Observe Your Dog’s Urine Habits

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Observe Your Dog’s Urine Habits


Last week, my article detailed how urinary incontinence can be simply a symptom of a larger medical condition and that spaying may not be the cause. This article will give you a more in-depth view of possible causes of incontinence that can be lessened or prevented. Incontinence can be caused by anatomical or congenital abnormalities such as ectopic ureters or lumbosacral disorders, too, but that gets into the realm of ethical breeding practices.  

Approximately 10-15 years ago, veterinarians started requesting not only a fecal sample, but also a urine sample from their patients. But, clients often thought it was an unnecessary and potentially embarrassing request, “How do I try to capture pee and hopefully midstream of all things?”

Urinalysis is an important diagnostic tool in conjunction with the fecal sample and bloodwork analysis. In addition, I want you to observe your companion dog while he urinates and his urinating habits as these could be signs of a potentially serious medical condition. Your observations will help create a faster and more accurate diagnosis by your veterinarian.

Urine marking is common for all dogs. It’s how they communicate with one another and “mark” their territory. It is generally true that intact dogs are more likely to mark than neutered/spayed dogs. Now, there are nuances that may make you believe that your dog is simply marking, but it may be a sign of a more serious condition – particularly a urinary tract infection (UTI) or anxiety and stress.

Anxiety can often expressed through submissive urination, which usually occurs when a dog feels threatened, such as during scoldings, or hears loud, disruptive noises. It can also be confused with excitement urination, which is generally when you get home and your dog is so excited to see you!

Dogs usually outgrow excitement urination and there are positive training steps you can do to curtail this. However, anxiety is also a common symptom of thyroid dysfunction in dogs. So, when your veterinarian asks you when the peeing is occurring, he will want to know about the behavioral signs and any changes to household dynamics that might be remedied through training or otherwise. In this instance, I would recommend a complete thyroid antibody panel (blood draw required) to be completed to rule in or out thyroid dysfunction/hypothyroidism as a potential cause.        

If your dog exhibits excessive drinking habits and subsequently passes copious amounts of diluted urine (polyuria), this could be a sign of endocrinopathies such as diabetes mellitus or Cushing’s Disease. Some pet parents may think this form of urinary incontinence is from spaying, particularly if the dog pees inside the house. In this case, the dog simply has too much urine to pass to be able to hold it. Diabetes mellitus type- 2 is a lifestyle disease in dogs just like humans and is usually preventable with the right diet and exercise. However, I do not recommend self-diagnosis. Take your dog to your veterinarian for a complete blood panel and urinalysis.

I view the signs of UTI’s and/or the presence of bladder/urine crystals [which can be artifacts of urine transportation to the testing lab] – which become stones – as opposite to the signs of diabetes. (Granted, a dog with diabetes can develop a UTI and stones.) Instead of a puddle of urine, UTI’s and crystals tend to create piddles. Instead of diluted urine, UTI’s and crystals generate “morning pee” all day long which is often cloudy or particularly stinky. Other signs of these conditions are difficulty urinating (dysuria), blood in the urine (hematuria), smell, excessive licking of the genital region, and most importantly small amounts of frequent urination.

First, a veterinarian will need to figure out if the dog has bladder stones and the type of stone with a urinalysis and bloodwork, and possibly an x-ray. He will also need to culture the urine to see if it is a bacterial infection (UTI), stones or both. These conditions are serious and should not be left untreated. Particularly with UTI’s, the infection can “back up” into the body affecting the kidneys and other organs. In fact, a UTI is so uncommon in male dogs compared to female dogs that it is usually a sign of a bigger issue like prostate infections, or kidney stones (not the same as bladder stones) or infections.

As I just mentioned and want to emphasize, UTI’s are bacterial (even fungal like yeast) and the urine needs to be cultured (more than a urinalysis) to determine if there is in fact an infection and what bacteria or other organism in present in order to prescribe the right therapy. While I always suggest preventative measures for a healthy immune system and urinary tract such as drinking fountains, probiotics, a moisture rich diet, regular walks and cranberries or cranberry fruit extracts to lower urine pH, for both sexes, they are not the cure if a UTI develops. Antibiotics or other therapy will have to be given.  

Common Sense

Puppies clearly pee more often than adult dogs. They may have a physiological disorder causing urinary incontinence, but most of the time frequent urination will resolve itself as the pup gets older. 

Conversely, an older dog may lose control of his or her bladder simply due to aging conditions like weakening of the sphincter muscle. 

Clearly, dogs do drink more water in the summer than during the winter. 

As well, if you have recently switched your pet’s food from kibble to a dehydrated or raw diet, the increase in moisture intake may cause larger volumes of urine. 

Of course, these are not reasons to avoid going to your veterinarian or to self-diagnose your pet. These common sense items should be disclosed during routine annual or semi-annual exams, and they should not be any reason to avoid full diagnostic panels including a complete blood count, thyroid profile, urinalysis, urine culture, and fecal analysis.

W. Jean Dodds, DVM
Hemopet / NutriScan
11561 Salinaz Avenue
Garden Grove, CA 92843


Becker, Marty, DVM. “Does Your Dog Have a Urinary Tract Infection? Learn the Symptoms.” Vetstreet, 25 Mar. 2014. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. http://www.vetstreet.com/dr-marty-becker/does-your-dog-have-a-urinary-tract-infection-learn-the-symptoms.

Dodds, Jean, DVM, and Diana Laverdure, MS. Canine Nutrigenomics: The New Science of Feeding Your Dog for Optimum Health. Wenatchee: Dogwise, 2015. Print.

“Lower Urinary Tract Problems and Infections in Dogs.” WebMD, n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/lower-urinary-tract-problems-infections-dogs.

“Urinary Incontinence in the Dog.” UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine – Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/vmth/small_animal/internal_medicine/newsletters/canine_incontinence.cfm.

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