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Ectopic Ureters in Dogs

Ectopic ureters in dogs can cause urinary incontinence and recurrent urinary tract infections, leading to discomfort and potential health complications. Today, our Thousand Oaks vets discuss what you should know about ectopic ureters, the common symptoms, and treatment options.

What are ectopic ureters in dogs?

Ectopic ureters in dogs are a congenital condition where the ureters, narrow tubes which are supposed to connect the kidneys to the bladder, bypass the bladder and connect directly to the urethra or vagina. This can lead to urinary incontinence and recurrent urinary tract infections in affected dogs.

What causes ectopic ureters in dogs?

Ectopic ureters occur when the ducts that should become the ureters do not develop properly in their normal location during fetal development.

Ectopic ureters are also believed to have a hereditary component, with a genetic link found in Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, poodles, Siberian huskies, Newfoundlands, West Highland white terriers, soft-coated wheaten terriers, and most other terrier breeds.

What are the symptoms of ectopic ureters in dogs?

Ectopic ureters, which are more common in young female dogs (though they can affect male dogs on occasion), often present with urinary incontinence or dribbling. Symptoms may manifest shortly after weaning, but sometimes symptoms may not be apparent until adulthood. The urine leakage can be either constant or intermittent.

Other signs of ectopic ureters can be more subtle, such as frequent licking at the genital area due to urine leakage. Additionally, discolored hair around the genitals may also be present as a result of the leakage.

Dogs with ectopic ureters are also at a higher risk for urinary tract infections due to the abnormal placement of the ureters. Symptoms of a urinary tract infection include frequent urination, discomfort when urinating, and abdominal pain. If a young dog experiences recurrent urinary tract infections, it is important to bring them to the vet to rule out anatomical issues, such as ectopic ureters.

How to vets diagnose ectopic ureters in dogs?

The first step in diagnosing a urinary issue in dogs is to conduct a urinalysis, which evaluates the chemical composition of the urine, including concentration, acidity, protein levels, and various substances. Furthermore, examining your dog's urine under a microscope can help identify red blood cells, white blood cells, and urinary crystals which may indicate infection, inflammation, or urinary tract disease. 

Because ectopic ureters often present with the same symptoms as urinary tract infections, abdominal radiographs can help rule out bladder stones as the underlying cause, while ultrasound may provide additional information to suggest the possibility of ectopic ureters, prompting further investigation for a definitive diagnosis.

Cystoscopy is the most accurate test for diagnosing ectopic ureters in female dogs, This is when a small camera is inserted into the urethra or bladder under sedation or anesthesia. For males, a computed tomography (CT) scan performed under general anesthesia is the most accurate diagnostic test to trace the path of the ureters.

How can vets treat ectopic ureters in dogs?

Surgery is the most common way vets treat ectopic ureters in dogs. The goal of the surgery is to reposition the ureter and create a new opening into the bladder. This procedure helps to correct the abnormal connection and improve urinary function in affected dogs.

Are ectopic ureters in dogs an emergency?

Ectopic ureters in dogs are not typically considered an emergency, but they can cause serious health issues if left untreated. If they are causing severe symptoms, such as urinary incontinence or recurrent urinary tract infections, prompt veterinary evaluation and treatment will likely be necessary to prevent further complications and improve the dog's quality of life.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you suspect your dog is experiencing severe urinary symptoms, don't hesitate to contact our Thousand Oaks emergency animal hospital for immediate care. Our experienced veterinarians are here to help address your pet's needs and provide the necessary treatment to ensure their well-being.

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