Few things set off the alarm bells in our heads like the sight of blood. Finding blood anywhere on your dog is disconcerting, and finding it in your dog's urine is downright terrifying, whether you notice it yourself or your veterinarian discovers it during your dog's appointment.
There are many different diseases and conditions that can cause blood in dog urine, including urinary tract infections, trauma, toxins like rat poison, and in rare cases, even cancer. Here is what you need to know about this symptom, and what it could mean for your dog.
What Is Hematuria in Dogs?
The technical term for blood in urine is hematuria. The presence of these red blood cells in your dog's urine can be detected either visually or by using diagnostic testing.
Oftentimes, we don't notice bloody urine right away. After all, it's not like we really want to be staring at our dogs while they pee. Sometimes, though, bloody urine is obvious, especially if your dog urinates on a light colored surface, like snow, carpet, or the floor. This discoloration can present as almost normal, amber, orange, red, or brown.
Other times, blood in the urine is not this obvious, and it takes a diagnostic test to discover red blood cells. Your dog's urine may appear normal and still contain blood.
There are other conditions that can lead to discolored urine, so the first thing you should do if you notice your dog's urine is a funny color is contact your veterinarian.
Causes of Hematuria in Dogs
Blood in urine is one of those symptoms, like vomiting and diarrhea, which are present in a wide range of conditions. Here are just a few of the conditions that can lead to blood in your dog's urine to give you an idea of the extent of possible causes.
- Clotting disorders
- Toxins, like certain kinds of rat poison
- Kidney diseases such as kidney stones, cystic kidney disease, structural disease, and familial kidney disease
- Nephritis (inflammation of the kidney)
- Inflammatory disease
- Infections such as urinary tract infections
- Anatomical malformations in the kidney or urinary tract
- Infectious diseases
This list can feel a little overwhelming, which is where your veterinarian steps in to help with her diagnostic differentials.
Diagnosing Hematuria in Dogs
Diagnosing the cause behind your dog's hematuria can be complicated, as you can guess by looking at the extensive list of possible causes, but most veterinarians are well equipped with the knowledge and tools necessary to pinpoint the underlying condition.
You can help, too, by seeing for yourself if your dog's urine is discolored. The Chief Veterinary Officer for the AKC, Dr. Jerry Klein, recommends placing a piece of white paper or cloth beneath your dog as they urinate. This will show you if the urine is discolored, and he also recommends attempting to collect a urine sample in a container for your veterinarian. If you can't get the sample to your veterinarian immediately, he suggests placing it in the refrigerator until you can take it to your vet.
Your veterinarian may begin this process with a physical examination. In the exam, she may visually inspect your dog's genital areas; palpate your dog's abdomen, bladder, kidneys, and prostate; and check your dog for any other symptoms that appear out of the ordinary, like bruising.
Once the physical examination is complete, there are several different diagnostic tests that your veterinarian may perform, depending on the findings of the physical exam and any other symptoms your dog may present with.
Some of these tests may include a dipstick colorimetric test, urinalysis, ultrasound, radiograph, blood pressure measurement, catheterization, a blood chemistry workup, coagulation profile, cystourethroscopy, endoscopy, biopsies, and in some cases, exploratory surgery.
These tests, ultimately, will provide your veterinarian with the information she needs to narrow down the potential causes of the blood in your dog's urine.
Hematuria as a Symptom of Cancer
Anytime cancer appears in a list of possible causes, it makes us feel a little panicky. Luckily, cancer of the kidneys and urinary tract is rare in dogs. However, it does occur, especially in breeds of dogs that may be predisposed to theses cancers, like West Highland White Terriers, Scottish Terriers, and Shetland Sheepdogs. The most common type of urinary tract cancer is a type of cancer called transitional cell carcinoma (TCC).
So how do you know if the blood in your dog's urine is a symptom of cancer or some other condition?
Aside from blood in the urine, there are some other symptoms of cancer of the kidneys and urinary tract, which includes the bladder, ureters, and urethra. Weight loss, loss of appetite, depression, and fever are all symptoms of kidney cancer. Difficulty urinating, painful urination, frequent urination that only produces small amounts of urine, and intractable secondary bacterial urinary tract infections, on the other hand, could be a sign of a cancer of the urinary tract, such as TCC. The best way to find out if the blood in your dog's urine is a sign of cancer or another disease, however, is to bring your dog in to your veterinarian for further testing.
TCC used to have a very poor prognosis. Recent developments in the veterinary field, however, are improving this prognosis with a combination of medications like the chemotherapy drug mitoxantrone and the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) piroxicam, and surgery.
Best of all, diagnosis is now easier with the free-catch urine analysis test: CADET℠ BRAF Mutation Detection Assay. The CADET℠ BRAF Mutation Detection Assay is a non-invasive, free-catch urine analysis test that can detect canine bladder cancer (TCC/UC) months before symptoms present, allowing for the earliest therapeutic intervention.
Treating Hematuria in Dogs
Treatment options for hematuria depend entirely on the cause. Your veterinarian will come up with a treatment plan crafted to your dog's needs, overall health, and any pre-existing conditions.
For more information about hematuria, or if you suspect that your dog might have blood in his urine, contact your veterinarian.