Thursday, March 16, 2017

Dog Medical Emergencies Survey: Is Inability to Urinate an Emergency?

87.88% survey participants checked the inability to urinate as an emergency. What did you check?



What can cause the inability to urinate? The causes break down into two groups. One of them is urinary tract obstruction, either due to a blockage, inflammation or compression of the urethra. The problem behind this can be

  • urinary tract stones
  • tumors
  • urinary disease
  • prostate disease in male dogs ...


The other category involves what is referred to as functional urinary retention, caused by a dysfunction, rather than an obstruction. This can be neurologic or systemic in nature.

A dog unable to empty their bladder is an emergency.


Balloon pop from overinflation. Image Science Amino

Urine buildup can lead to kidney failure, electrolyte issues or bladder rupture. All of these things can be fatal.


Note: "A dog straining to urinate might actually look like a conctipated dog, hunching over while urinating." ~petmd

Signs to watch for, other than difficulty urinating, include distended bladder, weak urine stream, urine leakage, blood in urine, loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, and pain.


Related articles:
Dog Medical Emergencies Survey
Dog Medical Emergencies Survey Results
Is Unproductive Retching an Emergency?
Is Difficulty Breathing an Emergency?
Is Panting an Emergency?
Is Severe Pain an Emergency?
Is Limping an Emergency?
Is Vomiting Bile in the Morning an Emergency?
Is Profuse Vomiting an Emergency?
Are Convulsions or Seizures an Emergency?
Is Loss of Appetite an Emergency?
Is Reduced Activity an Emergency?
Is Severe Lethargy an Emergency?
Is Inability to Stand an Emergency?



Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog now available in paperback and Kindle. Each chapter includes notes on when it is an emergency.

38 comments

  1. To be honest, when it comes to Red who is about 15 1/2, any change in behaviour, no matter how slight is an emergency. Not in the sense where we have to rush her to the 24 hour emergency hospital (if we even had one near us!), but it always entails a call to my vet's office first thing in the morning. For the less worried, or those with overall healthier animals, there's some really important info here. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. That is a good policy you're using. Yes, not everything is an emergency even if it does warrant a consultation with a vet. Some things are an actual emergency, though, and the inability to urinate is one of them.

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  2. This is a great reminder. I have had many pets since childhood and many of them were taken to the vet due to inability to urinate and were found to have infections and kidney issues, and it most certainly was an emergency. Thank you for teaching people that when they notice this in their animals, they must get to the vet!

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    1. Thank you, Danielle, sorry you had to experience these things first-hand. Glad everything worked out well. <3

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  3. I wou have answered emergency. In cats it's an emergency as well.

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    1. Yes, most definitely, particularly in male cats.

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  4. Never had this issue but we'd go straight to the vet.

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    1. And you would have done the right thing. Glad you never had this issue, though. <3

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  5. Definitely an emergency - also an emergency in cats and bunnies, too.

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    1. I think it's an emergency with any critter.

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  6. What a great reminder. Thankfully we have never had a issue with this but we it's good to know the signs! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I hope nobody ever has an issue with this. But in case they ever did, I hope they'll remember this reminder.

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  7. Any change of behavior in Layla, however small it is, I email the vet to ask whether I should bring her in, they normally reply within an hour or so and this way less stress if it is not necessary

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    1. Right on. Also kudos to your vet for such fast response time.

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  8. Any change in behaviour is a red flag. At 3.5 pounds there is very very little wiggle room. So far so good!

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    1. Yes, definitely. Glad that things had been good so far <3

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  9. I would hope that pet owners would recognize this as an issue that needs immediate medical care, but I'm glad this post exist as a resource, just in case. Thanks for sharing. I hope it helps others should this scary situation occur and they find seeking answers on the internet as an option.

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    1. Given the survey results, not all do. I too hope that this might get through to at least some of those looking for online fixes.

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  10. I think anything out of the ordinary is a potential health issue. We always keep a close eye on the health of our cats.

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    1. Yes, anything out of the ordinary should be addressed. But there are things that need immediate attention and this is one of such things.

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  11. I would make it an emergency trip for sure. Especially since Dexter enjoys eating whatever he can find.

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    1. And you'd be right on the money, though urination issues have little to do with what has been eaten, unless something poisonous.

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  12. We monitor bowel and pee pee action and other behaviour very carefully every day. Kilo has trouble holding and hates the cold or wet so he can be a bit of a puggy pee and poop bandit. If he stopped going or eating for long it would definitely be cause for grave concern.

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    1. Thoughtful monitoring is the way to go. I wonder how many people wouldn't even know something is happening if they just let the dog out into the yard and don't watch what the dog does or doesn't do out there.

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  13. This is a huge emergency for cats too! I had a kitty pass away from a ruptured bladder many years ago. Male cats are especially prone to having urinary obstructions. Any time a kitty is straining in the litter box, it is time to go to the vet.

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    1. Yes, it's an emergency for cats as well; particularly male cats. So sorry about your kitty.

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  14. When I first took your survey, I was expecting a score, but I love the way you are answering each question in depth. I am learning a lot more this way.

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    1. Thank you, Beth. Yes, I posted the results but looking at them I felt that addressing each of these things individually was needed.

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  15. For Fe, I'd say 99% of everything feels super serious, lol. I should get frequent flyer miles at the vet. Anything to do with basic and necessary bodily functions is crazy urgent though, if for no other reason than that I hate to think of Fe uncomfortable like that.

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    1. LOL I know what you mean. Of course, not everything is always an emergency. But that doesn't mean it should be dismissed.

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  16. I definitely consider not being able to urinate an emergency. I'd leave work, shut off the kettle, whatever, and head straight to the Vet's office. Thanks for sharing.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

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    1. Sometimes one really has to wonder. But then they should try and educate. So that's what I'm trying to do.

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  17. If there is something my dog can't do, it's usually a big concern for me. Going to the bathroom is usually a red flag.

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  18. I think this is an emergency for any animal - humans too! I imagine it must be painful as well. Thanks for the important reminder that we should all be monitoring our pets' bathroom habits!

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    1. Yes, any animal. A human could feel their pain and I'm sure they'd do something. It's important to understand that just because you don't personally feel the pain, it doesn't mean there isn't any.

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  19. I had this one right. This is an emergency for both dogs and cats.

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