Dog’s Pee: Decoding Colors & Odors

An embarrassed dog covering his face.
An embarrassed dog covering his face. Photography ©Ksenia Raykova/Thinkstock.
Last Updated on November 23, 2023 by Dogster Team

Pee pee. Tinkle. No. 1. Yes, we use many terms to describe dog pee. But to veterinarians, dog urine is referred to — and highly revered as — liquid gold. That’s because the stream exiting from your dog contains priceless clues on just how healthy your dog is.

Snicker if you will, but any veterinarian worth his or her stethoscope makes no apologies for getting a bit giddy about what is discovered from analyzing your dog’s tinkle. Case in point: Lisa Lippman, D.V.M. This dedicated house-call veterinarian has been spotted on New York City sidewalks walking quickly behind a dog being leash walked by his owner. She ignores the stares as she bends forward to steady a sterile cup under a dog’s moving butt in the quest to obtain a fresh “catch” of liquid gold.

“It takes some coordination to catch a fresh pee sample from a walking dog, but I’m getting quite good at it and will handle any teasing from onlookers,” says Dr. Lippman, who operates the Off Leash Veterinary Care house-call service. “The goal is to catch the urine in a sterile cup in midstream. The fresher the urine sample, the better in terms of ensuring accurate test results.”

Is your dog’s pee normal?

A pug peeing on a brick wall.
A pug peeing on a brick wall. Photography ©Artnature/Thinkstock.

To be our dogs’ best health allies, we need to devote more attention to their bathroom habits in terms of color, frequency, odor and quantity.

“Dogs normally have yellow urine with the shades of yellow varying, depending on how much water the dog has been drinking,” says Joseph Bartges, D.V.M., Ph.D., professor of internal medicine and nutrition at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in Athens. “If the urine is a color other than yellow, then it is likely due to a problem.”

Weird colors for dog pee:

Let’s run down the uh-oh colors of concern and possible culprits. If your dog’s urine is any of these colors, head to the veterinary clinic pronto:

Orange urine: Could signal jaundice, liver disease, gallbladder issues, damaged red blood cells or extreme dehydration.

Pink or red urine: The most common cause for this hue is a urinary tract infection, but your dog could also be suffering from a bleeding or clotting disease, blunt trauma and even cancer.

Brown urine: This is an emergency medical situation. There could be bleeding in the urinary tract, a breakdown of red blood cells, reaction to exposure to toxins or muscle damage from injury or other type of trauma.

What else to be concerned about when it comes to dog pee:

Factor in frequency and quantity. If your dog is suddenly drinking lots of water and peeing in increased volume, this could indicate the onset of diabetes, kidney conditions, leptosporosis or Cushing’s disease. If your dog is squatting and releasing just a few drips or shooting, that could mean he has bladder or kidney stones or a blockage in his urinary tract.

“Urinary blockages are more common in male dogs, but if any dog of any gender is straining to urinate and nothing is coming out, this is a true medical emergency,” Dr. Lippman says. “If the dog cannot urinate, then he cannot release toxins in the body and, untreated, the toxins can damage the heart, bladder and more. This is a life-threatening situation.”

Never ignore pungent urine odor, either. That could indicate your dog has a bladder or kidney infection.

Alert your veterinarian about any changes in your dog’s potty habits. A veterinarian can obtain a urine sample in the exam room by palpating the dog’s bladder and collecting urine into a pan (known as a “free catch sample”) or by inserting a needle into the bladder (a technique called cystocentesis).

How to get a pee sample from your dog:

If you want to save a little money and collect your dog’s urine sample before heading to the clinic, your dog’s peeing habits and gender need to be considered. Always first put the dog on a leash in an enclosed area and, if possible, solicit the aid of another person to hold the leash while you collect the urine.

For a male dog who hikes his leg, you can catch an ounce or so by catching the stream into a sterile urine cup available at drugstores. For female dogs who squat, collect the urine sample by placing a sterile soup ladle under her butt as she squats, Dr. Lippman suggests.

Once collected, seal the container, and put it on ice to keep it fresh en route to the veterinary clinic.

And a little urine goes a long way. “We don’t need a lot of urine to do a multitude of tests — just about an ounce,” Dr. Lippman says. “Just a wee bit of pee can give us a ton of information about your dog.”

How our dogs communicate via pee:

Long before people relied on email and phone texts to converse, dogs have depended on “pee mail” to communicate with each other.

  • “A dog’s sense of smell is more than 40 times more sensitive than humans,” Dr. Bartges says. “There are many pheromones in urine and so peeing to mark is an effective way of communicating for dogs.” The canine nose knows. Sniffing urine informs your dog about the gender, overall health and social ranking of the previous pee depositors on the route. “An alpha female may urine mark in many places to alert others that this is her territory,” Dr. Lippman adds.
  • And what about those short-legged dogs who topple over in their attempt to aim high with urine squirts on hydrants, telephone poles and other outside vertical objects? “They are trying to appear taller and bigger than they actually are to other dogs in the neighborhood,” Dr. Lippman says. “I’m not sure if they are really fooling the other dogs or not.”

Read more about dog pee on

Arden Moore, The Pet Health and Safety Coach™, is a pet behavior consultant, master certified pet first aid instructor, author and host of the Oh Behave Show on Pet Life Radio. Learn more at

Editor’s note: This article appeared in Dogster magazine. Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Dogster magazine delivered straight to you

Featured Image Credit: Ksenia Raykova/Thinkstock.

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