Is Inability to Urinate an Emergency?

What can cause the inability to urinate?

The causes break down into two groups. In any case, though, your dog needs to see a veterinarian immediately.

Is Inability to Urinate an Emergency?

Urinary obstruction

One of them is urinary tract obstruction, either due to a blockage, inflammation or compression of the urethra. The problem behind this can be

  • urinary tract stones
  • tumors
  • urinary disease
  • prostate disease in male dogs …

Urinary retention

The other category involves what is referred to as functional urinary retention, caused by dysfunction, rather than an obstruction. This can be neurologic or systemic in nature.

Urinary retention refers to incomplete voiding of pee that is not caused by an obstruction. It can happen as a complication of:

  • urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • injury to the bladder or urethra
  • or dysfunction of the muscles coordinating peeing

Systemic causes can include:

  • electrolyte disturbances
  • Cushing’s disease

A dog unable to empty their bladder is an emergency

Balloon pop from overinflation. Image Science Amino

Other complications

Urine buildup can lead to kidney failure, electrolyte issues or bladder rupture. All of these things can be fatal.

A dog straining to urinate might actually look like a constipated dog, hunching over while urinating.


Signs to watch for, other than difficulty urinating, include:

  • distended bladder
  • unproductive attempts to urinate
  • weak urine stream
  • urine leakage
  • blood in urine
  • loss of appetite
  • lethargy
  • vomiting
  • pain

Related articles:
Dog Symptoms: When Is It an Emergency?

Further reading:
Urinary Obstruction in Dogs
Inability to Urinate in Dogs

Categories: EmergenciesInability to urinateSymptoms

Tags: :

Jana Rade

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.

Share your thoughts