The ureters are the two tubes that transport urine from the kidneys into the urinary bladder. Various conditions, including bacterial infections and genetic abnormalities, can affect these tubes. When dogs, especially puppies, present with urinary incontinence or frequent urinary tract infections, problems with the ureters are often the cause. If your dog experiences any symptoms of urinary infection, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Lower Urinary Tract Infection
Infections in the ureters often begin with a lower urinary tract infection that goes untreated and allows bacteria to migrate up the urinary system and into the ureters. The bacteria responsible for lower urinary tract infections are typically E. coli, Staphylococcus and Proteus spp. Dogs with lower urinary infections often show no symptoms, making it difficult for the owner to know there is anything wrong. Symptoms your dog may experience include difficulty urinating, cloudy or bloody urine, frequent urination and urinary incontinence or leaking.
Pyelonephritis is a bacterial infection in the ureter. While this condition can be caused by faulty blood supply to the kidneys, valve malfunctions or kidney stones, a common cause is the spread of a lower urinary tract infection up into the upper urinary tract and the ureter. Symptoms of pyelonephritis include fever, difficulty urinating, blood in the urine, foul-smelling urine, frequent thirst and urination, and abdominal or lower back pain. If left untreated, this infection can block the ureters, causing a buildup of urine and can lead to sepsis.
Ureterolithiasis is the formation of kidney stones that move down and lodge into the ureters. In some cases, these stones pass through the ureters without causing complications. However, when they lodge in the ureter, they can lead to a partial or complete blockage that causes urine buildup and kidney damage. While some dogs display no symptoms, common symptoms include pain, kidney failure or the rupture of the ureter.
Ectopic ureters are a congenital abnormality where the ureters do not develop correctly. This abnormality can affect one or both ureters. In this condition, the ureters empty into a location other than the bladder, such as the urethra, uterus or vagina. Common signs of ectopic ureters occur in dogs between 3 and 6 months of age and include urinary incontinence and frequent urinary tract infections. In female dogs where the urine leaks directly into the vagina, vaginal or vulva inflammation occurs.