The life of a veterinary professional would be easier if our patients could talk to us. Instead, we must rely on the valuable information that their owners can provide.
If he is limping, he might be in pain. But what happens when you see blood in your dog’s urine? What are some implications, and what can you do to help?
A quick anatomy lesson
Blood in the urine can come from two areas: the upper urinary tract and the lower urinary tract. Your dog’s upper urinary tract consists of his kidneys and the tubes that connect the kidneys to his urinary bladder. These tubes are known as the ureters.
Parts of the lower urinary tract include the urinary bladder and the tube that empties the bladder out through your dog’s genitalia. This tube is called the urethra.
The kidneys have numerous important jobs in the body, and chief among them is the filtering of toxins and waste products from the blood while holding back the important stuff like water, proteins, and electrolytes.
The urinary bladder will store urine until your dog needs to go for a walk outside, and the bladder is made of special cells that can help the bladder stretch and shrink like a balloon. For male dogs, the prostate gland is a part of the lower urinary tract.
Bleeding can occur at any one of the main parts of your dog’s urinary tract. Infection, inflammation, and trauma are just a few causes. Determining the origin of the bleeding is essentially for treating the problem.
Upper urinary tract problems
In some cases, it is possible for dogs to have a kidney infection. Bacteria can come from the bladder and move its way up the urinary tract, infecting the kidneys. This is known as pyelonephritis, and it tends to affect more females than males. It can cause fever, painful urination (or even pain when the kidneys are palpated), and increased thirst and urination.
Diabetes, bladder or kidney stones, steroid medications, and even urine retention can increase the likelihood of developing pyelonephritis. When it occurs, you might see blood in your dog’s urine.
Renal telangiectasia is a very rare but often serious condition in dogs, and Welsh Corgis are the most at-risk breed for this issue. Dogs with renal telangiectasia are born with clusters of dilated capillaries on the surface of their kidneys, and these widened vessels tend to bleed or cause blood clots to appear in the urine.
If enough blood is lost through the kidneys, your dog may become anemic and require a blood transfusion. In some cases, surgery is necessary to close these dilated vessels.
Idiopathic renal hematuria is a condition where there is no discernible cause for blood in the urine. This is essentially harmless unless the bleeding is significant enough to cause your pup to be anemic. Your vet might then prescribe a medication like benazepril that can lower blood pressure inside of the kidney.
Lower urinary tract problems
Bacterial infections of the bladder are one of the most common causes of blood in the urine. This is when bacteria from outside of your dog’s body has entered the urethra and traveled up to the bladder. This is especially common in dogs who “hold” their urine for long periods of time or don’t drink enough water. The bladder wall becomes very inflamed and can start to bleed.
Even unrelated conditions like allergic reactions, certain chemotherapeutic drugs, and stress can all contribute to bladder wall inflammation. Endocrinopathies like diabetes, Cushing’s disease, and hypothyroidism can increase the likelihood of a bladder infection.
Bladder stones can form for a variety of reasons. Most often, bladder stones are diet-related or can be caused by the presence of bacteria in the bladder. When certain compounds are present in urine, they canprecipitate out of solution and form crystals.
These crystals can sometimes be detected on routine urine testing. When crystals contact one another, they can coalesce and form a bladder stone.
These can be very irritating to the lining of the bladder, and many can be confirmed on x-ray or ultrasound imaging. Certain diets can help dissolve and prevent stones while others need surgery to be removed.
In male dogs, the prostate gland can become enlarged due to infection or due to elevated testosterone levels, which is the case with intact male dogs. In severe cases, the prostate can form a large abscess or can develop tumors, all of which can lead to blood observed in the urine.
Bladder cancer is one of the worst causes of hematuria. Transitional cell carcinoma is one of the most aggressive forms of bladder cancer and is difficult to treat because of its location at the neck of the bladder.
It occurs more in females than males. Beagles, Westies, and Scottish terriers are more likely to develop it. Surgery and anti-inflammatory medications like piroxicam are recommended for treatment.
Diagnosis and treatment
Blood in the urine can appear as small spots or even large amounts where the entire contents are red in color. If you see this, be sure to make an appointment with your vet as soon as you can. They will recommend urine testing or aurinalysis to look at the urine’s concentration and content. Besides red blood cells, they can detect bacteria, crystals, protein, and other abnormalities.
Sometimes, blood work is recommended to check your dog’s white blood cell count and kidney values to help rule out pyelonephritis, and it can also check a red blood cell count to rule out anemia. Imaging diagnostics like x-rays or ultrasound can further evaluate the kidneys and can help rule out the presence of bladder stones.
Treatment will be based on the underlying cause of your dog’s hematuria. If he has an infection, an antibiotic is typically recommended. Crystals, bladder stones, or even recurring urinary tract infections warrant a diet transition. If the bladder stones are too large or painful, surgery is recommended to remove them right away.
Cases of pyelonephritis often require hospitalization for a few days, and specialized testing is recommended for dogs when a cause for hematuria cannot be determined. Spaying and neutering can help with the control of diabetes, and for males, neutering can help shrink the prostate.
There are numerous causes for hematuria in dogs, and the majority of them require medical attention as soon as possible. If you see blood in your dog’s urine, be sure to contact your vet within 24 to 48 hours to schedule an appointment.
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Meet The Author
Dr. Erica Irish
Erica has worked in the veterinary field since 2006, starting out as a veterinary technician before graduating from the UF College of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. As a general practitioner in an animal hospital, she has many interests and is especially interested in dermatology, cardiology, internal and integrative medicine