Blocked bladder in dogs

A blocked bladder means your dog is struggling to pee (pass urine) and can only manage a dribble, or nothing at all. They may even pass drops of blood. Stones and crystals are the most common cause of urinary blockages in dogs. Any age, sex or breed can be affected, but it’s most common in older male dogs and in certain breeds. 

The bladder is part of the body’s waste-disposal system. Pee removes harmful waste products from inside your dog’s body. So if your dog can’t pee, toxic waste builds up inside their body, making them very sick very quickly. The bladder may even burst. And being unable to pee can be life-threatening.  A dog who can’t pass any urine at all won’t survive more than 4 or 5 days without treatment. The outlook is best when the problem is quickly identified and treated. So it’s really important to recognise the warning signs of a blocked bladder.


What to do

What to do if your dog has a blocked bladder

A blocked bladder is a veterinary emergency!

Call your nearest vet if your dog can’t pass any pee.

Recognise the warning signs.

Speak to a vet if your dog is taking longer to pee than normal or peeing more frequently



Common causes of a blocked bladder

A blocked bladder means urine (pee) can’t pass through the urethra. This is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body. Anything which narrows the urethra can cause a blocked bladder.

This includes:

  • Bladder stones
  • Urethral stones
  • Cancer
  • Prostate disease in male dogs
  • Inflammation and scarring from previous damage


When to worry

When should you be worried about a blocked bladder

Call a vet as soon as possible if your dog is showing symptoms of a blocked bladder.

Dogs can die from a blocked bladder.

A blocked bladder means toxins build up inside your dog’s body. Symptoms include:

Burst bladder

A burst bladder releases urine and all its toxins into the tummy (abdomen). This causes severe inflammation of the abdomen, called peritonitis. Few dogs will survive this.

Joii can help with advice on:

  • Recognising signs of a blocked bladder or urinary tract disorder
  • Optimising your dogs water intake
  • Feeding the best diet for your dog’s needs
  • Giving medicine to dogs



Tips to reduce the risk of a blocked bladder

The best way to reduce risk of a blocked bladder is to keep lots of urine flowing though the bladder and urethra. Try to ensure your dog always has plenty of fresh water available.

  • Encourage your dog to drink regularly, with a constant supply of fresh water.
  • Feed your dog a balanced diet. Diet can play a big role in the formation of crystals and stones.
  • Special diets are available for dogs prone to certain types of stone.
  • Attend regular vet check-ups. 



How to tell if your dog has a blocked bladder

Warning signs of blockage include:

  • Whimpering and unable to settle, asking out more often
  • Squatting or lifting their leg repeatedly without passing any urine
  • Taking a long time to pee
  • Passing small amounts of dark or bloody urine
  • Being restless and agitated when trying to pee
  • Licking around the back end
  • Swelling abdomen (tummy)
  • Peeing in the house


Home treatment

Home remedies for blocked bladder in dogs?

There are no home remedies for a blocked bladder.

Call a vet without delay if your dog can’t pass any urine.

If your dog is showing milder symptoms, such as:

  • Asking to go out more often
  • Peeing more often on walks
  • Taking longer to pass a stream of urine

Or to reduce the risk of recurrence:

  • Increase water intake by changing gradually from a dry to a wet diet, or to a specific diet, like Hills Urinary Health
  • Add water to food
  • Feed a prescription diet to dissolve crystals or prevent the formation
  • Feed a urinary supplement to improve bladder health


Vet treatment

How do vets treat a blocked bladder?

Treatment in practice

Emergency care

Dogs with a complete urinary tract blockage are very sick. Treatment includes:

  • Placing a catheter into a vein to give immediate treatment
  • Giving fluids to correct dehydration and improve circulation to vital organs like the heart and liver
  • Correcting salt imbalances in the blood. If untreated, these can stop the heart
  • Giving pain relief
  • Giving sedative or anaesthetic medicine to relax your dog or make them sleep

Unblocking the bladder

  • Carefully passing a urinary catheter until it reaches the bladder or stops at the blockage
  • Flushing with sterile saline (salt solution) to gently push the stone back to the bladder for easier removal
  • Draining the bladder completely to give your dog immediate relief.
  • Flushing the bladder and urethra clean with sterile saline


Depending on the cause of the blockage. For example when there are stones blocking the bladder and/or when unable to advance a catheter past a blockage

  • Surgery to open up the bladder or the urethra and remove the stone
  • Surgery to open up or by-pass the urethra if a blockage further down can’t be cleared


To remove small stones and take biopsies (samples):

  • Passing a special camera to the bladder through the urethra.
  • Removing stones
  • Taking samples of the bladder wall and urethra. For example, when a tumour is suspected

Ongoing treatment

And specific treatments for the underlying cause. Your vet will carry out some tests to decide about ongoing treatment.

  • Blood tests to check electrolyte (salt) levels and organ health: especially the kidneys and liver
  • Urine sample analysis: checking for crystals, bacteria, and abnormal cells
  • Bacterial culture: urine sample and any stones (the blockage)
  • Checking for the presence of infection and deciding on the right antibiotic for treatment
  • Ultrasound examination to check the bladder, kidneys, urethra
  • X-rays: Some stones will show up, others won’t. A large bladder or enlarged kidneys indicate both the blockage and it’s effects.

Treatment at home:

Depending on test results, this may include:

  • Painkilling anti-inflammatory medicine
  • Antibiotics
  • Special prescription diet to dissolve crystals or stones
  • Specific treatments for liver disease


Are some dogs at higher risk of a blocked bladder?

Some factors will increase your dog’s risk of a blocked bladder. These include:

  • Being male
  • Certain breeds
    • Miniature Schnauzers
    • Dalmatians
    • Yorkshire Terriers
    • Lhasa Apsos
    • Bulldogs
    • Bichon Frise
  • Dogs with liver disease


Other causes

Other possible causes for symptoms that resemble the early stages of blocked or partially blocked bladder include:

  • Cystitis – asking to go out more, lifting oreg or squatting more frequently on walks;  abnormal colour or smell to urine
  • Constipation – Squatting more; possibly whimpering
  • Lower back arthritis – vocalising due to pain on squatting
  • Spinal injury – nerve damage makes your dog unable to pass urine but not straining; no urine produced (unless overflow); swelling abdomen
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