My Dog Is Straining to Urinate
When your dog urinates, it should always be a comfortable process. In addition, whether your dog is male or female, the flow of urine should be steady and strong. If your dog's attempts to urinate seem to require more effort than usual, there is probably a reason - one that should at least be examined more closely.
What to Look For
The first and most important part of an attempt to assess a dog's abnormal urinary behavior should be to look closely at his or her genitals. This process should begin like any other belly-rubbing session and continue as such while you look carefully for signs of recent licking, chewing, or scratching. These signs would be in the form of saliva staining (a coppery discoloration of the fur), redness of the skin, wounds, or excoriations. While looking your dog over, check carefully for any other changes in the appearance of your dog's skin, such as blisters, rashes, or pigmentation. Also take note of any signs of discharge from the area or directly from your dog's genitals.
What to Do
Is your dog a male or female? Each of the sexes has its own reasons for straining to urinate. An intact male might appear to be straining when he is simply trying to mark that one last bush even though his bladder is virtually empty (of course he'll probably repeat this effort many times before the walk is over!). A female in heat might appear to be straining to urinate when, in truth, she is just responding to hormone-related changes and sensations that urge her to urinate despite the fact that her bladder is empty. Both of these instances should be considered normal and require no intervention or even concern. Subtle variations of these cases, though, should alert you to the possibility that your dog needs some help.
Is there blood in your dog's urine? With the exception of females in heat, every instance of bloody urine should be addressed immediately. In many cases of urinary tract infection, a course of antibiotics may solve the problem in short order. Other related issues, such as crystals or stones in the urinary tract, may be significantly more challenging to correct. All of them will require the help of your veterinarian.
Does your dog's urine stream appear thin and/or weak? This is worrisome, particularly if your dog is male, since an enlarged prostate gland will tend to put pressure on the male urethra, restricting the flow of urine. Urinary crystals can also act as partial or complete obstructions to the male urethra, blocking the flow of urine and creating a very uncomfortable dog. In females, a diminished urine flow may simply mean that she has less urine than usual, but if there is also blood in the urine you should be concerned that there may be crystals, stones, or even a soft tissue mass presenting an obstruction to the flow of urine. Once again, if there is blood, you should have your vet check her out.
Did your examination reveal any signs of infection, abnormal growth, or injury? Infections that cause urinary frequency, discomfort, or straining are often easy to treat, but because there are so many more serious problems that could cause your dog to strain to urinate, it is always best to get your veterinarian's opinion.
Text © 2007 by Robert D. "Jake" Tedaldi, D.V.M.