Changes in a dog’s normal urinary functions, and particularly in the quantity, colour, or consistency of urine, warrant immediate investigation by a vet because they can indicate serious, even life-threatening disease.
The amount and quality of urine gives excellent clues to problems in the kidneys or lower urinary tract. Increased urinating can be caused by any of the following conditions:
- Kidney disease;
- Sugar diabetes or diabetes mellitus ;
- Pituitary diabetes or ADH deficiency diabetes;
- Liver disease or hepatic insufficiency;
- Womb infection or pyometra;
- Overactive adrenal gland or hyperadrenocorticism ;
- Underactive adrenal gland or hypoadrenocorticism ;
- Underactive thyroid gland or hypothyroidism ;
- Drugs or diet;
- Pain, fever, or altered behaviour.
Blood in the urine
If you notice blood in your dog’s urine (haematuria), see your vet the same day – this could indicate a potentially serious condition. Medical reasons for haematuria include:
- Severe inflammatory urinary tract disease;
- Bladder or kidney stones;
- Poisoning from a “coumarin” rodenticide such as warfarin; Autoimmune haemolytic anaemia;
- Tumours in the genital tract.
Acute kidney failure
Kidney failure occurs when more than three-quarters of kidney function has been lost. It may result from injury, disease, from an immune disorder, or simply from advancing years. Kidney failure can occur suddenly (acute kidney failure) but more often it is slow or “chronic” .
Acute kidney failure is a life-threatening event usually caused by a condition outside the urinary tract, such as heart failure, shock, severe infection, or systemic diseases such as advanced tumours. Certain poisons, such as ethylene glycol (antifreeze), can also result in sudden kidney failure. An affected dog may lose its appetite, become weak and lethargic and collapse, and there may be vomiting and diarrhoea. Any dog showing the above signs should be seen by a vet as quicldy as possible, because intensive care with immediate intravenous fluid therapy is vital for survival.
Chronic kidney failure
This is a slow, insidious disease that usually, but not always, affects older dogs. General signs begin with increased drinking and urinating, and a slight slowing down. Eventually, fatigue and increasing listlessness develop, and the dog loses interest in its surroundings. Left untreated, mild retching begins, followed by vomiting froth or meals. Body tremors or loss of fine balance develop, and the dog suffers mild seizures. Diet management is the primary treatment for chronic circumstances it is necessary to deliver them under the skin (subcutaneously). High blood pressure is managed with ACE inhibitors, such as enalapril. Many drugs are cleared from the body by the kidneys, so if a dog is diagnosed with chronic kidney failure, the dose of all drugs it is receiving should be reevaluated.
Diet and chronic kidney failure
Once a dog has developed chronic kidney disease, the condition cannot be reversed, though a carefully formulated diet can help to slow the progression of the disease and manage the symptoms to allow the best possible quality of life for your dog. Your vet can advise on a suitable diet for your dog based on how far the disease has progressed. The primary objectives in making changes to the dog’s diet are to:
- Reduce phosphorus: restricting phosphorus levels in the diet has been shown to slow the progression of kidney failure.
- Reduce sodium: this helps to control high blood pressure.
- Increase fat intake: a high level of fat in the diet helps to stimulate appetite and increase calorie consumption.
- Give adequate high-quality protein: a moderate level of high-quality protein in the diet is beneficial to maintain muscle mass and normal activity levels.
- Increase vitamin intake: dogs with chronic kidney failure are prone to deficiencies in certain vitamins, so these should be added to the diet.
- Increase antioxidants: these scavenge free radicals ï¿½ naturally occurring reactive molecules that can damage kidney cell walls. Most dog food manufacturers add antioxidants to their speciality diets.
- Give plenty of water: ensure that a dog with kidney failure always has a supply of fresh, clean water.
- Consider supplements: Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (Omega-3 PUFA) appear to protect the kidneys and possibly also lower blood pressure. Diets already containing these fatty acids or Omega-3 PUFA supplements may be an effective therapy for dogs with kidney failure.
Lower urinary tract disorders
Bladder and associated urethral conditions affect dogs of all ages. Cystitis, an inflammation of the lining to the bladder, and urethritis, an inflammation of the urethra, can result from bacterial infection, mineral deposit, injuries, tumours, and even stress. Some of these conditions can be very painful. An affected dog’s urine appears cloudy or has a sour smell, and when analysed, may be found to contain crystals, blood, bacteria, or other substances.
Bladder sediment and stones
Dogs of all ages and breeds can develop mineral sediment (“crystals”) or stones (“uroliths”) in any part of the urinary tract. They usually form in the bladder and pass down into the urethra. If a stone blocks the urinary tract, this can be a painful and potentially life-threatening condition. Treatment for bladder stones involves eliminating the underlying cause and reducing the quantity of sediment or preventing its recurrence though diet management.Antibiotics are given when infection is the source of the condition. Dogs are also encouraged to drink more water; the simplest way to do this with dogs that eat dry food is to switch them over to wet food diets. If stones are very large, they can be felt on abdominal examination, while others are revealed by X-ray or ultrasound. Large stones or those causing urethral blockages are surgically removed.
Urinary tract obstruction
A dog with an obstruction in the urinary tract is in obvious pain. It strains, cries, is restless, and cannot pass any urine. Left untreated, clinical shock rapidly develops. This is a life-threatening condition; if your dog displays symptoms of urinary tract obstruction, you should seek urgent veterinary assistance. Most blockages are caused by stones. Urethral stones lodged behind the bone in the penis (the os penis) are the most common cause, but urinary retention can also result from prostate conditions, tumours, and spinal cord injuries.
Using a catheter, your vet will try to push the stone back into the bladder. If this is not possible, the distended bladder is reduced by drawing off retained urine via a needle inserted through the abdominal wall. In some cases, surgery will be required to remove the blockage.
There are several possible causes of involuntary urination, or incontinence, from within the urinary tract; these include chronic lower urinary tract inflammation, bladder distension,kidney failure, and age-related loss of urethra sphincter mechanism (USM) control. Other causes of incontinence are the result of hormone imbalances in older males and females and in spayed females, especially Dobermans and Bearded Collies. Fortunately, there are specific and effective drug therapies for both USM and hormone imbalance forms of incontinence.