Painful Urination in Dogs

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on May 28, 2023
4 min read

Painful urination in dogs can be a life-threatening emergency that needs immediate veterinary care, or it can be the result of an infection, easily treated with antibiotics.

To keep your dog in good health, it helps to understand what might cause painful urination in your dog and to know when you should see the vet right away.

Signs of Abnormal Urination in Dogs

Signs that something is abnormal with your dog when passing urine include:

  • Straining
  • Vocalizing while trying to urinate
  • Avoiding your touch
  • Peeing more often while producing only a little urine
  • Urine with blood or mucus in it

You'll need to take your dog to the vet immediately if your pet produces only a few drops of urine -- or none -- when they try to urinate. Don't wait: being unable to urinate can quickly result in serious illness for your dog or even death.

A few of the more common causes of painful urination in dogs include:

Bladder Infection

While your dog's bladder is normally a sterile place, sometimes bacteria can climb from the genital area into the bladder, leading to infection and inflammation. Symptoms of a bladder infection can include painful urination, urinating only a little bit at a time, incontinence (unable to hold urine in), bloody urine, urinating often. or drinking more. Some dogs show no symptoms at all.

Treatment for simple bladder infections is antibiotics, some of which may work in 3-5 days, others in 10-14 days, with symptom improvement often within the first few days. Urine is cultured to determine which antibiotic will work best. To prevent a relapse and to help reduce the chances of resistant bacteria, always be sure your dog completes the entire course of antibiotics your vet prescribed.

Urinary Crystals and Urinary Stones

Sometimes the naturally occurring minerals in your dog's urine can clump together, forming crystals or stones. Many things can cause the minerals to clump, including an infection, medication, genetics, diet, how often your dog urinates, and how much water they drink.

Symptoms of urinary stones can vary depending on whether they're in the kidneys, ureters, bladder, or urethra, but signs may include slow and painful urination, inability to urinate, bloody urine, vomiting, fatigue, as well as abdominal or kidney pain.

Treating stones depends on where they're located as well as what type and may include medication, surgery, or a change in diet. Treatment may also involve antibiotics if the crystals or stones are the result of an infection.

Prostate Problems

There are several reasons for an enlarged prostate in dogs, including tumors, cysts, enlargement because of hormones in dogs that have not been neutered, and infection.

Symptoms of prostate problems may include straining to urinate, blood in the urine, and incontinence. Signs may also involve drinking more water and needing to urinate more often. Treating an enlarged prostate depends on its cause.

There are other, less common causes of painful urinary problems in dogs, including tumors in the bladder or urethra, scar tissue development, a fractured penis (rare), or trauma, for example, from a car accident.

To help diagnose what's behind your dog's painful urination, your vet will probably need a urine sample. Your vet may want to collect this in the clinic, so do not let your dog urinate on the way in, if possible. If your vet wants you to collect a sample at home, here’s how to make collection easy:

  • Wear rubber gloves.
  • Wait for your dog to begin going before collecting the sample. This helps make sure the sample isn't contaminated by bacteria from the end of the urethra.
  • Once urinating starts: For female dogs, slide a clean bowl or pie plate beneath her as she squats; for a male use a clean jar to catch the flow mid-stream. A soup ladle works well too, just don’t reuse the ladle! Time and temperature can affect a urine sample, so bring it to your vet as soon as possible.

The key to preventing health problems in your pets is regular care. Pets, like you, need regular exams to keep them in top form.

If you think your dog may have a problem with abnormal urination, start by watching closely when they urinate. Is the stream steady and strong or weak, or does it come out in fits and starts?

Now look at your dog's genitals: Is there redness, swelling, or signs of scratching or biting? Is your dog constantly licking the urinary opening? Other signs your dog may have a urinary tract problem include bloody or cloudy urine, crying or straining to pass urine, pain, fever, a strong odor to the urine, and more. If you see these or any other worrying symptoms, take your dog to the vet right away.