How long can dogs go without peeing is an important question, although one must admit, that, talking about dog peeing is not fun.
However, when you are a responsible dog parent, you need to pay attention to many non-fun things – and your dog's peeing frequency and urine characteristics is one of them.
Do not get us wrong – you do not have to keep a peeing diary and check your dog’s urine every time he does his business. What you should do is have an overall picture of how many times per day your dog pees so you can notice if it suddenly stops.
In this article, we will discuss how long dogs can go without peeing. First, we will talk about the function of peeing and then cover reasons for irregular peeing, including medical conditions.
Finally, we will explain how long it is too long for a dog not peeing and the emergency signs requiring an emergency vet visit.
What the Function of Dogs Peeing?
The function of peeing is to get rid of waste products, toxins, and extra water the body does not need. Urine is formed in the urinary tract, especially the kidneys, through processes like filtration and concentration.
Urine is basically the end-product composed of:
- Excess and unnecessary water
- Urea (the waste product of the protein breakdown)
- Urochrome (pigmented blood product that makes a dog's urine yellow)
- Creatinine (the waste product of the physiological muscle breakdown)
- Bile by-products (originating from the liver)
- Ammonia (a potential toxin).
Reasons Why Dogs May Not Pee Regularly
A dog’s inability to pee regularly and empty his bladder is medically termed urinary retention. The reasons behind urinary retention are versatile and can be classified as behavioral and medical. Here is a list of some of the most common causes of not peeing in dogs.
Cause 1: Inadequate Peeing Spot
While some dogs are willing to pee just about anywhere, others have more delicate criteria. Namely, for some dogs, it is possible to refrain from peeing if they dislike the potential peeing place they are presented with.
From a human point of view, the spot may seem alright, but that does not mean that dogs would agree.
Cause 2: Stress and Emotional Issues
Have you ever heard of a thing called nervous bladder – when people cannot pee in unfamiliar toilets? Well, a similar concept is possible in dogs.
Namely, dogs may be unable to pee when feeling anxious or in severe emotional distress. For example, a dog left in a boarding facility may refuse to pee due to separation anxiety.
Cause 3: Dehydration
A dog that does not drink enough water is likely to pee less. In severe cases, lack of proper water intake leads to dehydration which may result in kidney damage.
It is paramount to monitor the dog’s water intake and stimulate a healthy water appetite.
Cause 4: Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Urinary tract infections are a widespread condition among dogs. Although they are possible in all dogs, UTIs are more likely to occur in older female dogs and diabetic dogs from both sexes.
A dog with a UTI experiences a urethral spasm – narrowing of the opening where the urine exits. If left untreated, urinary tract infections can progress into kidney damage (potentially followed by kidney failure) or sepsis.
Cause 5: Urinary Tract Obstructions
Urinary tract obstructions can be caused by urethral plugs, blood clots, congenital strictures within the urinary tract, etc. However, the most common cause is urinary stones which can be found in the dog's kidneys, ureters, bladder, or urethra.
Bladder stones are a prevalent type of uroliths among dogs. Bladder stones are made of different minerals, and different types are more common in different dog breeds.
For example, struvite stones are typical for Miniature Poodles, Bichon Frises, Cocker Spaniels, and Miniature Schnauzers. On the other hand, urate stones are common in Dalmatians, Bulldogs, and Black Russian Terriers.
Cause 6: Kidney Failure
A dog with kidney failure may not urinate. This is not the typical case of urine retention in which urine forms but cannot be eliminated.
Instead, a dog with kidney failure does not pee simply because the kidneys are not working properly and cannot produce urine.
Cause 7: Urinary Tract Cancer
Tumors in the urinary tract are not particularly common, but they are definitely possible.
The most common type of cancer is transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) which is more likely among certain breeds like West Highland Terriers, Scottish Terriers, and Shetland Sheepdogs. Based on the exact location, the tumor may block urine flow.
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Cause 8: Prostate Hyperplasia
Prostate hyperplasia is a benign growth of the prostate, and it can occur in all intact male dogs.
The telltale signs of prostate dysplasia in dogs include hematuria (blood in the urine), difficulty peeing, and difficulty passing feces (or characteristic ribbon-like feces).
Cause 9: Neurologic Disorders
Some neurological disorders can make it hard for dogs to pee, while others can make it impossible.
This is because peeing is based on muscle contraction and relaxation. Injuries and diseases of the spinal cord are some of the most common neurologic disorders resulting in urine retention.
Cause 10: Traumatic Uroabdomen
A severe trauma, usually caused by car accidents, can result in bladder rupture and urine spilling into the abdomen (a condition termed uroabdomen).
Uroabdomen is a life-threatening situation and requires urgent veterinary management.
How Long Can Dogs Go Without Peeing?
When it comes to physiological not peeing – holding the pee because of house training, adult, healthy dogs can go between 6 and 8 hours without peeing.
In theory, some dogs can go up to 10 or even 15 hours, but this is both cruel and unhealthy as not peeing increases the risk of certain urinary tract conditions.
Dogs with a certain medical condition may have trouble peeing. In such cases, they can go days without peeing. However, this is a life-threatening situation and requires immediate veterinary attention.
What Happens if a Dog Doesn't Pee?
As already explained, dogs need to urinate to remove the waste products and toxins from their bodies. A dog that does not pee is in extreme pain but also at risk of serious complications.
If an otherwise healthy dog does not pee, the urine retention within the bladder increases its risk of developing urinary tract infections and urinary stones. Also, the presence of carcinogens in the urine can increase the risk of certain types of cancer of the bladder.
If the urine retention persists, there is a high risk of kidney damage. Kidney damage is a progressing condition, and worst-case scenario, it may result in renal failure.
Also, if the dog with urine retention has underlying urinary tract infections, sepsis is a plausible complication.
Due to the accumulation of waste products and toxins that are neurotoxic and cause depression of the central nervous system (CNS), not peeing can be a fatal situation. Usually, death occurs within three to five days.
What to Do if a Dog Doesn't Pee?
A dog that does not pee is a medical emergency. However, before calling the vet or going to the emergency clinic, it is advisable to check whether your dog is really not peeing.
Namely, it is not uncommon for dogs to pee in hidden places and then refuse to potty while walking simply because their bladders are now empty.
Also, checking whether a dog pees or not can be challenging in dogs that are kept outdoors or both indoors and outdoors.
Anyway, if you suspect your dog is not peeing or showing additional worrisome signs and symptoms, it is best to err on the side of caution and have your dog examined.
Diagnoses and Treatment of Urinary Retention in Dogs
The veterinarian will start by performing a thorough physical examination and then proceed with some additional tests such as blood analysis (complete blood counts and biochemistry profiles), urinalysis and urine cultures, and if necessary abdominal x-rays, ultrasound, and even a CT scan.
While waiting for the test results, if the bladder is filled with urine, the vet may empty it by placing a catheter. The procedure can be a bit uncomfortable, but will provide temporary pain relief and help remove some of the waste products and toxins.
The exact treatment for urinary retention depends on the underlying issues. For example, in the case of bladder stones, the vet will recommend surgical removal and then a special diet to prevent further formation.
If the problem is a urinary tract infection, the dog will be prescribed a long course of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and, if necessary, anti-pain medications.
Tumors need surgical removal and, depending on the type, maybe radiation or chemotherapy.
In the case of benign prostate hyperplasia, the vet will recommend castration, and if dealing with traumatic uroabdomen, the dog needs urgent surgery to repair the problem and prevent fatal infections.
All in all, if you suspect your dog is not peeing, the wait-and-see approach is a recipe for disaster. Instead, you need to be proactive and seek immediate veterinary help. The sooner you get your dog checked and diagnosed, the better the outcome.