A-Z of dog wellbeing: Urination

Do you watch your dog when then have a wee?

It might sound like an odd question, but when dogs struggle to urinate, produce abnormally small or large amounts of urine, start leaving little puddles in the house, or have blood in their pee, then it’s time to speak to your vet about a urinary problem. You can also help to support them naturally with a bladder-friendly diet and supplements.

You can only spot most of these issues if you observe how often and how much they pee, so it’s important that you get to know what ‘normal’ looks like for your dog.

Establishing a pee routine

The foundations of your dog’s toilet habits often start at puppyhood, with house-training, which can be a long and drawn out process for some dogs. Here are my top tips for house training your puppy:

  • Take the time to capture every opportunity – from the moment you get your puppy home, spend some extra time at home with them in the first couple of weeks to really crack the house training so you can capture every opportunity for success. You may need to wake up in the night to let them out too, so don’t expect to be fresh as a daisy in the morning!
  • Establish a routine – Encourage your dog into the garden for a wee after every drink, meal, sleep and play AND on the hour, every hour. The more opportunities you provide, the higher your chances of success.
  • Reward success – If they have a wee in the garden, say the cue you would like to use for this behaviour (be quick, busy busy, go wees etc) while they are weeing, and reward them with a natural meaty treat immediately after. Don’t use salty treats that encourage them to drink even more.
  • Never punish an accident – your puppy has a tiny bladder and the signals may not arrive in time for them to ask to go out to pee, so accidents are just that.  Encourage your dog straight outside (mid-wee if you can!) and clean up the accident while they are in the garden with an odour removing pet-safe cleaner.
  • Avoid puppy pads – In my opinion they are confusing for dogs. We spend a few weeks teaching them that it’s ok to pee indoors (on the puppy pad) and then we expect them to understand that it’s not ok to pee in the house later on.  Avoid the confusion and go straight for the garden!

If you don’t have time to spend at home with your puppy doing this intensive house-training routine during the first couple of weeks with you, then it may not be the right time for you to get a puppy.

Urinary infections

One of them most common health issues in dogs is an irritation or bacterial infection that may make your dog pee more than usual. If your dog is drinking more than usual, has bloody and/or cloudy urine that may have a strong smell, strains to pee, has accidents in the house, asks to be let outside more frequently and has a fever then they may have a urinary tract infection (UTI).

UTIs are more frequent in diabetic dogs, older dogs and in females more than males due to the length of the urethra.  Stress and an unsuitable diet for that dog may also cause more frequent infections. Your vet will usually ask for a sample of wee to test for the presence of bacteria to determine the presence of an infection and may prescribe antibiotics if one is found.

Bladder stones

Stones (uroliths) can develop anywhere in a dog’s urinary tract but are most commonly found within the bladder and can be composed of a variety of minerals, including struvite, calcium oxalate, and urate, and treatment recommendations will vary based on which type of stone is identified.

Stones can be triggered by high levels of minerals in the diet such as calcium, magnesium and phosphate, which grow into stones over time, or by highly acidic or alkali urine pH from the diet or a urine infection.

Some breeds of dog such as the Dalmation or English Bulldog metabolise minerals differently and so are much more prone to urate bladder stones being formed.  Some of the smaller breeds are genetically predisposed to calcium oxalate stones, including Miniature Schnauzers, Bichon Frise, Lhaso Apsos, Yorkshire Terriers, and Shih Tzus. These breeds, as well as Miniature Poodles, Pekingese, and Dachshunds, are at higher risk for developing struvite stones.

Incontinence

Urinary incontinence is the involuntary leakage of urine and occurs primarily when a dog is most relaxed and therefore lying down to rest, or when asleep at night. 80% of cases are usually caused by hormonal deficiencies that result in a loss of control of the urethral sphincter (the muscle that prevents urine from leaking out of the bladder), but anatomical abnormalities or neurological problems can also be a less-common cause.

Incontinence can develop in any dog but it is more common in middle to older-aged dogs, spayed, female dogs, and in larger dog breeds, however being overweight or obese is a common risk factor for incontinence.

Dogs with incontinence can develop skin problems around their hind quarters as a result of urine scald and are at higher risk for urinary tract infections.

How to support a dog prone to urinary problems

If your vet has ruled out any worrying causes of frequent UTIs such as cancer, and you want to avoid the frequent use of antibiotics, then you can help to reduce the likelihood your dog will get an infection naturally;

  • Ensure your dog drinks plenty of fresh, clean water which promotes dilution of urine allowing the bladder system to be adequately flushed through.
  • Provide lots of opportunities to urinate during the day as holding onto a full bladder can increase the risk of infections and stones forming.
  • Avoid feeding foods that aggravate UTIs including asparagus, spinach, raw carrots, tomatoes, and dairy products.
  • Ensure they get enough B vitamins and antioxidants during times of stress.
  • Consider a very slightly acidic diet if your dog is prone to stones to give a urine pH of just below neutral to help prevent crystals that form in urine that is too alkali or too acidic.
  • Offer a selection of herbal remedies for your dog to choose from may help to prevent an infection from occurring. By holding a Herbal Self-Medication session you can learn which are your dogs go-to remedies to support the kidneys, re-balance hormones, build a strong immune system and aid good urinary health. You can then offer these regularly to help your dog stay free from infection.

If your dog starts having problems with their waterworks,  then please speak to your vet in the first instance, and consider how you can support them naturally without having to resort to regular doses of antibiotics that your dog may develop resistance to, and which may damage their immune system further.