Note that straining to urinate or blood in urine for a dog is considered a “YELLOW” – or semi-urgent case – on our Fast Track Triage system. We recommend your pet be seen by a veterinarian within 24 hours.
When there is snow on the ground, it is easy to see the color of your dog’s urine, which makes it easier to spot problems. But if you see red instead of yellow, it can definitely be alarming! So, why is your dog suddenly peeing blood? The short answer is that your dog’s urinary tract is inflamed. Inflammation can have a variety of causes: infection, irritation, or tumors, depending on your dog’s age, breed, and sex. The longer answer explains three types of urinary tract issues and treatment options.
1. Lower Urinary Tract Infections
Lower urinary tract infections take hold when bacteria travel up the urethra and into the bladder. Due to anatomy, bladder infections are more common in female dogs than male dogs. However, male dogs can have prostate infections, and these can be more difficult to treat. Prostatic abscesses, prostate cancer, and benign prostatic hypertrophy can all result in symptoms of blood in urine, straining, and pain.
Infections anywhere along the urinary tract are typically diagnosed by urinalysis and then treated with antibiotics. A urine culture and antibiotic sensitivity testing are also recommended to ensure that the bacteria present are sensitive to the antibiotics prescribed. It is important to note that resistant bacterial infections are possible, especially if chronic or recurrent.
2. Bladder Stones
The presence of bladder stones can cause recurrent urinary tract infections. Conversely, stones can also result from bladder infections! The reason: bacteria can change the acidity of the urine in the bladder, creating the perfect environment for crystals and stones to form. Breeds like Schnauzers and Dalmatians are especially prone to some types of bladder stones, but they can form in any breed of dog.
There are a variety of types of stones which means the diagnosis and treatment process can vary. Some stones are visible on x-rays while others require an ultrasound to view. Some stones can be dissolved with a specially formulated prescription diet while others require surgical removal.
With or without concurrent infection, bladder stones can cause irritation and inflammation, leading to blood in urine, straining to urinate, and pain. Also, any stone has the potential to block the urinary tract – resulting in a medical emergency since dangerous toxins and electrolytes build up in the blood instead of being flushed out of the body in urine.
3. Upper Urinary Tract Infections
In the upper urinary tract, kidney disease can cause blood in the urine. Upper urinary tract diseases often have additional symptoms such as increased thirst, vomiting, decreased appetite, lethargy, and abdominal pain. Kidney infections, stones, and cancer can all cause bloody urine and often require a combination of bloodwork, urinalysis, and imaging like x-rays and/or ultrasound to diagnose. Infections and stones are more difficult to treat in the kidneys than the bladder, although medical and surgical options do exist.
While bloody urine may be one of the first symptoms you notice, other urinary-related red flags that warrant a visit to your vet include straining to urinate, spurting, abnormally small or copious amounts of urine, increased thirst, pain, vomiting, decreased appetite, and lethargy. If your dog is ever posturing to urinate but not producing any urine, seek immediate veterinary care from your family veterinarian or animal emergency hospital. Before arriving, always call ahead so the veterinary team knows to expect you and your dog.
Written by Geoff Gieni, DVM.