Examining your dog’s urine can provide a great deal of information about their physical condition and health.
Urine contains compounds produced by the body, and monitoring them can provide valuable diagnostic clues. Changes in urination and urine quality can not only indicate problems within the urinary tract itself. They can signify a systemic disease.
If you notice any of the following, you want to have your dog examined by a veterinarian. Be aware of urination frequency, painful urination, or loss of the ability to hold urine.
Excessive urination (polyuria), usually combined with excessive drinking (polydipsia), is an important symptom that can signal several health problems, such as diabetes, Cushing’s disease, Addison’s disease, kidney or liver failure, and infection. Bladder infections rarely cause true polyuria. However, kidney infections can.
Straining to urinate
Straining to urinate (dysuria) can result from:
- urinary tract obstruction
- bladder stones
- or prostate disease (in males).
However, the number one cause of dysuria is probably a bladder infection.
Urinary tract obstruction (unable to pass urine despite straining) is an emergency and requires immediate veterinary care.
Incontinence is most common in older dogs, but it can happen at any age. It is most common in spayed females, though it can affect male dogs also. In male dogs, the cause is often:
- hormonal deficiencies
- and/or loss of control of the urethral sphincter (the muscle that closes the bladder)
However, anatomical, structural or neurological abnormalities of the urinary tract can be responsible also.
Your dog might also be unable to hold their urine due to excessive drinking or a urinary tract infection.
It is essential to distinguish between polyuria, dysuria, and urinary incontinence. Each of these symptoms has its own set of potential causes.
- With polyuria, your dog will produce large volumes of urine and may urinate quite frequently. Dogs suffering from polyuria may not be able to hold their urine for long periods of time. Polyuria is often accompanied by polydipsia (excessive drinking) Dogs with polyuria also usually produce very dilute urine which may be clear or have a very light yellow coloration.
- By contrast, dogs suffering from dysuria generally urinate quite frequently but produce only small amounts of urine each time. In some cases, you might see blood in the urine depending on the cause of the dysuria.
- Dogs with urinary incontinence lose the ability to be able to control their urinary habits. They urinate involuntarily and sometimes unknowingly. Frequently these dogs will leave wet spots where they have been sleeping or resting. They may also dribble urine while awake. Often, the dog is totally unaware that the urination is happening.
Differentiating between these symptoms can sometimes be challenging. It may not be possible to tell for sure at home exactly what is happening.
If you see or suspect any of these symptoms, see a veterinarian.
Your veterinarian can help determine whether your dog is suffering from polyuria, dysuria, or urinary incontinence with the help of:
- medical history
- physical examination
Normal urine should be clear and light yellow to light amber in color.
Pale or clear urine
Pale or clear urine could mean over-hydration. But it can also indicate kidney disease or other conditions that interfere with urine concentration.
A single episode of pale or clear urine is usually not significant, mainly if your dog just “tanked up” from the water bowl. However, a persistently pale or clear color usually indicates dilute urine. This may be due to the kidney’s inability to concentrate the urine for various reasons. This is especially true if dilute urine is accompanied by a greater than normal desire to drink water.
Dark yellow urine
Dark yellow usually signals dehydration.
A single episode of dark yellow urine may not be significant. However, persistently dark urine may indicate a problem and warrants a trip to the veterinarian.
Dark yellow urine, particularly when accompanied by other symptoms of illness such as a lack of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, or diarrhea is a cause for concern and will require a veterinary visit.
Red, orange, or brown urine
Urine that has a color other than shades of yellow is always bad news. Red, orange, or brown discoloration can be a sign of:
- bleeding into the urinary tract
- damage to red blood cells
- liver disease
- or the breakdown of muscle fibers
Orange or brown-colored urine can be caused by bilirubin or myoglobin in the urine. Bilirubin may be present in the urine if your dog’s liver is not functioning normally or if your dog is suffering from the widespread destruction of red blood cells, such as is seen in autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA). Myoglobin is released from muscles when they are severely damaged, as can occur in cases of heatstroke.
If your dog’s urine is red, orange, or brown you want to see your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Blood in urine
Your dog may have blood in their urine for many different reasons.
For example, bladder infections can cause bloody urine, as can bladder stones, tumors, and other diseases.
Cloudy urine likely signals bladder infection. However, bladder infections might not always cause cloudiness.
A foul or musty odor may sometimes, but not always, be detected in the urine in cases of urinary tract infections also. Cloudiness can also be caused by the abnormal presence of sugar, protein, fat, or crystals in the urine.
Foamy urine can signify excess protein in the urine, which is sometimes a symptom of kidney failure.
Bladder infections, particularly if recurrent or not responsive to treatment, signify a larger problem.
Uroliths (bladder stones) come in several different types. Struvite stones are most often associated with infection. Stones are not likely to resolve until the infection is controlled and the stones are dissolved with special foods or medications to acidify the urine.
Calcium oxalate stones are sometimes seen when the pH of urine is higher than normal. In Dalmatians, urate stones are common. Stones of a mixed composition may be seen in some dogs. Identification of the type of stone present is important in order to choose the correct treatment option (e.g., surgery versus medical dissolution) and prevention plan.
Most owners try to have as little to do with their dog’s urine as possible. However, looking for changes in urinary habits and urine characteristics is an excellent way to monitor your dog’s health.
Think like a dog and learn to read the pee!
Many thanks to Dr. Lorie Huston for helping with this article!
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