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What is Inability to Urinate?

The inability to urinate can be caused by numerous factors. In any case, it is a signal that your dog has a health problem. An immediate visit to the veterinarian is imperative, in order to determine the cause and to avoid serious complications detrimental to your dog (such as bladder rupture). If your dog is showing signs of an inability to urinate, one eventual consequence will be an over-distended bladder. If this occurs, there are numerous complications that could develop as a result, such as kidney disease or possible future incontinence. The normal process of urination is an intricate series of actions that involves muscles contracting and relaxing.

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Inability to Urinate Average Cost

From 74 quotes ranging from $500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$3,500

Symptoms of Inability to Urinate in Dogs

The inability to urinate can quickly become an urgent situation. Do not delay in taking your dog to the veterinarian if you see any of the following symptoms:

  • Urine that flows in spurts or trickles
  • Frequent attempts to urinate (often delayed and without success)
  • Showing strain when attempting to pass urine
  • Leakage (this may happen because the bladder is so full that it cannot hold any more liquid)
  • Blood in the urine
  • Licking of urinary opening
  • Low appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Tender abdominal area
  • Lethargy
  • Disinterest in normal activities
  • Abdominal bloating
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Causes of Inability to Urinate in Dogs

There can be numerous causes leading towards an eventual inability to urinate in dogs:

  • Obstruction in the urethra (this can be as a result of a blockage caused by crystals or stones in the urine, and can be brought on by something as simple as inadequate water intake)
  • A dog who has had many urinary tract infections may begin to have trouble urinating due to numerous events of bladder distention
  • A urinary tract infection 
  • Scar tissue on the urethra or bladder
  • Anatomic abnormalities (congenital or acquired)
  • Spinal cord injury, lesions or disease causing a compression
  • Trauma or injury to nerves leading to compression
  • Dysautonomia (a neurological disease also known as Key-Gaskell syndrome)
  • Some surgeries may bring about an inability to urinate (which is most likely a temporary complication)
  • Cancer
  • Prostate disease
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Diagnosis of Inability to Urinate in Dogs

Upon arrival at the clinic or hospital, be prepared to relay to the veterinarian all symptoms and behavioral changes you have seen in your dog. The veterinarian will, in most cases, want to begin with a complete physical examination, followed by a urinalysis, which may show an infection or evidence of inflammation. Blood work, involving a CBC and chemistry profile may be included.

If the veterinarian has not diagnosed a simple infection or feels that further investigation is needed, a urethral catheter may be inserted to rule out the possibility of a blockage. It is interesting to note that an obstruction of the urethra is more common in male canines, due to the narrowing of the urethra in the penis.

Additional testing may include:

  • Abdominal palpation (the vet will want to try and feel both kidneys as well as the bladder)
  • CT scan to assess caudal spine for tumor
  • Myelography (radiography exam with dye to look for spinal cord injury)
  • Epidurography (radiography exam to check for e.g. spinal cysts)
  • Abdominal ultrasound to check for kidney or bladder concerns
  • Cystoscopy (insertion of a scope to view inside the lower urinary tract)
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Treatment of Inability to Urinate in Dogs

Treatment will depend on the exact cause of the inability to urinate. The immediate relief of your dog’s discomfort, as well as the importance of eliminating the problem before the situation worsens, will be of paramount importance. Treatment may include:

  • For a urinary tract infection, antibiotics will be administered
  • Water intake may be increased
  • Urinary acidifiers or alkalinizers may be given depending on urinary pH
  • Your dog will be given medication to relax the bladder and urethra
  • Catheterization of the bladder may be done up to three times per day
  • Manual bladder expression at regular intervals (several times daily for example in the case of spinal cord injury) could be required, depending on the reason for the inability to urinate
  • An obstruction may mean surgery if a retropulsion of the obstructing material back into the bladder is not possible. 
  • Some bladder stones can be dissolved with diet
  • A congenital abnormality could need surgical correction
  • Non-neutered male dogs may be treated and then neutered if the problem is an enlarged prostate

Rest assured the veterinarian will monitor your dog carefully. She will take all appropriate measures such as timely urine cultures, to ensure that infection does not set in, or that the problem does not progress further (preventing kidney damage for example).

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Recovery of Inability to Urinate in Dogs

The length of time for recovery and the amount of at home or in clinic management will be contingent on the cause of the problem. Many dogs regain normal urination, but some may require a catheter that remains inside the body for days to weeks, in order to maintain urine flow and healthy bladder size. In time, the bladder may recover the ability to function normally.

If your dog has a spinal cord injury or nerve damage, the veterinarian will teach you how to manually empty the bladder. Regular clinical visits will be necessary in order for the veterinarian to verify the continued health of your dog. Urinalysis on a frequent basis, as well as antibiotic therapy, may be needed for some time. A healthy diet and sufficient exercise are also important. Recurrence is possible, so take your dog to the veterinarian without delay if you suspect a relapse or a potential infection.

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Inability to Urinate Average Cost

From 74 quotes ranging from $500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$3,500

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Inability to Urinate Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Yorkie

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Not drinking as much as normal and not peeing as much as usual. More active today then he has been the last 2 days and will pee alittle. Nose is cold, not lethargic at all. Nothing new has changed in routine, food except he went to the groomers on Wednesday for the 1st time in a year and didn’t eat or drink Thursday but Thursday night at 2/3rds cup of food and drank 6 ozs of water, yesterday he ate 2/3rds food but did not finish all his water.

Dec. 5, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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0 Recommendations

Hi there, you are through to Dr Linda. To confirm, you are worried your dog has been eating and drinking less recently? There can be many potential causes including a source of pain e.g. an eye ulcer brought on by shampooing at the groomers, a rotten tooth or a strained muscle. Orher potential causes would include pancreatitis, gall bladder disease etc. Unfortunately, those are non specific signs. If you are concerned, a vet visit is best as they can examine him and may run some tests such as a basic blood test.

Dec. 5, 2020

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pug/terrier

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Five Years

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Unknown severity

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10 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

What can I do from.home before rushing to a vet...he is not going pee...he goes out does all the actions lifts his leg amd everything but nothing comes out

Nov. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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10 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, not being able to urinate even when you're trying is an emergency, and there is not anything that you can do at home. If he has a blockage, that will likely be fatal, and he needs attention right away. If he has a urinary tract infection and you are catching it early, that is even better, but without being able to see him I cannot say which one it might be. He needs to go to the ER.

Nov. 28, 2020

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Inability to Urinate Average Cost

From 74 quotes ranging from $500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$3,500

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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