One of the major parts of owning a dog is attuning yourself to your dog’s cues, including those that tell you it needs to go outside—and fast. Bathroom breaks are not always convenient, especially if you don’t have a yard to let your dog loose into, but they are something every pet owner gets used to.
Because of this, it is quite easy to tell when something is wrong with your dog’s bathroom habits. If it doesn’t show signs of needing to go out, or if it is unable to go when you do take it out, it’s pretty clear that something is amiss.
Not urinating during bathroom breaks is abnormal for dogs. If your dog hasn’t peed at all throughout the day, or it looks like it’s struggling to go, it could be suffering from a major medical issue.
What is urinary retention?
Urinary retention is the term used to describe a dog’s inability to pass urine or completely empty its bladder. It is not to be confused with urinary incontinence, which is the inability to control the bladder, usually resulting in accidents.
The inability to urinate can be quite serious and have negative effects on your dog’s health. Urination helps filter waste and toxins from the body, and the prolonged presence of those toxins can make your dog very sick in just a few days.
There are two general types of urinary retention: functional and mechanical.
Functional urinary retention is caused by dysfunction of a urinary organ, while mechanical urinary retention is usually caused by a blockage within the urethra.
You won’t be able to determine which type of urinary retention your dog has without the assistance of a vet, so it’s important to make an appointment and have your dog examined and treated professionally as soon as possible.
Functional urinary retention
Functional urinary retention can affect the bladder, urinary tract and/or the kidneys. In many cases, one of the organs is suffering from an infection. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are among the most common causes of functional urinary retention. It can also be caused by kidney failure and even cancer.
Nerve and muscle issues might also be at play. The bladder uses muscles to push urine into the urethra and out of the body, and weakness or loss of function in these muscles can result in urination problems.
Mechanical urinary retention
If your dog has mechanical urinary retention, it likely has some sort of blockage that is preventing urine from exiting the body. Numerous things can cause these kinds of blockages, including blood clots, bladder stones, tumors or urethral narrowing.
Obstructions will need to be identified and removed, potentially through a catheter or surgery.
Watch for these signs
The most obvious sign of urinary retention in dogs is a lack of urine. Your dog might attempt to go but not be able to produce any urine, or its stream may be weak or interrupted. Sometimes, dogs will appear to strain or be in pain while attempting urination.
Urinary retention can also cause the appearance and feeling of a distended bladder. This is usually painful and indicates that the issue is quite severe.
In very severe cases, your dog may even begin to throw up and/or refuse to eat. If some time has passed since your dog’s last successful urination, its bladder may become so full that it occasionally leaks urine.
If the issue is a urinary tract infection, specifically, it may cause other symptoms like blood in the urine.
If you notice that your dog has not peed once in a 24-hour period or that it is struggling or straining to urinate during bathroom breaks, you should call your vet and make an appointment right away. Early detection and treatment could save your dog a lot of discomfort and potential illness.
Treatments for urinary retention
Once your vet examines your dog and identifies the cause of its urinary retention, they will determine the proper course of treatment. Infections can usually be treated with medication, while obstructions will require more invasive procedures to remedy.
Acting quickly when urinary retention is suspected is very important. Urination is a crucial component of maintaining health for animals, so you should not delay if your dog’s bathroom habits change suddenly.
With fast action, diagnosis and treatment, most dogs experience a full recovery and get back to their usual habits in no time.