Whats In The Urine? (Part I: What You Can Notice On Your Own)

“One man's trash is another man's treasure.”

To a dog, urine isn't just waste, it is a precious commodity. I'm always fascinated by how carefully Jasmine selects just the right spot worthy of her deposit.

I'm sure that you have noticed your dog's fascination with urine markings. It is imperative that every tree, every pole and every hydrant gets carefully examined.


You might think that dogs can't read but they can!

Only their required reading isn't written in words.

“If reading scents is, for dogs, the equivalent of reading a written message, then the canine equivalent of ink is urine.”
—Stanley Coren, How to Speak Dog

Leaving urine markings, to dogs, is like sending out a resume.

Such a stereotype

If dogs get so much information from urine, could we?

Indeed, we can!

Examining a dog's urine can provide a great deal of information about their physical condition and health.

Urine contains compounds produced by the body and monitoring them can provide valuable diagnostic clues. Changes in urination and urine quality can not only indicate problems within the urinary tract itself, but also systemic disease.

If you notice any of the following, you want to have your dog examined by a veterinarian.

1) Be aware of urination frequency, painful urination or loss of the ability to hold urine.

Excessive urination (polyuria), usually combined with excessive drinking (polydipsia), is an important symptom that can signal a number of health problems, such as diabetes, Cushing's disease, Addison's disease, kidney or liver failure, and infection. (Bladder infections rarely cause true polyuria, however, kidney infections can)

Straining to urinate (dysuria)  can be caused by urinary tract obstruction, tumors, bladder stones or prostate disease (in males). The number one cause of dysuria is probably a bladder infection.

Urinary tract obstruction (not being able to pass urine despite straining) is an emergency situation and requires immediate veterinary care.

Urinary incontinence is a condition most often seen in older dogs but it can happen at any age. It is most common in spayed females, though it can affect male dogs also. It is usually caused by hormonal deficiencies and/or loss of control of the urethral sphincter (the muscle that closes the bladder). However, anatomical, structural or neurological abnormalities of the urinary tract can be responsible also.

Your dog might also be unable to hold their urine as a result of excessive drinking (see above), or a urinary tract infection.

It is important to distinguish between polyuria, dysuria and urinary incontinence because each symptom has its own set of potential causes.

  • With polyuria, your dog will produce large volumes of urine and may urinate quite frequently. Dogs suffering from polyuria may not be able to hold their urine for long periods of time. Polyuria is often accompanied by polydipsia (increased water consumption.) Dogs with polyuria also usually produce very dilute urine which may be clear or have a very light yellow coloration.
  • By contrast, dogs suffering from dysuria generally urinate quite frequently but produce only small amounts of urine each time. In some cases, blood may be observed, depending on the cause of the dysuria.
  • Dogs with urinary incontinence lose the ability to be able to control their urinary habits. They urinate involuntarily and sometimes unknowingly. Frequently these dogs will leave wet spots where they have been sleeping or resting. They may also dribble urine while awake. Often, the dog is totally unaware that the urination is happening.

Differentiating between these symptoms can sometimes be difficult. It may not be possible to tell for certain at home exactly what is happening. 

If you see or suspect any of these symptoms, your dog should be examined by your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can help determine whether your dog is suffering from polyuria, dysuria or urinary incontinence by asking you questions and performing a physical examination and a urinalysis.

2) What's in the color?

Normal urine should be clear and light yellow to light amber in color.

Pale or clear urine could mean over-hydration, but it can also indicate kidney disease or other conditions that interfere with urine concentration.

A single episode of pale or clear urine is usually not significant, particularly if your dog just “tanked up” from the water bowl. However, a persistently pale or clear color usually indicates dilute urine and may be due to the kidney’s inability to concentrate the urine for a variety of causes. This is especially true if dilute urine is accompanied by greater than normal desire to drink water.

Dark yellow usually signals dehydration. Again, a single episode of dark yellow urine may not be significant, but persistently dark urine may indicate a problem and warrants a trip to the veterinarian.

Dark yellow urine particularly when accompanied by other symptoms of illness such as a lack of appetite, lethargy, vomiting or diarrhea is a cause for concern and will require a veterinary visit.

Urine that has a color other than shades of yellow is always bad news. Red, orange or brown discoloration can be a sign of bleeding into the urinary tract, damage to red blood cells, liver disease or the breakdown of muscle fibers.

Your dog may have blood in his or her urine for many different reasons. Bladder infections can cause bloody urine as can bladder stones, tumors and other diseases.

  • Bladder infections, particularly if recurrent or not responsive to treatment, may be a symptom of a larger problem.
  • Bladder stones (also known as cystic calculi or uroliths) come in several different types. Struvite stones are most often associated with infection and are not likely to resolve until the infection is controlled and the stones are dissolved with special foods or medications to acidify the urine. Calcium oxalate stones are sometimes seen when the pH of urine is higher than normal. In Dalmatians, urate stones are common. Stones of a mixed composition may be seen in some dogs. Identification of the type of stone present is important in order to choose the correct treatment option (e.g., surgery versus medical dissolution) and prevention plan.

If your dog's urine is red, orange or brown you want to see your veterinarian as soon as possible. 

Orange or brown colored urine can be caused by bilirubin or myoglobin in the urine. Bilirubin may be present in the urine if your dog’s liver is not functioning normally or if your dog is suffering from the widespread destruction of red blood cells, such as is seen is autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA). Myoglobin is released from muscles when they are severely damaged as can occur in cases of heat stroke.

Cloudy urine likely signals bladder infection. However, bladder infections might not always cause cloudiness. A foul or musty odor may sometimes, but not always, be detected in the urine in cases of urinary tract infections also. Cloudiness can also be caused by the abnormal presence of sugar, protein, fat or crystals in the urine.

Foamy urine can be a sign of excess protein in the urine which is sometimes a symptom of kidney failure.

Most owners try to have as little to do with their dog’s urine as possible, but looking for changes in urinary habits and urine characteristics is actually an excellent way to monitor your dog’s health.

Think like a dog and learn to read the pee!

Many thanks to Dr. Lorie Huston for helping with this article!

Further reading:
Interpreting Unusually Colored Dog Urine
Blood in Dog Urine
Blood in Urine
Why Pets Pee: Recognizing a Problem and Promoting a Healthy Urinary Tract 
What's the Differential Diagnosis of Polydipsia and Polyuria in Dogs and Cats? 

Related articles:
What's In The Urine? (Part II: Urinalysis)
Excessive Drinking
Bad Odor
Excessive Panting
Bad Breath (Halitosis)
Where There Is Smoke, There Is Fire: A Symptom Is Your Friend!
When Is It An Emergency?

Do you know what your dog is telling you about their health?

Learn how to detect and interpret the signs of a potential problem.

An award-winning guide to better understanding what your dog is telling you about their health, Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, is available in paperback and Kindle. Each chapter includes notes on when it is an emergency.


  1. Great info! My young puppy is going into her first heat... our first warning was her slightly brownish urine! (Also, we noticed that because she started having accidents in the house... another sign.)

    I always try to monitor their urination and bowel movements... it's not cute, but they tell you so much! Well, I monitor my own, too--ever notice how you seem compelled to examine what you leave in the toilet, even if it's just a brief moment? That's an instinct meant to monitor our health!

  2. Hi Serissime, yes, it's not exactly cute, but brings valuable information. Very non-invasive and quite helpful.

    Interesting about the signs of heat, I don't have any experience with that, thank you for sharing.

  3. Hi Y'all,

    I'm smiling because at the beginning of the article, where you say "if a dog can...indeed we can"...I momentarily had a vision of people crawling around sniffing bushes.


    It is a very informative article. Thank you for the info.

    BrownDog's Human

  4. Hi Hawk,

    LOL I'm sure it would make our dogs very happy if we did! There is a mention of that in At The Other End of the Leash :-)

  5. Really great tips... thank you!

  6. I hate talking Social Media, but your ranking for this article on Google is pretty darn high! You're in the first page of results. I saw it and went !!!!! =B It was really cool. And more informative than the other articles I read.... =] Go figure.

  7. WOW, really? Cool! I do think this article is one of its kind - the reason I know that is because I was trying to do a research for it. At the end I had to have Lorie helping, because I couldn't find enough sources to verify what I believed. And it's not even really about incontinence per se.


    1. Hi Judson.

      Did it just start in the same location she always peed with no foam, or is this a new location? Or did you just notice?

      Question is whether it's the urine what is foamy or the mud that makes it do so. It is my experience that some dirt will foam even when straight water is poured on it.

      There are two ways of testing this. Take a watering can (or something similar) or a hose (if in your yard) and pour water on that particular dirt to see if it will foam as well.

      See whether the urine foams in another area, such as on a lawn.

      When in doubt, have your vet do analysis of your dog's urine.

    2. PS: regular blood testing and urinalysis should be done at least once a year; twice a year for senior dogs.

  9. On long hikes (several miles & several hours), I observe that when out of urine, my dog will still attempt to mark, but blood comes out.
    This resolves with rest & replenishment.
    Only happens on long hikes, no other behavior changes, no UTI.

    1. I find it normal that a dog will attempt marking, even when out of urine. But blood should not be coming out. Please mention that to your vet.

  10. Its very possible since 2 7.5hydrocodone/325mg acetaminophen were lost in the house Sunday evening that my 8 lb snorkie eight them I don't know because I didn't see her do it but we can't find them anywhere and at first I thought well they are in the double reclyner that eats things all the time and we flip it over and dig the remote markers phones rings all kinds of things out of it and sometimes u can't find what u r looking for and it works its way out couple days later anyways we worked the chair over and didn't find them. Now today I was gone from 9amto2pm and when I got home this afternoon the pp pads had orange urine on them at first I thought the kids spills a hugjuice barrel on it so I just picked it up and put down another one well about 4 the new pp pad had lil brighter orange urine on it like watered down Sunkist so its definatley my snorkie she's still eating not throwing up still drinking still active maybe even lil more active than normal because she's been following us around more today and I just don't know what to do I have no money to take her to the vet and also don't want her to die from liver failure someone please give some advice as to anything I PERSONALY can do for her or if its absolutely certain that orange urine means kidney and liver failure and if so what is it that they are gonna do to repair it that sounded wrong is there anything they can do to repair the damage that has been caused if there is a way to fix it then I will take out a loan to take her to the doctor but if they can't repair I need to know what I am facing here is she gonna die from the 650 mg of Tylenol at her 8lbs 560mg of Tylenol would be the maximum she could ingest without causing damage I read on another site. I am freaking out a lil here. Mainly because I wanna punch hubby in face for having his pain meds in his pocket to get lost where my sweet girl could get them in first place and 2ndly because it wasn't until about 9pm until it hit me omg what if she found thows pills and that's y her pp looks like candy

    1. Hon, I hope you talked to your vet, emergency vet. If not, do so right away.

  11. So scared that my dog is gonna die beings I would have to get a loan to take to the vet it will be tomorrow before I can go and its been almost 12 he's since I found the orange urine and 36 since the medication was lost and became available for her to get them and I have no clue what time she did or if she did it may just be coincidence that the orange p is happening because its still highly possible the meds r in the double reclyner I mean the remote gets lost in there and can't find it when u search it then hours later you will hear it hit the floor when someone sits down or gets up. We've lost a dog toy in there at Christmas and never found it till last Monday and I can promise that chair has been searched flipped on its back and rifled through at least 10 times since Christmas yet just found toy week ago and we knew that's where it was lost but couldn't find it I guess I am just clinging to hope when I probably need to get ready to accept what is going on just so nervous waiting on the right to approve original request

    1. Orange urine is a bad news and your dog does need to see a vet, whatever it takes.

  12. Thank you for ur response her and I are at the the vet I stopped and dropped my truck title off at the bank so that the manager could get the paperwork going and when I find out how much the bill is get abloan for that amount. The vet is hopeful, her urine has turned back yellow this morning her 1st potti when kids were getting on the bus I brought the pp pad from yesterday and today's to show him. He is running blood work and some other tests right now he said something about if the test come back bad maybe doing a sonogram or exray on her I thought u had to have MRI or pepscan to see problems with soft tissue. But I do remember when I worked here years ago that we did exrays and sonograms to find obstructions in the bowels and sometimes you could see like fatty tumors or masses when we would get the dials set just right on the ancient machine we had and he has really moved up since buying the clinic and has bought all new equipment in the 12 years I was gone. So idk maybe everything is gonna be alright I am giving her subcue fluids right now while tests are running and he is doing a c-section on a English Bulldog that the owners let go past her due date by 9 days and brought her in with green stuff coming out her tutticat so that's probably at least one dead pup poor momma dog.

    1. Glad you made it to the vet and glad things seem to be improving. Best of luck, keep me updated.

  13. Hi I know my 12yr old girl has renal problems and have ordered hills kidney diet, just wondering if there is anything else recommended to give her aswell llike medication or additives ?

    1. Renal problems were diagnosed and the rx diet prescribed by your vet? With renal problems you want to work closely with your vet. There are some thing which could be considered, such as Standard Process Canine Renal Support. With renal diet, the most important bit is low phosphorus diet. Protein isn't really the main problem, it's the phosphorus most protein sources are rich in. Sodium should also be strictly controlled.

      Nutrients that support kidney function are omega-3 fatty acids, dandelion leaf, vitamins A and D, vitamins B, soluble fiber, arginine, potassium ...

      Always work with one vet before deciding on any supplementation or changes, so they can help you with dosages, monitor results etc.

  14. I noticed bloody discharge at the end of my 4yr.old female Staffy's urine stream this am. She has a vet appt. at 6:30, but just now her pee was clear (no blood) I'm confused. She's been spayed since age 9 mos. by the way

    1. It's a good thing that you're seeing a vet. Even though her next urine was clear, there is a reason why there was the bloody discharge. Always better safe than sorry, have her checked.

  15. Great article,

    My dog was licking another dogs.... I found out after the fact that the dog had just peed blood.I've given him lots of water to flush out any possible infection.so far his routine hasn't changed..,phew

    1. Urinary tract infection does not normally start by ingesting bacteria. But I'm glad all is well.

  16. Thanks Jana, I stopped by the local vets for advice anyways,they said the same...

  17. My puppys 12 week old since its had it second lot of injections it started with the runs and drops of blood in it . So I changed its diet to boiled chicken and rice. Since then it's urine has become clear colour. Can someone please give me some advice thanks.

    1. Ell, I'm worried about your puppy. Please see a vet.

  18. So I am . I I will be taking its to the vets 1st thing . I've read the link already today before I asked on here . Thanks.

    1. Glad to hear you're seeing a vet. Particularly with puppies one has to be extra diligent.

  19. Seen the vet . She's says it's nothing to worry about its can be normal. When it's diet has been changed. Been adviced to keep him on rice and chicken. He's due his next lot of injections next week. Thanks for the advice.

  20. My dog Jackie is a female lab. She was spayed 4 months ago. Since then there appeared a very faint drop of blood weekly once or twice. Vet suggested to give an antibiotic and as well as iron tonic to supplement the loss of blood and take on the bacterial infection. But even now very rarely there happens a diluted drop of blood when passing urine. May I have your advice? Is this something fatal?

  21. My dog Jackie is a female lab. She was spayed 4 months ago. Since then there appeared a very faint drop of blood weekly once or twice. Vet suggested to give an antibiotic and as well as iron tonic to supplement the loss of blood and take on the bacterial infection. But even now very rarely there happens a diluted drop of blood when passing urine. May I have your advice? Is this something fatal?

  22. My dog Jackie is a female lab. She was spayed 4 months ago. Since then there appeared a very faint drop of blood weekly once or twice. Vet suggested to give an antibiotic and as well as iron tonic to supplement the loss of blood and take on the bacterial infection. But even now very rarely there happens a diluted drop of blood when passing urine. May I have your advice? Is this something fatal?

    1. A drop of blood in urine is unlikely fatal. However, it does mean something and it shouldn't be happening.

      What testing did your vet do to get to the bottom of it? Urinalysis? Anything else?

      Is it just a drop or two daily? I'm curious why is your vet more concerned about making up for the loss of blood which by the sounds of it is minor and not more concerned about figuring out why it's happening ... ?

  23. Hi Jana, my dog underwent spaying and then fourth day from the operation there was much flow of blood while passing urine. But later it got very much reduced the next day itself. But rarely appears a drop of pale red coloured blood. Just one drop comes out. I consulted vet over the phone and messaged a pic of blood in urine. Ao she suggested not to worry it might be due to a mild infection. Advised me to give antibiotics and iron tonic. I am yet to do a test. Her diet is fine and very much active.

  24. Thank you for the informative article. My 13 year old lab/shepherd seems to have signs of both polyuria + polydipsia. She has always enjoyed drinking plenty of water. It might be a bit more now, but it's hard to tell. What I've noticed, is that she needs to go out more often to not have an accident. Sometimes when she is laying down, she leaks a little urine, so there's wet spots when she gets up. I also notice that she licks her private area more often. I don't know if that's because she has the urge to urinate or because she has some discomfort. What are these symptoms leading you to think and what steps do you recommend? Blood work? Urinalysis? Any advice much appreciated!

    1. Either she's drinking enough not to be able to hold the urine, which would be a lot, or there is pain, such as with UTI. I would start with urinalysis and blood work, yes. There are a number of things that can cause increase in drinking and all of them need to be treated.


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