Inability to Urinate in Dogs

Veterinary reviewed by: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

Inability to Urinate in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Veterinary reviewed by: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

Inability to Urinate in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

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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Worried about the cost of Inability To Urinate treatment?

Pet Insurance covers the cost of many common pet health conditions. Prepare for the unexpected by getting a quote from top pet insurance providers.

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.

Treating the inability to urinate in dogs out of pocket can be a major financial burden. Fortunately, most pet insurance companies reimburse claims within 3 days, putting 90% of the bill back in your pocket. In the market for pet insurance? Compare leading pet insurance companies to find the right plan for your pet.

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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

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Australian Shepherd

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One Year

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0 found helpful

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0 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Not Peeing Frequently

I just adopted my new dog less than a week ago and he is only peeing once a day. I am not sure why and would like some advice!

Sept. 24, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. He may have been trained to urinate once a day, it is difficult to know what might be going on with him, but if he seems healthy otherwise, you may not need to worry. If they are still having problems, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 23, 2020

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Pitbull

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Six Years

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2 found helpful

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2 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

My dog has been trying to pee and poop and nothing comes out he also has been smacking his lips or more like licking air constantly, he didn’t want to eat dinner and he did and now he tries to throw up

Sept. 12, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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2 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. From your description, it sounds like your dog has an upset stomach, and or diarrhea. If he is unable to urinate, he needs to be seen right away by a veterinarian. If he's straining to defecate, as appetite has decreased, and he is trying to vomit or is nauseous, then he should also be seen by a veterinarian. Dogs will often show their nauseous by licking their lips or drooling a little bit more than normal. He may have eaten something he wasn't supposed to, or you may have a parasite or an intestinal infection. They will be able to examine him and see what going on, and let you know what treatment he needs. I hope that he feels better soon.

Sept. 12, 2020

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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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