Brown Urine in Dogs: Why Is My Dog’s Pee Dark/Brown?

Brown urine in dogs is an emergency.

One of the things I’ll never forget is Jasmine’s drug-induced hyperthermia horror and all that followed. It was the day we almost killed our dog. And it was the day almost killing our dog likely saved her life. If you’re interested, you can read the whole story here.

Brown Urine in Dogs: Why Is My Dog's Pee Dark/Brown?

When Jasmine was released to home care, she couldn’t walk or get up on her own and could barely stand when helped. Things were supposed to improve by the following day, but they did not. With a lot of support, she barely made it out to potty, and the stream of urine that came out was brown. Back then, I had no idea what would make urine brown, but I knew it was a bad thing.

This had emergency written all over it

We were told things should improve, but they did not. And now Jasmine was peeing brown on top of it. Since this was Saturday morning, our only option was to rush her to an emergency hospital. There we were told that Jasmine had either liver failure, kidney failure, or both and that her intestine was likely perforated. They recommended euthanasia. All that for a bargain price of $750, not counting the proposed euthanasia.

Fortunately for Jasmine, at least half of that sounded wrong to me. So we sought a second opinion at a teaching hospital, and the diagnosis was mostly wrong, and Jasmine recovered.

What brought this memory back was a post on my support group featuring pee that looked just like Jasmine’s did then.

We sent her to the emergency but haven’t received an update on the pup. I hope she’s okay.

What would make pee dark?

Normal urine should be shades of yellow—light to dark yellow, depending on how hydrated the dog is. In other words, the more concentrated the pee is, the darker yellow it will be. While that is not an emergency, at the very least, it’s telling you that your dog is dehydrated, which is not good for them long-term. Consistently pale or dark urine does warrant further action, particularly when it comes with other concerning signs such as poor appetite, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive thirst. …

All that is different from urine which is actually brown in color.

Just look at the photo above. Does that not look like an emergency to you? It does to me.

In Jasmine’s case, hyperthermia trashed her blood, liver, and muscles. It took a week in an ICU and a month total for her to recover fully.

What makes pee brown?

  • the presence of a protein that is released by damaged muscle tissue [myoglobin]. This is called rhabdomyolysis and is most commonly seen after severe exertion (e.g., seizures), hyperthermia, or as a result of some snake bites.
  • a high content of bilirubin, a byproduct of the breakdown of red blood cells secreted by the liver. A dog with a lot of bilirubin in the urine will also be jaundiced.
  • liver disease or liver failure
  • the presence of old blood in the urinary tract, be it from kidney or bladder infection, or stones in the kidneys or bladder
  • cancer in the urinary tract

If your dog’s pee is brown in color, seek veterinary care immediately.

If you can bring a urine sample with you, this may be helpful.

Related articles:
Canine Hematuria: Blood in Urine. Why Is There Blood in My Dog’s Pee?

Further reading:
Why You Should Watch Your Dog Pee

Categories: Brown urineSymptoms

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Jana Rade edited by Dr. Joanna Paul BSc BVSc

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience. Dr. Joanna Paul BSc BVSc is our wonderful sponsor and has been kind to edit and fact-check my important articles.

  1. WTF? (Sorry it’s a genuine exclamation of horror here). Euthanasia because they couldn’t find out what was wrong all for $750. Jeeeeeez.

    I am grateful Jasmine has a Mom like you who knows her own mind and refused the diagnosis. Thank you too for explaining what might be happening. This makes a huge difference to a dog parent especially when they are worried or scared.

    Explain, understand, Get to The Vet!!!

  2. Brown or dark pee would be scary. I’m so glad you got a second opinion for Jasmine. Great instincts!

    I know a dark colored pee would sending me racing to the vet too. I remember my horse waited until I got home from work. He was pacing. Obviously sick. He looked at me, peed, which was all bright red (also very scary). Then he went over to his barn and laid down and was gone. The vet said it was most likely a huge stone that ruptured his bladder kidneys and bladder. Sweet horse. I had about 24 years with him, but it still wasn’t long enough. Those are scary moment. And moments I hope to never relive or wish on anyone else.

    Great article explaining what brown or dark pee could be with your dog. I’m sharing with all my dog parents.

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