Dogs are known for peeing several times a day, it is therefore concerning witnessing a dog who hasn't peed for several hours. While dogs can hold their pee for some time, holding it for too many hours can cause serious complications that may require prompt veterinary treatment. With the urine accumulating in the bladder, the dog will feel uncomfortable and even in pain. An important distinction to consider is whether the dog is purposely trying to hold his pee or if the dog is trying to urinate but cannot. Dogs who haven't peed for several hours but are trying to urinate, may be suffering from a potential urinary obstruction, which requires prompt veterinary care.
Sometimes, recently adopted dogs may feel nervous in their new surroundings which may lead them to feeling stressed, fearful or just plain uncomfortable to go potty as often as they normally would.
These dogs may also not be drinking normally as they should, which can explain why they aren't peeing for several hours. It's important though that these dogs are encouraged to drink so to prevent dehydration.
It is not unusual for shelters and dog kennels to notice dogs not peeing when they first arrive, even after several hours. It could be that kenneled dogs who are well potty trained will refuse to pee or poop on surfaces they are not comfortable using and therefore will be holding it until they are let out to potty on their favorite substrates such as grass or dirt.
Dogs who are in pain may also hold their pee because they may start associating posturing to pee with the pain. This can sometimes be seen in dogs with hip pain, abdominal pain or back pain. Dogs recovering from surgery may also feel too weak, drowsy or in pain to go potty. Consult with your vet if your dog needs pain relief.
Presence of Stones
If your dog is posturing to pee, but little or nothing comes out, there are chances your dog is suffering from a urinary blockage. This can happen when dogs have stones stuck in the bladder and urethra.
In a male dog, the stones may try to pass through the dog's long and narrow urethra and, at some point, they may get stuck blocking the urine flow. If you see this happening with your dog, consider that this is a medical emergency, and you should take your dog to closest emergency vet right away, explains veterinarian Dr. Jeoy.
Failure to treat this condition in a timely manner may lead to an enlarged bladder and the accumulated urine may back up to the dog's kidneys causing kidney failure and potentially fatal electrolyte problems.
Female dogs are less likely to suffer from a blockage from bladder stones because their urethra is much shorter and wider, allowing the stones to more easily pass, but it can still happen, nonetheless.
Issues with the Bladder
Is your dog completely not peeing or is your dog peeing frequently in small amounts? Severe bladder infections can cause a dog to repeatedly strain producing just droplets of urine. Dog owners may not realize that their dogs are actually peeing small droplets at a time, and may therefore assume they are unsuccessfully trying to pee. Since the bladder gets to actually empty in this case, it doesn't typically enlarge much as seen with blockages. Bladder infections are more common in female dogs than in male dogs due to their conformation.
Another possible cause for a dog to be unable to urinate is a tumor in the bladder. The tumor may be growing large enough to cause a blockage to the opening of the urethra, explains veterinarian Dr. John. Tumors may sometimes be also found in the dog's urethra, and in male dogs, in the prostate.
Although bladder issues are common causes for dogs not urinating, there can be several other possibilities. In several of these other conditions, there are often other physical signs going on that may affect other parts of the body.
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At times, difficulty in voiding can be caused by a neurological problem. This can be caused by a a spinal cord injury due to trauma or herniating discs or tumors pressing on the spinal cord. In dogs suffering from a "bad back," nerve degeneration may affect the dog's spinal cord in a similar fashion as seen in multiple sclerosis in people, explains veterinarian Dr. Michael Salkin.
Basically, in this case, the nerves that branch off the diseased spinal cord, and that reach the bladder, may fail to work as they should in telling the dog's bladder to contract and excrete urine. Usually dogs with spinal cord injuries will show signs such as trouble using their back legs, knuckling over and loss of sensation.
A dog who is not urinating normally, may not be making urine and this can stem from a kidney related issue, explains veterinarian Dr. Jenn. In particular, dogs suffering from end-stage kidney failure are known to stop producing urine or produce urine in very small dilute amounts. In cases of dogs with a recent history of trauma (such as being hit by a car) the inability to urinate may be a sign of a ruptured bladder.
How Long is Too Long?
How long can a dog go without urinating? Dogs normally urinate at least 2 to 3 times a day and a dog not urinating for several hours is worrisome. A dog not urinating longer than 24 hours is concerning and it is particularly critical for male dogs, considering that, due to their anatomy, it's easy for small bladder stones to cause a urinary blockage, explains veterinarian Dr. Andy.
As the urine builds up, the dog's abdomen becomes painful and the bladder feels enlarged or firm upon palpation. In a dog not urinating due to spinal cord problems, if the bladder enlarges too much for enough time, this can progress to a nerve problem with the dog's urinary bladder. This can be avoided by expressing the dog's bladder or having the vet insert a urinary catheter so to empty the dog's bladder out each day, points out veterinarian Dr. Matt.
If there is a blockage, the urine may back up into the kidneys, which can cause kidney failure. When the kidneys fail, toxins are no longer excreted as they should and may build up in the bloodstream causing the dog to feel very ill and vomit. Left untreated, these toxins can cause heart problems and other organs to fail.
At the Vet's Office
Depending on the dog's condition upon arrival, the vet may conduct diagnostic tests or will go straight into surgery. The vet will likely feel the dog's bladder to check if it's hard and enlarged. If the dog is still capable of urinating somewhat, the vet may test a urine sample to check for a bladder infection Blood work can check for underlying metabolic problems.
If the vet suspects stones, he or she may request a bladder x-ray or an ultrasound. A dye added in the bladder may further help out with diagnosis. Sometimes, a urinary catheter can be inserted so to help the urine flow out and so to feel for the presence of grit or an obstruction.
Treatment for a dog not urinating for several hours depends on the underlying cause. It may range from fluid therapy, to medications, to surgical intervention.
If your dog is found to have bladder stones blocking his urethra, the vet will give your dog an anesthetic and a urinary catheter will be used to try to push the stone back into the bladder so that surgery can be performed to remove it. Individualizing the type of stones present is important. Some stones may be prevented through dietary changes.
Urinary tract infections with severe bladder wall inflammation will require a course of antibiotics to clear up.
If there is a tumor, the vet may decide to place a urethral stent so to allow better urine flow. This often provides immediate relief. Chemotherapy and and ant-inflammatory drugs may help shrink the tumor.
In dogs suffering from spinal cord problems such as a herniated disc, surgery to remove the ruptured disc material is needed so to remove pressure from the dog's spinal cord.
As seen, a dog not urinating for several hours needs prompt veterinary attention. The more time goes by, the more there are chances for a cascading chain of events to occur and things get more complicated and risky for the dog. If your dog therefore is not urinating for several hours, see your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.