Bladder Infection (Cystitis) or Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) usually means that harmful bacteria found their way from outside the urinary opening into the bladder (and soon thereafter to the kidneys, see 30), and these are now bringing the bladder's function out of balance. Other sources of Bladder Infection are ingesting stale food or infested water, or stones or a tumor in the bladder.
Who Gets Bladder Infections
All dogs can get several Bladder Infections during their lifetime if you don't make use of the avoidance measures below. However, generally female dogs are far more susceptible to Bladder Infections than male dogs, older dogs more than younger ones, and unaltered dogs more than (clean!) neutered or spayed dogs. In addition, the later you have your dog neutered or spayed, the more susceptible it is to Bladder Infections (and other ailments too).
There seems to be no evidence for a German Shepherd susceptibility to Bladder Infections. The many reported cases of German Shepherd Bladder Infections seem simply be due to the fact that there are so many German Shepherds, compared to other breeds. After all, the German Shepherd is the most popular dog breed in the world - that is if you consider registered dogs, not stray dogs.
Typical warning signs of a Bladder Infection are:
- Sudden excessive water consumption (same weather and exercise level)
- Strain when urinating and/or urinating only small amounts at a time
- Urinating at unusual times or with unusual frequency (more often or less often)
- Urinating in inappropriate places
- Loss of appetite
- Fatigue, listlessness, and lethargy
- Foul smelling urine
- Blood in the urine
- Tender lower stomach area
If you notice several concurrent symptoms of these, make a vet appointment. If your German Shepherd seems to lose the ability to relieve itself, you must make an emergency visit to the vet, or your dog could die within hours!
Avoiding and Treating Bladder Infections
The following measures can help to avoid Bladder Infections:
- Make sure that your German Shepherd is drinking ample amounts of fresh water each day
- Take your dog out to urinate after a maximum of three hours (a puppy until 6 months of age after 60 minutes) to prevent the build-up of bacteria in its bladder - at night, when the metabolism is down, after a maximum of six hours can be sufficient
- Allow your German Shepherd at least 2 to 3 hours demanding and varied outdoor exercise each day - this will also help to stimulate the bladder
- Avoid that your dog is wading through or even swimming in standing waters that may be infested with bacteria - even a slow-flowing river is safer than a pond
- Take your German Shepherd under an outdoor shower after each exercise, play, or walk in the countryside, after swimming, etc - as a rule, if any fluid or substance reached the lowest body opening, a more intensive shower is required
- Use a pH-neutral, natural dog shampoo, and carefully apply this with rhythmic movements (sparing all body openings incl. the eyes and ears)
- At the end, clean the bladder exit (and also the anal area, but with a separate washcloth), and finally apply a strong antiseptic spray around both body exits, using a new piece of washcloth each time
- Don't bathe your German Shepherd too often - between monthly and twice yearly is plenty - better use the outdoor shower and a natural dog shampoo instead
- Both to avoid and to treat Bladder Infections you can try cranberry extract in powder form to prevent bacteria buildup in the urinary tract
Note that even if you adhere to all these avoidance measures, there is no 100% safety to avoid Bladder Infections altogether. However, number 1 and 2 alone seem to avoid over 90% of all conditions of Bladder Infections, so ensure that you follow at least the first two.
To treat a Bladder Infection, you should initially visit a vet so that they diagnose the ailment and its likely cause. They will probably argue in favor of using antibiotics (read the Introductory Notes 5 and 7 to understand why). However, because of the low success rate of antibiotics to treat Bladder Infections and the severe long-term side effects of antibiotics(!), you should aim for an alternative treatment instead. In addition, the mentioned natural cranberry extract in powder form seems to help better anyway.
Note that an otherwise healthy German Shepherd certainly has the ability to self-heal a Bladder Infection - provided that you give the right, natural assistance as described above. Antibiotics and other drugs seem inappropriate to treat Bladder Infections.