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Straining to urinate.

Species: Dog
Breed: Labrador Retriever
Age: 5-8 years
I have an 8 year old yellow lab named Chloie. She was diagnosed with hypothyroidism about 1.5 years ago and has since been taking Soloxine. She has lost a lot of weight and her energy levels are back to where they were when she was young. However, she is now straining to urinate and has been having accidents inside. I took her to the vet last month (as soon as we noticed it) and she diagnosed with a UTI and given an antibiotic, which almost immediately cleared her symptoms. The vet mentioned that her urine was a bit dilute so at that same time I had a full blood panel done on her and the vet reported that all of her levels were normal.

She was great for the entire time she took her antibiotic. She has been off it for exactly one week and she is now straining and having accidents again. I took a urine sample to my vet this morning and she said there were no abnormalities and that no infection seemed to be present. She did mention that the urine was slightly dilute, but it could be because it was her first urine of the day. She suggested we have an ultrasound of her bladder to make sure there aren't any issues there. However, they only have a person come in once a month to do their ultrasounds, and he won't be there until the 19th. I made the appointment, but I really don't want to leave her in limbo for that long, she clearly isn't comfortable.

Besides her treated hypothyroidism, she gets ear infections pretty regularly. She also has a strange growth (looks kind of like cauliflower) on the outside right around her urethra and she licks the area very often. I have had it looked at several times by the vet and she says she's never seen anything like it, but it doesn't look like anything to be concerned about. Honestly it drives me a little nuts that no one can tell me what it is. She drinks quite a bit, I'm not sure if I would call it excessive, but she is at her bowl often.

I really like my veterinarian, but Chloie is a member of our family and it's important to me that she be taken care of. I'm nervous that she could have diabetes or something that we need to address quickly, but at the same time I think this would have shown up in the blood work she just had done. I don't want to be one of those pushy pet owners that tries to tell the vet what the problem is, but I am concerned!

I'm looking for other ideas. Should I take her to a different vet? Can it wait until the 19th? I lost a dog to bone cancer a year ago and I refuse to have anything happen to my girl because we didn't act quickly enough! Any advice is appreciated.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

I'm sorry to hear that Chloie is having problems. She sounds uncomfortable.

From what you have described it is unlikely that she has diabetes. Most likely the vet has done a urine glucose level as this is pretty standard when a urinalysis is done. Dogs with diabetes always have very obviously high glucose levels.

When we see dilute urine it sometimes can be indicative of a kidney problem, but then blood tests should have shown something. Also, kidney problems don't cause straining. And, dogs with serious kidney disease tend to be very sick - not eating and lethargic.

So, what could cause Chloie to be straining? If there is no obvious infection present then the most likely explanation is that there could be a bladder stone present. Sometimes we can see evidence of bladder stones in the urinalysis but not always. An ultrasound is really good for finding bladder stones and this may be why they want to do it. The ultrasound will also look for unusual things like a bladder tumor.

I wonder if your vet is able to do an xray? Most bladder stones are visible on xrays. It is possible that the vet wanted to avoid charging you extra money as often if there is a stone on xray they may want to do an ultrasound afterwards, but really if they don't have access to ultrasound for a while but are able to do an xray then you could ask for this.

If nothing turns up on the ultrasound or xrays then I would wonder if the growth you are seeing near her vulva is affecting her, but it sounds like this is unlikely.

Another possibility is that she has a silent infection. While most infections can be diagnosed with regular urine tests some are only detected if we do a urine culture. This is where we send the urine away to a lab to find out if there is bacteria growing. It's possible that she has an infection that needs a different type of antibiotic. This test takes a few days to get results back but it's worth asking your vet if that can be done.

If Chloie is uncomfortable then I do not think that she should wait until the 19th. You may want to ask your vet if they can refer you to somewhere that can do an ultrasound sooner. Or, alternatively phone around to see if you can find a vet that has an ultrasound machine on the premises as many do.

I hope she feels better soon!

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Thank you for your thoughtful response.

After I sent my message I realized I may have left out an important detail. For the last 2 weeks my sister in law (and her dog and 2 month old baby) have been staying at our house. Last evening I took Chloie to a different area in the lawn and she didn't appear to strain at all. When I noticed her behavior on Wednesday morning I took her to her usual place, where the other dog has been going to the bathroom. I'm wondering if what I was interpreting as straining (squatting multiple times) is just her trying to cover the other dog's scent (they are both female labs)?

She is not acting sick in any way, her appetite and energy level are great. But I still have concerns about her urinating in the house. We picked up her water bowl at 9:00 last night (which we have never done before) and she obsessed over it until we had to get up at 4:00 am and let her have a drink. She's always been a very sensitive dog, I just don't want to assume it's stress related if there truly is something wrong.

I appreciate your advice. I will most likely request a urine culture or x-ray if she appears to be uncomfortable. I have made it clear to my vet that my #1 priority is keeping Chloie healthy and not to worry about "saving me money", so I hope that she would suggest any test that she thought would shed some light.

Thanks again for your time!


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Some female dogs can do urine marking so this *could* explain why Chloie appears to be straining. However, it shouldn't cause her to urinate in the house. It's not a bad idea to have your vet check her kidney enzymes again just to be sure. Sometimes if there is a kidney issue it can take a few days to see elevations in the enzymes.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.