine what types of bacteria are present.

The physical exam includes palpating the puppy’s abdomen, and if she suspects any blockages, an x-ray or ultrasound may be performed. 


The standard treatment for mild puppy bladder infections is antibiotics that need to be taken until they are all completed gone. 

Clavamox is the drug of choice at least in the U.S. If the infection is severe, hospitalization may be required.

Plenty of fresh cool water should be offered. 

Your vet may also prescribe a prescription dog food that will lower the pH of the urine keeping it on the acidic side. 

If you are worried that the puppy is not drinking enough water, add warm water to the food for added moisture.

Sometimes the vet will recommend a cranberry extract to add to the dog’s diet after the dog is well to prevent or at least decrease the frequency of future urinary tract infections

Untreated Bladder and Urinary Tract Issues

Your puppy is going to be miserable, but in addition to that, severe bladder infections can move into the kidneys causing life threatening infections, renal failure or bladder rupture. 

It is not worth waiting.  If you suspect that your puppy is having a problem, a quick visit to the vet will confirm your suspicions.

Preventing Future Puppy Bladder Infections

There is no guarantee that your puppy will never have another UTI or bladder infection, but there are ways to reduce the chances of it returning.

  1. Monitor your dog’s water intake.  A clean, fresh bowl should encourage the dog to drink.  I generally change out the water at least twice a day or more frequently if it looks dirty.  Always wash the bowl with soap and water before refilling it.

  2. If the water heats up too fast on hot days, add a couple of ice cubes.  Some dogs love to chase the cubes and eat them separately.

  3. If your dog has had frequent UTIs, consider switching the food to a blend that promotes urinary health.

  4. Sometimes an immune booster supplement helps build up the immune system, so the body tackles any bacteria before it has a chance to cause an infection.

  5. Cranberry supplements will maintain the correct pH of the urine and help prevent future problems.

  6. Keep the hair clipped close around your dogs' genitals.  If you use a professional groomer, they will do a sanitary clip each time the dog comes in.  If you go for more than two months between grooms, learn how to do this yourself.  You can also use pet wipes to clean your dog after she has urinated. 
Naturvet Cranberry Relief, 100 Gram Powder, Dog and Cat Health Supplements for Urinary Tract

For chronic problems sprinkling a little cranberry powder on food could keep your puppy free from new bladder infections.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. No advice on this website is meant to substitute for a diagnosis, treatment or advice from a veterinarian. Dogs showing symptoms of distress or illness should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

About Janice (author and voice behind this site)

Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, Janice served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu, but she has also lived with poodles, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, beagles, English bulldogs, carin terriers, and a Cocker Spaniel.

When not writing, reading, and researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, husband, and family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu and Smart-Knit-Crocheting

Does This Article Deserve Your Thumbs Up?

We always appreciate your support and encouragement.  Your thumbs up means so much to us.  Please like this article.

If you find this page or any page on Small Dog Place Helpful, or useful in anyway, I'd love it if you would click the small heart found on the bottom right of each page.

You can also share or bookmark this page -- just click on the:

10 Mistakes People Make When Choosing a Dog Breed

Free Monthly Newsletter

Sign Up for Our Free Newsletter and get our Free Gift to You.

my  E-book, The Top 10 Mistakes People Make When Choosing a Dog (and how to avoid them)