By AJ Gegenheimer, RVT, ICAN Canine Health Coordinator
1. General rule of thumb for house breaking a puppy is 1 hour for every month old the puppy is plus 1 additional hour. Example: a 3 month old puppy should be able to hold its bladder for 4 hours. With this rule in place, a puppy that is 7 months old or older and an adult dog should be able to hold its bathroom needs for 8 hours. This is a reasonable time frame to ask of any dog over 7 months of age, to wait longer could create medical problems. To increase the time, plan 30 minutes a week. This can be accomplished by adding 5 minutes each day to the length of wait time.
2. Water intake for a dog on average is 1 cup (8 ounces) of water for every 10 pounds of body weight per day. Example: a 60 lbs dog would drink 6 cups of water a day. Remember to take into consideration that activity level and outdoor temperatures can vary the water intake. Some breeds like Labrador retrievers tend to drink more water. Urine output will usually match water intake on a daily basis.
3. Puppies and dogs can be easily distracted while they are urinating and not finish the job before returning to the indoors. When a dog doesn't finish urinating, he/she will become very anxious to get back outside shortly after coming inside or worse yet, urinate indoors. To be sure a dog has finished urinating watch for the following signs: urine stream should taper off NOT just cut off mid stream, dogs should stay focused looking straight ahead versus looking around. If a dog starts looking around and suddenly gets up from position and is focused on a specific area, they probably didn't finish urinating because something distracted them (another animal, person, object or sound). When this occurs, remove them from the area and refocus them to finish the job.
4. Marking behavior can occur with both males and females. A dog will mark territory with urine. Usually when this occurs you will see the dog urinate small amounts in various locations. They will continue to mark areas with urinary behavior even after their bladder is empty. When a dog first arrives at a new location, he/she will mark the yard to let everyone know they are in the neighborhood and this is their territory. If a dog is returning to a place that they have resided before, they will promptly mark the yard to remind everyone they are back and this is their territory. After all, other dogs have been here since they left and covered up their marking with their own scent, so that needs to be rectified.
5. Signs of a urinary infection include excessive licking of the vulva or penis, frequent trips to urinate, smaller or larger than normal amounts of urine, slow to urinate, blood in the urine, straining to urinate, or accidents indoors. Should you see any of these signs, contact your veterinarian. A fresh urine sample will be required to determine the nature of the infection. The sample should be caught in a clean container and be less than 1 hour old. If the sample cannot be brought to the vet clinic within an hour of being caught, it can be refrigerated up to 3 hours. Try to catch at least a tablespoon of urine, the more the better.
6. Bacterial infections are the first urinary infection problem. This can happen for a variety of reasons, a dog squatting really low to the ground and wicking bacteria from the ground onto the hair surrounding the vulva or penis and the bacteria then making its way into the bladder. Another is a dog's routine cleaning of the area and presenting bacteria from its mouth. Diet and water can play a role in bacterial infections as well. The list of ways a bacterial infection occurs can continue. Bacterial infections can cause pain during urination, the feeling of needing to urinate frequently and smaller amounts of urine are some of the symptoms. Usually antibiotics will resolve the urinary infection.
Crystals are another concern of urinary issues. Crystals tend to appear with a bacterial infection. In general, a bacterial infection has been present, but the dog showed very subtle signs that can easily be missed. Crystals are very fine sand in the bladder and cause pain during urination. Other symptoms include frequent urinations, blood in the urine and straining to urinate. Antibiotics and a diet change are usually the course of action to resolve crystals.
Stones in the bladder occur due to bacterial infections and crystals being present in the bladder. Kidney stones are rare in dogs. Stones are diagnosed by radiographs. Symptoms can include straining to urinate, very small amount of urine, frequent urinations and blood in the urine. Treatment for bladder stones is usually surgical removal, followed by antibiotics and a diet change. However, some bladder stones, depending on the type of stone and size, can be dissolved with diet.
7. Sometimes dogs can develop a fear with urinary infections. In a dog's mind, when he/she urinates in his/her favorite spot it hurt, now that spot is associated with pain. Urinating in different locations is common, because there will eventually be a spot that doesn't create pain. With this logic in mind, accidents inside or multiple places to urinate may still occur after starting antibiotics until it doesn't hurt to urinate. Sometimes it is necessary to go back to puppy potty training to help the dog through the infection.
8. Submissive urination is another issue we sometimes see in dogs. This is when a dog urinates a very small amount when it is approached by another dog or human. Building confidence in the dog is key to eliminating this behavior. If people are the trigger, practice having different people approach while throwing treats toward the dog. The dog will eventually associate good things from approaching people and extinguish the behavior. If dogs are the trigger, practice with other dogs approaching while you reinforce with multiple treats. Remember to watch the thresholds and stay within the limits, slowly building up to closer distances.
Disclaimer: This information is designed for ICAN dogs in correctional facilities. It is for quick, short term response to a situation until veterinary care can be administered. Always check with your veterinarian for proper care of your pet. Each pet is individual and not every quick, short term response is appropriate