Inability to Urinate in Dogs

Updated: February 27, 2024

A lot of pet parents have been in a constant battle of having to deal with incontinence. But little do we know there are also pet parents who deal with stress of their dogs not being able to urinate!

Urine retention or the inability to urinate in dogs is caused by an array of possible factors and reasons. Know if your dog is experiencing one or more and discover ways on how this condition can be properly managed.

What to look for

The inability to urinate in dogs can quickly become an urgent situation if not determined and treated early. Do not take your dog's lack of need to go outside every few hours for granted and take him to his veterinarian immediately if you see these signs and symptoms:

  • Frequent attempts to urinate but peeing is often delayed or unsuccessful
  • Tender abdominal area
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness and lethargy
  • Urine that trickles or spurts
  • Licking of urinary opening
  • Blood in dog urine/dog peeing blood
  • Signs of pain when attempting to urinate

Causes of inability to urinate in dogs.

Your dog's inability to urinate can be caused by a number of possible reasons. It can be because of:

can a dog's bladder burst? dog urine retention

Damage in the urethra.

This can be a result of blockage caused by crystals in the urine or can be caused by your dog simply not having enough water intake.

Signs may include but not limited to: Crying when urinating/trying to urinate, urinating in small amounts in different places of the house, fever, collapse.

Signs of urethra damage can be similar to a urinary tract infection that's why a veterinary exam is a must.

Bladder Distention. This is what happens when your dog has had too many cases of UTIs and begins to have difficulty in urinating. Bladder distention, also known as bladder rupture, is where the bladder is torn, and urine leaks into the rest of your dog’s abdominal cavity.

Signs may include but not limited to: urinary tract infection, difficulty/inability to urinate, urine comes with blood, fractured pelvis distended abdominal area, swelling of abdominal cavity.

Urinary Tract Infection that has spread all the way to the bladder. When your dog has UTI for too long or in a daily basis and remains untreated, the bacteria can spread into the bladder (and kidneys!) and can cause permanent damage like kidney failure and the inability to urinate!

Signs may include but not limited to: accidents, frequent urination, pain while peeing, cloudy or bloody urine, excessive thirst, excessive licking of private area

Spinal cord lesions and injuries. Dogs with spinal cord lesions and injuries can experience multiple organ traumas. Though lesions and injuries can't always cause paralysis, it can cause irregular movements of organs and body functions including the bladder movements and functions of your dog.

Signs may include but not limited to: partial or total paralysis, loss of balance and coordination, fatigue, lameness

Anatomic abnormalities (congenital or contracted). Inborn abnormalities or the contracted ones cause inability to urinate in dogs. These can include congenital malformations, lumbosacral disk disease, cauda equina compression and vertebral fractures/dislocations.

Post operation effects. Some surgeries especially the ones that involve the bladder and spinal cord may bring about an inability to urinate in dogs. But this is only until your dog has fully recovered.

Signs may include but not limited to: pain or difficulty in peeing, condition getting worse instead of recovering, swelling of abdominal cavity

Treatment and proper management

The treatment needed is greatly dependent on the cause of the inability. Treatment can be:

  • For urinary tract infections, antibiotics will be prescribed for your dog for a certain time span of around seven to fourteen days
  • Water intake may be increased for your dog if he has a damaged urethra or a ruptured bladder and if he doesn't drink the required amount his body needs
  • Catheterization may be done for severe cases. This is when the vet places a plastic tube, the catheter, into your dog’s urethra to collect urine from your dog
  • Manual bladder expression could be needed, especially for spinal cord injuries. Manually expressing your dog's bladder is when you locate and press your dog's bladder using your fingers to release urine.
  • Your dog will be given medications that will relax his bladder and urethra
  • Surgical corrections for congenital abnormalities will be needed so that no further complications will arise.

Important note: Always have your dog checked first by your veterinarian. The cause for his inability to urinate will be properly diagnosed and the best treatment plan will be provided.

As pet parents ourselves, we know how stressful it can be when your dog is experiencing something that downgrades his quality of living. But no matter how tiring it may seem, our furry friends are counting on us for a happy & healthy life and we must be there for them, too.

"Manually expressing your dog's bladder is when you locate and press your dog's bladder using your fingers to release urine."