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5 Common Urinary Issues In Dogs: Vet-Verified Facts & Identification Guide

Written by: Rachel Giordano

Last Updated on April 4, 2024 by Dogster Team

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5 Common Urinary Issues In Dogs: Vet-Verified Facts & Identification Guide


Dr. Alice Athow-Frost Photo


Dr. Alice Athow-Frost

BVM BVS MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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The urinary tract in dogs is made up of two kidneys, two ureters, a bladder, and a urethra. It serves many imperative functions such as filtering the blood to rid the body of toxins, reabsorbing water, and maintaining the balance of electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium. Dogs commonly get urinary issues that are easy to treat, but less commonly, more severe issues can arise, like cancer.

In this guide, we’ll learn the five most common urinary tract issues in dogs so that you know the potential signs of a problem for prompt veterinary treatment.

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The 5 Common Urinary Issues in Dogs

1. Urinary Tract Infection

A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is a common term for an infection in the lower part of the urinary tract. Dog UTIs are common and are usually caused by ascending bacteria (usually bacteria from the gastro-intestinal tract or mouth of the dog ascending into the urinary tract through the urethra). However, they can also stem from an underlying problem, such as bladder stones, urinary crystals, or even cancer.

Common signs of a UTI in your dog are:
  • Straining to urinate
  • Frequent urination in small amounts
  • Blood in the urine
  • Urinating in inappropriate places, especially if your dog is potty trained
  • Drinking more water than usual

Urinary tract infections can be painful for your dog and typically require medication to resolve.  If your dog is getting repeat episodes of UTIs, your vet will likely want to investigate further to see why this is occurring.

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Image Credit: Nataly23, Shutterstock

2. Urinary Bladder Stones

Urinary bladder stones are formed from rock-like minerals that develop inside the urinary bladder. They can be large, single stones or a collection of stones ranging in size from tiny sand-like grains to gravel. Sometimes, a collection of both large and small stones is present at once.

Stones that form in the urinary bladder may be present for a period of time before they are noticed. However, if the stones move from the bladder to the urethra, which is the tiny passage that leads from the bladder to the outside, they can become stuck and cause a blockage in urinary flow. If this happens, the bladder can overfill and rupture, causing leakage inside the abdomen (uroabdomen). This is an extremely serious situation, as a dog can become septic and suffer from severe electrolyte imbalance, which can be fatal.

Signs of stones are:
  • Straining to urinate
  • Multiple attempts to urinate
  • Passing only small amounts of urine
  • Attempting to urinate with nothing coming out
  • Blood in the urine (hematuria)

3. Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence is a common urinary issue that mostly affects middle aged to older female dogs, but males can also develop it. It is diagnosed when involuntary leaking of urine (small or large amounts) occurs without control, with the dog not knowing it is happening.

This condition is not viewed as a behavioral problem but rather a medical one, with several possible causes.  In order to diagnose urinary incontinence, your vet must test your dog’s blood and urine to ensure it is normal, because conditions such as UTIs or diabetes mellitus can sometimes cause a dog to become incontinent, but this is due to a separate primary condition. Urinary incontinence often results from a weak bladder sphincter; however, neurological problems, bladder storage dysfunction and anatomic abnormalities can also be responsible for incontinence.

Common signs of urinary incontinence are:
  • Dripping urine which your dog is unaware of
  • Wet patches of urine under your dog that occur when they are sleeping or relaxing
  • Redness on skin of abdomen and inner thighs from dripping urine
  • Excessive genital licking
male dog licking its genitals
Image Credit: GenViewFinder, Shutterstock

4. Kidney Infection/Dysfunction/Stones

Kidney infections (pyelonephritis) are caused when bacteria in the urinary tract move upward from the bladder to the kidneys.  Kidney infections are more common in middle-aged to senior dogs, but any dog can develop an infection, especially if they have risk factors such as kidney stones, recurrent UTIs or diabetes mellitus.

Early diagnosis for pyelonephritis is essential in preventing the issue from becoming life-threatening, as bacteria have the potential to enter the bloodstream, causing sepsis.

Signs of a kidney infection are:
  • Poor appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Painful abdomen
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Blood in urine
  • Straining to urinate
  • Urine accidents in the home

A dog with a kidney infection will often show signs of pain in the belly and may develop a fever. If you see any of the signs mentioned above, take your dog to the vet immediately to avoid possible kidney damage. Diagnosis is not easy and will require blood work to assess kidney function, and ultrasound.

A urinalysis and urine culture are also helpful in spotting an infection and determining the type of bacteria present. That way, your vet can decide which antibiotic is best for treatment. Prognosis is good in dogs without underlying medical issues; however, the outcome may be less promising in dogs with medical issues, such as recurrent infections.

5. Urinary Bladder Cancer

The most common tumor of the urinary tract in dogs is transitional cell carcinoma (TCC).  This is a cancer of the cells that line the urinary tract and is most commonly seen in older female dogs. TCCs usually occur at the neck of the bladder, where it joins with the urethra.

Signs of a TCC include:
  • Blood in the urine
  • Pain on urination
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Straining to urinate with small amounts passed

There are other tumors that can affect the urinary tract of dogs, but TCCs are by far the most common.  Treatment options include anti-inflammatory medications, chemotherapy and/or surgery.

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Image Credit: MPH-Photos, Shutterstock

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If you see any signs of a urinary issue mentioned above, it’s imperative to have your dog examined by a veterinarian for treatment. Prompt treatment is crucial in preventing permanent damage and ruling out more serious issues, such as bladder cancer. Remember that straining, incontinence, blood in the urine, lethargy, poor appetite, and increased thirst all warrant a trip to the vet.

Featured Image Credit: Olimpik, Shutterstock

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