Urinating Difficulty

If dogs and cats went to the theater, you would never see a waiting line at the rest rooms during intermission. Whether they are making a pit stop in the yard or perching in the litter box, they can usually finish their business in just a few seconds.

But what if your dog or cat is taking a long time to urinate -- or is straining but not getting results? Difficulty urinating usually means that something is blocking the flow of urine, and it can be extremely serious if you don't take care of it right away. (Pets that are urinating less often, but aren't straining, may still have serious problems. See Urinating less often

In cats, minerals in the urine may compact into hard little stones, which can block the urethra, the narrow tube through which urine flows. This usually occurs in male cats because their urethras are much narrower than a female's, explains L. R. Danny Daniel, D.V.M., a veterinarian in private practice in Covington, Louisiana. Cats with urinary stones will often have tenderness in the abdomen as well as difficulty urinating. In males, there may be blood or even bits of sandlike sludge coming from the end of the penis. Another telltale sign is spots of blood in the litter box.

Dogs can also develop stones in the urinary tract, but not as often as cats do. The main problems in dogs -- and only in unneutered males -- is prostate problems. As dogs get older, the prostate gland, which wraps around the urethra, sometimes gets larger. Eventually, it may press against the urethra, slowing or even stopping the flow of urine. An infection in the prostate, which also causes the gland to swell, can cause a similar problem.

Difficulty urinating is just one sign of prostate problems. They can also cause the stools to be flat because the swollen gland may press against the rectum. "Your dog may have swollen testicles, pain in his belly, and a fever," Dr. Daniel adds.

Both dogs and cats may have trouble urinating when they have a urinary tract infection, which can cause spasms in the urethra, narrowing the opening. And in rare cases, difficulty urinating may be caused by tumors in the urinary tract or by a lack of muscular strength in the bladder walls.

See Your Vet If...

  • Your pet is straining or taking a long time to urinate
  • The litter box is dry after your cat has used it
  • There is blood or sludge coming from your pet's penis
  • Your dog's stools are flat
  • Your pet's tail is limp
  • A discharge from the anus, penis, or vagina has lasted two days or more
  • Your pet is constantly licking his back end
  • The vagina or anal area is red and swollen
  • There is a growth on the anus or genitals
  • Urine is dribbling while your pet sleeps
  • There has been a change in your pet's urinating habits, or he is unable to urinate
  • There is blood in the urine
  • He's lost fur on the top or base of the tail
  • The tail is greasy or infected, or it is getting thicker
  • The anal opening stays open
  • Your pet has been scooting for two days or more

Next Steps:

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Copyright 1999 Rodale Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

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