Urinary tract infection is the first thing many owners think when they notice a change in their Boxer’s bladder habits.
Blood in your Boxer’s urine, accidents in the house and straining to pee often result in a diagnosis of bacterial UTI, followed by antibiotics — but this is not the only possible explanation, or course of action.
Here is what you need to know about your Boxer’s urinary health.
I am not a vet. This post is intended for general informational and educational purposes. I encourage readers to see my full disclaimer. Boxer Dog Diaries is reader supported. I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase via links I share.
What Is A Boxer Dog Urinary Tract Infection?
A urinary tract infection typically refers to a proliferation of bacteria in the bladder, also known as cystitis.
However, a disturbance in urinary habits is not always bacterial in nature.
Symptoms can be due to inflammation, without an infection.
Urinary crystals can also be to blame.
Boxer Dog Urinary Infection Symptoms
If your Boxer has a urinary tract infection you may notice signs including:
- Accidents in the house
- Straining to pee
- Unproductive attempts to urinate
- Small amounts of urine passed with each void
- Frequent need to urinate
- Dark or cloudy urine
- Peeing blood, or pinkish tint to urine
- Constant licking of urinary openings
- Discomfort, pain or crying upon urination
- Increased water intake
- In severe cases, vomiting, lethargy, lack of appetite
Causes Of UTIs In Boxer Dogs
In the case of bacterial infections of the urinary tract, how does the bacteria get there?
Urine is sterile, as is a healthy bladder, but bacteria can ascend from the genitals, perineum (skin between the anus and genitals) or from the rectum.
The E. coli bacterium accounts for as many as half of all canine UTIs.
In about a third of cases, multiple types of bacteria are present.
UTIs can also affect other parts of the urinary tract including:
- Ureter (tube that carries urine from the kidneys to the bladder)
- Urethra (tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside)
Why Do Boxers Get UTIs?
UTIs are reflective of a breakdown in the usual immune function that prevents bacteria sticking or “adhering” to the urinary tract.
Bladder wall secretions like mucus, and immune factors, normally prevent an infection taking hold.
When there’s a breakdown in those defences, bacteria can establish in the lining of the bladder.
Factors That Increase A Boxer’s Chance Of A UTI
A Boxer is more likely to develop a urinary tract problem if he:
- Has an underlying medical condition like diabetes, Cushing’s or thyroid disease
- Is on medication, especially prolonged or repeated courses of immunosuppressants such as steroids
- Holds urine in his bladder for long periods e.g. when left home alone inside all day
- Is fed a processed diet i.e. kibble (Carnivores fed carbohydrate-rich diets instead of their natural raw meaty bone-based diet develop urine that is less acidic and more prone to bacterial invasion, as well as crystals)
Is It Really A UTI? Other Reasons A Boxer Might Pee A Lot
It’s best not to leap to conclusions when you notice a change in your Boxer’s bladder habits.
A range of things can cause UTI-like symptoms including:
- Dietary improvement
- Discontinuing medication
- Increased hydration
When a Boxer’s diet is improved from kibble to a fresh, raw diet, he can sometimes develop symptoms that resemble urinary tract infection.
When the internal environment gets better, as with a switch to a natural diet, these improved bodily conditions trigger a wave of detox.
Relieved of the daily influx of chemicals and other inappropriate ingredients in processed food, the body’s energy is freed up.
It seizes the opportunity to mobilize and excrete long-stored toxins, previously parked by an overburdened liver in adipose (fat) tissue.
These toxins and acidic metabolic wastes can irritate the tissues on the way out, resulting in urine tinged with blood.
A similar effect can be seen as the body detoxes after a prolonged course of drugs.
Drugs include not only prescription medications but flea/tick treatments, chemical dewormers and vaccinations, all of which add toxic load to the body and which the body attempts to filter from its system and excrete.
Urinary issues can be behavioral.
If your house-trained Boxer suddenly starts urinating inside, consider whether:
- You are leaving him home alone too long
- There have been recent changes to his routine including moving house, a relationship breakup or the arrival of a new baby or pet etc
- Your Boxer may be experiencing anxiety
- Another dog in the household is in heat
- Scent marking may possibly be at play
A change in bladder habits is normal when switching a Boxer from a dehydrated food like kibble to a fresh, natural raw diet which is full of moisture.
If this increased hydration takes your Boxer by surprise, or if you haven’t adjusted his potty breaks accordingly, this can result in accidents in the house.
Likewise, if you are feeding fruit as part of your Boxer’s dietary rotation (which has many benefits but has to be done the right way) be sure to feed it earlier in the day than regular meat meals to avoid evenings interrupted by unexpected potty breaks.
Fruit, especially watermelon, is superhydrating.
Fruit also digests much faster than meat, with transit times through the digestive tract of as little as six hours, compared to 24 to 48 hours for meat meals.
If you have a spayed Boxer that begins peeing in the house, you may be dealing with urinary incontinence either due to:
- Spay incontinence
- Drugs like prednisone
Spay incontinence is just one of the many detrimental effects of removing a Boxer’s hormone-producing sex organs by neutering/spaying and often has its onset in young females.
The hallmark is urine leakage e.g. a Boxer urinating while sleeping.
If your older Boxer begins to have accidents, it could be age-related incontinence.
In both cases, doggy diapers will help you protect furniture and fabrics while maintaining your Boxer’s access to the indoors lifestyle he knows and needs to maintain.
Diagnosis Of UTI In Boxers
Your vet can perform a simple in-office urine culture with instant results using a sample of your Boxer’s urine.
It can be handy to have a few Specimen Collection Cups in the cupboard at home.
This test will detect whether bacteria are present, identify which types and at how high a level.
Your vet should then also perform a susceptibility test to see which antibiotics would work against the bacteria.
Home urine test kits allow owners to see whether there is blood or white blood cells in their Boxer’s urine, the presence of which is indicative of inflammation or infection.
These kits are inexpensive, simple to use, easy to have in the cupboard and can be handy for confirming a UTI has cleared.
You either collect urine and dip a test strip in it, or hold a strip under your Boxer’s urine stream.
UTI Treatment For Boxer Dogs
The standard veterinary treatment for UTIs is antibiotics, sometimes repeated courses.
But there are also natural alternatives and diet must be part of any lasting solution.
Consider which option is best for your Boxer.
If you are going down this path, make sure your vet first does a urine culture and sensitivity to determine which specific bacteria are present and which antibiotics will be effective against them.
This will go some way towards avoiding the unnecessary administration of broad-spectrum antibiotics, a blind approach that exposes your Boxer to repeated rounds of drugs and sets the stage for antibiotic-resistance.
A 2016 study found cranberry extract was equally as effective in preventing E. coli-related UTIs as antibiotics, without the damage to gut health and other side effects.
Cranberry extract was also useful in treating recurrent E. coli UTIs, due to its ability to fight multi-drug resistant bacteria.
Products such as cranberry chews combine cranberry with vitamin C and D-Mannose.
D-Mannose is a simple sugar related to glucose and which occurs naturally in fruits including cranberries, apples and peaches.
When absorbed in the gut, D-mannose travels to the kidneys and bladder, where it binds to E. coli proteins called lectins.
This prevents the E. coli adhering to the bladder walls, allowing it to be rinsed out with urination.
Fasting is known to reduce inflammation and to clear toxins.
Many owners find a short fast of 24 hours to three days resolves symptoms.
Better still, fasting is safe and side effect-free.
It’s also a natural part of dog’s eating patterns in natural settings.
Always make sure fresh, pure water remains available i.e. not tap water which contains more than 90 regulated contaminants.
Dogs fed unnatural, processed diets high in carbohydrates i.e. kibble are more vulnerable to UTIs.
This is because these dogs develop elevated urine pH i.e. their urine becomes alkaline instead of being slightly acidic.
- Reduces the natural antimicrobial state of normal canine urine
- Can cause inflammation in the bladder
- May create crystals and kidney stones requiring surgical removal
A fresh, natural canine diet consisting of raw meaty bones, lean muscle meat and a little offal is a precondition for a healthy Boxer and the key to avoiding UTIs.
How Serious Is A UTI In A Boxer?
UTI symptoms can generally be readily and quickly resolved with fasting followed by resumption of feeding with a fresh, natural diet.
UTIs should never be ignored.
Unresolved infections can travel from the bladder, via the ureter tubes to the kidneys and — in a worst case scenario — into the bloodstream, creating sepsis.
How Common Are UTIs In Boxer Dogs?
UTI is a common diagnosis — by some accounts as many as 14 per cent of dogs will be affected at some point in their lives.
However, this statistic is drawn from a predominantly kibble-fed dog population.
A totally healthy, properly fed dog will not suffer from UTIs.
What Should A Healthy Boxer’s Pee Look And Smell Like?
Your Boxer’s urine should be:
- Translucent or see-through
- Pale yellow in color
- Free of strong odors
If the urine is dark, cloudy or smells pungent, it’s a sign of more highly concentrated wastes.
This may indicate simple dehydration or something more sinister.
Even dehydration, though, should not be allowed to persist as it is disease-producing over time.
What Urine Means To Your Boxer
Urine, like poop, signifies much more to our Boxers than human waste does to us.
Pee plays a significant role in communication.
A female Boxer’s urine will smell different during her heat cycles, alerting males for miles around that she is fertile.
In males, urine is used to mark territory.
Instinct drives your male Boxer to hike his leg high and spray his signature scent on the most prominent possible points throughout his neighborhood.
Note that intact males smell different to neutered ones, something that can provoke aggression from other dogs that see them as a reproductive threat.
The scent of urine can be used during potty training to signal to your Boxer pup where he’s meant to go to the bathroom.
Take him to the same part of the yard each time and the smell will quickly remind him why he’s there.
Note, this triggering effect is why it’s important to effectively clean up accidents in the house to prevent repeat visits to the same spot.
Factors That Affect A Boxer’s Urine And Bladder Habits
Much as your Boxer’s poop is a barometer of his overall health, so too is the pee.
As discussed, your Boxer’s urine will reflect aspects of his health and care including:
- Hydration levels
- Toxic exposures including drugs
Keep an eye on your Boxer’s urinary health just as you do his bowel habits.
How To Prevent UTIs
You can support your Boxer’s urinary health and reduce the chances of UTIs by:
- Making sure your Boxer has the opportunity to pee often (Frequent flushing of the urinary tract, ideally every two hours, helps counter upward movement of bacteria towards the bladder)
- Keeping your Boxer well hydrated (Fresh, pure water should always be available — not tap water)
- Feeding a fresh, natural raw canine diet (This supports optimal health, as well as achieving ultimate hydration due to the high moisture content of raw meat, bones and offal)
These measures are good practice for every owner but will be even more important if your Boxer has had UTIs in the past.
If you have no choice but to leave your Boxer inside while you’re at work for long hours, leave out pee pads and teach him to use them.
How Not To Prevent UTIs In Boxers
While cranberry may make a gentler alternative to antibiotics to treat a UTI, prevention doesn’t require any of the various products like “bladder support chews” marketed to dog owners with promises of urinary health.
A properly fed fresh, natural raw meaty bone-based diet is all that’s required to provide for your Boxer’s urinary and overall health.
Not sure whether you’re doing it right?
Though a common diagnosis in the kibble-fed dog population, urinary tract infections needn’t bother your Boxer.
Prevention is infinitely better than trying to get rid of a UTI once it’s set in.
Feed a fresh, raw diet and give your Boxer plenty of opportunities to pee.
Remember that UTI-type symptoms don’t always signal bacterial infection and know the power of fasting as a safe, natural alternative to automatic resort to antibiotics.
Becker, Karen, DVM, Urinary Tract Issue? Don’t Make This Grave Mistake, Mercola Healthy Pets, 2020
Chou, Hsin-I et al, Effects of cranberry extract on prevention of urinary tract infection in dogs and on adhesion of Escherichia coli to Madin-Darby canine kidney cells, American Journal of Veterinary Research, 2016
Dascoli, Allison, DVM, Ask the Vet: How do pets get bladder infections? Charleston Gazette-Mail, 2018