While watching your dog urinate may seem strange, their pee can tell you a lot about how their body and internal organs are functioning.
Just like in humans, your dog’s urine will change colors to give you a glimpse of their overall health, ranging from clear to black. Keeping an eye on your dog’s urine and knowing the signs of a problem can help you catch and treat health issues early.
Read on to learn what your dog’s urine could be telling you about their health, and what you should do if their urine is discolored.
What Urine Color Says About Your Dog’s Health
In a healthy dog, clear or light, yellow-colored urine is typical. This means that your dog is well-hydrated, and their urine concentration is normal. If your dog’s urine is darker, these are a few potential causes to be aware of:
Some level of fluctuation in your dog’s hydration levels is normal, especially if their activity level fluctuates from day to day.
Dehydration happens when your dog loses more fluids than they take in, which can cause issues with many of their normal bodily functions, like digestion, body temperature regulation, and more.
Your dog’s urine will be a dark or bright yellow if they are dehydrated. Other symptoms to look for include:
- Decreased energy levels
- Loss of skin elasticity
- Sunken eyes
- Reduced appetite
- Dry nose
- Dry, sticky gums
- Thick saliva
2. Liver, Gallbladder, or Hemolysis Issues
If your dog’s urine is a dark orange color, they likely have a condition related to jaundice. Jaundice, also known as icterus, happens when there is too much yellow pigment in the blood and tissues.
Jaundice in dogs has 3 main causes: liver disease, obstruction of the bile duct in the gallbladder, or damage to red blood cells (hemolysis).
In addition to the dark pigment in your dog’s urine, bodily tissues will have a yellow tint to them. This may include areas such as your dog’s skin, gums, the white part of their eyes, and ear flaps.
3. Urinary Tract Infection
If your dog’s urine has a red or pinkish tint to it, they may have a urinary tract infection (UTI). UTIs are commonly caused by bacteria (typically E. coli) that enter the urethral opening due to debris, feces, or a weakened immune system.
Most UTIs can be easily treated. But in some cases, they’re caused by a more severe underlying condition, like cancer, kidney disease, or bladder disease. Other symptoms of UTIs in dogs include:
- Straining or whimpering during urination
- Accidents in the house
- Dribbling urine
- Licking around the urinary opening
Red, bloody urine can also be a sign of cystitis or inflammation of your dog’s bladder. Cystitis can develop for a variety of reasons, including an infection in the bladder, bladder stones, tumors, and diverticula.
Your dog’s symptoms will depend on the cause of their cystitis. In most cases, hematuria (blood in the urine) will be the most common clinical sign, but other symptoms include painful urination and needing to urinate more often.
5. Poisoning or Toxins
Consumption of toxic or poisonous materials can change the color of your dog’s urine. Dark brown or black urine, for example, can be a sign that your dog has ingested something toxic like onions, garlic, or acetaminophen.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is extremely toxic to dogs, especially puppies and small dogs. Consumption can cause liver damage, and it can decrease your dog’s ability to carry oxygen in their blood.
Other signs of acetaminophen toxicity include:
- Rapid breathing
- High heart rate
- Abdominal pain
- Lack of appetite
Ingesting rat poison can also turn your dog’s urine red because of internal bleeding. If you suspect that your dog has ingested rat poison, seek emergency veterinary attention immediately. Ingestion of this dangerous toxin can lead to seizures, paralysis, and even death.
6. Injury and Physical Trauma
Physical trauma caused by an injury or accident can damage your dog’s internal organs, including the urinary tract. This can leave your dog’s urine dark or red. If your pup has recently been injured, consult your veterinarian to ensure that their urinary tract has not been damaged.
Foreign bodies, like foxtails, can also lodge into your dog’s genitalia or urinary tract, causing their urine to be red and bloody. Foxtails are dangerous, widespread plants that pop up in the spring and summer months. They have sharp tips that can get lodged into your dog’s ears, paws, nose, and other orifices. If left untreated, this can lead to dangerous and painful infections.
Pancreatitis is caused by inflammation in your dog’s pancreas, a gland in their abdomen that helps produce insulin and digest food.
Pancreatitis happens when your dog’s pancreas is damaged or there’s a block in its outflow duct. When this happens, enzymes can start to destroy your dog’s pancreatic tissue. There’s no definitive cause of pancreatitis in dogs, but most vets agree that these factors can contribute to its development:
- High-fat diets
- Hereditary disorders associated with fat metabolism
One clinical sign of pancreatitis is orange or dark-colored urine, in addition to vomiting, lack of appetite, depression, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
What To Do When Your Dog’s Urine Is Dark
If your dog’s urine is a darker shade of yellow than usual for a day or two, they’re likely dehydrated.
Make sure that your dog has access to plenty of fresh water at all times. You can also add water to their daily meals to increase their overall intake. Once you make these changes, your dog’s urine should return to normal.
If your dog’s urine is an even darker color like orange, red, or brown, take them to your veterinarian immediately. There are a variety of reasons your dog’s urine could be dark, but all of them require immediate medical treatment, even if the prognosis is positive.
Your vet will need to perform blood work and a urinalysis on your pup to determine the root cause of their dark urine. Blood work will help determine if the problem is with your dog’s liver, kidneys, or other internal organs. A urinalysis can also reveal more information about the contents of your dog’s urine, such as sediment content and chemical makeup.
From there, your veterinarian will be able to recommend appropriate treatment options to get your pup back to feeling happy and healthy as soon as possible.
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