What is Hemoglobin and Myoglobin in Urine?
In our bodies, hemoglobin and myoglobin are essential components in our body to keep us alive and well, and the same is true for your dog. When your dog’s blood is not getting enough oxygen to the tissues and muscles, the body will automatically start breaking down the muscles, causing permanent muscle damage, blood clots, and damage to the liver. These two issues are always secondary, so the primary illness or injury has to be found in order to treat your dog effectively. Hemoglobinuria and myoglobinuria are life-threatening emergencies that need to be treated by a veterinarian or animal hospital as soon as possible If your dog is showing symptoms of either of these conditions, you should call your veterinarian immediately.
Hemoglobin (hemoglobinuria) in the urine is a sign that hemoglobin proteins are killed, which leads to hemolytic anemia. Myoglobin (myoglobinuria) in the urine happens when the myoglobin protein is broken down. A dog’s hemoglobin is responsible for transporting oxygen to the tissues and to carry the oxygen in the red blood cells. Myoglobin does the same thing, but it works only in the muscles, storing oxygen there. Either one of these being found in your dog’s urine can be fatal because oxygen is not able to get to the blood, tissues, and muscles. Since these are symptoms and not true disorders, the veterinarian will have to find the underlying (primary) illness or injury first to determine how to treat the problem.
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Symptoms of Hemoglobin and Myoglobin in Urine in Dogs
Unfortunately, you most likely will not notice any symptoms unless the underlying illness creates indications to alert you of the condition. Quite often, there are no symptoms with the primary illness or injury either, until there is a significant amount of damage to your dog’s muscles or liver. However, there are some subtle indications of hemoglobinuria and myoglobinuria, which are:
- Dark or reddish urine
- Extreme fatigue
- Fast heart rate
- High body temperature
- Pale skin and mucous membranes
- Muscle pain and weakness
- Muscle softening
Both Hemoglobinuria and Myoglobinuria
- Blood in urine
- Bruises and pain
- Lack of energy
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Hemoglobinuria is too much hemoglobin in the urine which affects the tissues
- Myoglobinuria is too much myoglobin in the urine which affects the muscles
Causes of Hemoglobin and Myoglobin in Urine in Dogs
There are many causes for both hemoglobinuria and myoglobinuria, which may not be easily diagnosed, but some of the most often reported are:
- Bacterial infections (Streptococcus, Staphylococcal)
- Genetics (rare)
- Hemolytic uremic syndrome (E. coli bacteria infection)
- Idiopathic (unknown cause)
- Kidney infection (pyelonephritis)
- Kidney tumor
- Vigorous exercise (damages the lining of the bladder, causing blood in the urine)
- Toxins (snake venom, poisonous plants, acetaminophen, mercury, and copper)
- Trauma (severe injury, burns, or electric shocks)
- Urinary cancer
- Viral infections
Diagnosis of Hemoglobin and Myoglobin in Urine in Dogs
While the most important tests for diagnosis are urinalysis and blood tests, the veterinarian will have to do a complete examination to determine the underlying illness or injury. Before examination, the veterinarian will have to be sure your dog is stable by providing IV fluid therapy and possibly oxygen as well. In cases with serious anemia, the veterinarian will administer a blood transfusion.
If the cause is from an injury or burn, your veterinarian should be able to find evidence of this with a simple examination. In addition, he will check your dog’s blood pressure, body temperature, height, weight, heart and respiratory rate. Some tests that will need to be done are complete blood count (CBC), blood chemistry panel, urinalysis, fecal examination, bacterial culture, glucose test, and blood gas.
The most effective way to tell if your dog has hemoglobinuria or myoglobinuria, is to check the color of your dog’s plasma. Pink plasma is seen in hemoglobinuria and if the plasma is clear, it is probably myoglobinuria. The latter can be established by using an ammonium sulfate test. Images of the abdomen with radiographs (x-rays), CT scans, MRI, or ultrasound can also be helpful in determining the underlying cause of the condition. If necessary, your veterinarian will do a biopsy or possibly send you to see a specialist to determine the cause.
Treatment of Hemoglobin and Myoglobin in Urine in Dogs
Because hemoglobinuria and myoglobinuria are symptoms of other disorders, the treatment will depend on the primary illness or condition. If the cause is found to be from exercise, no treatment is needed except for monitoring your dog to be sure it does not happen again. If the cause is from trauma or toxins, your veterinarian will treat the injuries or give your dog an antitoxin if one is available. Infections will be treated with antibiotics, such as ampicillin or tetracycline. If cancer is the suspected cause, you may be referred to a veterinary oncologist for possible surgery and treatment with chemotherapy or radiation.
Recovery of Hemoglobin and Myoglobin in Urine in Dogs
Recovery time also depends on the primary illness and whether the treatment is effective. In most cases, your dog will be back to normal in one or two weeks with treatment. A return trip to see the veterinarian for a follow up examination is essential to the success of the treatment. For any type of cancer, your dog’s recovery time depends on how advanced it is and whether it has spread. If the cancer has affected both kidneys, the prognosis is poor, but with pain medication and good veterinary care your dog can have a good quality of life for the time he has left.
Hemoglobin and Myoglobin in Urine Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
I am concerned for my dog and i have a few questions i was hoping to see if you can help me with.
I have a long hair chihuahua, she is 9 years old and she also has bladder stones.
For the past 2 days she has been having diarrhea, i thought its because i gave some dairy products like cheese. I gave her rice and chicken and she stopped for a day but continued to have some runs here and there today. Just today, i noticed on the wee wee pad that her urine is a dark brown color with tints of red mucus like substance. I tried to google it and it does mention that bladder stones are one of the issues.
She had surgery to remove her bladder stones when she was about 2 or 3 years old, and i kept her on a prescription diet. She has struvite stones and currently eating science diet C/D only for the past years.
Im worried about hemoglobin or myoglobin in her urine.. i know the underlying cause of the dark brown urine is caused by bladder stones so i dont want to bring her to a new vet to do a whole bunch of test and blood work to find out what i already know she has.. if she continues peeing brown urine and doesnt stop what are the next step i should do?
Will this go away on its own?
Thanks so much for taking your time out reading this!
I look forward hearing from you soon.
There are many different causes of dark brown urine apart from urinary tract infections including systemic infection leading to damage of red blood cells, muscle damage, severe liver disease, poisoning, severe dehydration and autoimmune disease; if there is muscle damage, the release of myoglobin can cause kidney dysfunction. I would go on the side of caution and at least have a urinary sample checked to make sure there isn’t anything more sinister; I understand you not wanting to go through a full complement of tests, but complacency is the enemy. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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