Fruit Valley Veterinary Clinic

Urination Problems in Dogs


Hyperadrenocorticism, also called Cushing's Syndrome, occurs when the adrenal gland produces excess adrenal steroids (most commonly cortisol), usually as a result of a pituitary (Cushing's disease) or adrenal tumor.Hyperadrenocorticism is a disease of middle-aged to older dogs. Hyperadrenocorticism progresses slowly and many initial symptoms are overlooked or attributed to the aging process. Common symptoms include: Excessive drinking and urination, a distended abdomen, skin abnormalities and hair loss, panting, increased appetite, lethargy and weakness, and muscle atrophy.

A screening test for hyperadrenocorticism is the urinary cortisol-creatinine ratio. If this is positive, then a dexamethasone suppression test may confirm and characterize the problem.

Treatment can be "symptomatic"; suppressing the signs of disease with medications like selegiline or ketoconazole. Adrenal surgery can treat some forms of hyperadrenocorticism. Medication with trilostane or mitotane can control the disease. All of the treatments involve various risks and expenses. Untreated animals with hyperadrenocorticism may: develop bladder and skin infections, become diabetic, suffer from catastrophic pulmonary embolisms, rupture ligaments and gradually degrade.

Chronic Kidney Failure

This occurs when kidney function has deteriorated to the extent that they fail to excrete wastes, maintain water and electrolyte balance and produce hormones. Chronic renal failure has usually been present for months before being diagnosed and is irreversible. Usually at least 75% of the kidney capacity has been lost. The cause of the failure is often never determined.

Typical signs of kidney failure are excessive drinking and urination because the kidneys cannot concentrate urine. Weight loss, poor appetite and poor haircoat are common. With advanced disease, the breath becomes foul, appetite may be totally lost and there may be vomiting, weakness, lethargy, mouth or stomach ulcers and anemia. Some animals develop high blood pressure and can develop sudden blindness.

Kidney failure is usually confirmed by blood and urine analysis. Other diseases that may contribute to or complicate kidney failure include diabetes, hyperthyroidism, urinary infections and hyperadrenocorticism. X-rays and ultrasound can help evaluate other potential problems.

Although not curable, many dogs and cats with kidney failure can be treated with special diets and subcutaneous fluid injections that can be done at home. Thus maintained, some animals with kidney failure can have decent quality life for years.

Some animals with kidney failure may pass peacefully into a coma and die seemingly painlessly. Others may have seizures or distressing vomiting and may be more humanely served via euthanasia.

Inappropriate Elimination

In the majority of cases, urination and defecation by dogs within the home is a normal (for the dog) behavior usually caused by ineffective house-training methods, particularly in young dogs. Another reason for inappropriate elimination is marking, which is particularly pronounced in dominant male dogs, where it takes the form of leg lifting. There are also medical causes of inappropriate elimination particularly in older dogs. Dogs that urinate or defecate only when their owners are away may have separation anxiety.


  1. For inappropriate elimination resulting from inadequate house-training, retraining the dog to a particular location outside the home may be all that is necessary.
  2. For treatment of marking behaviors in adult male dogs, neutering must be considered the treatment of choice when this is an option. For other types of marking behavior, dominance restructuring or antianxiety medication can be helpful.
  3. Treat anxiety-based conditions by attempting to reduce the cause of the anxiety. Medication--for example, buspirone--can be useful.
  4. Medical Conditions should be diagnosed and treated first by your local veterinarian if there is any suspicion of their involvement.

TO PEE OR NOT TO PEE. 1997, Dr. Nicholas Dodman. Tales, Treatments and the Psychology of Dogs.

Submissive Urination

The urinalysis exam was normal. However, your animal appears nervous about novel situations and eager to show submissiveness. He/she tends to do this through submissive urination. With this problem, it is important to avoid any punishment, verbal or physical, since that will only elicit more urination. Many submissive urinating dogs outgrow this behaviour with adolescence.

Things that can help: