Do you know why paralyzed dogs develop urinary retention? If the term is unfamiliar; you are not alone. The average pet parent will probably never hear this diagnosis. On the other hand, owners of paralyzed pets, hear these words too often.
Urinary retention is a condition where a dog or cat cannot fully empty urine from their bladder. The urine sits in the bladder where it can become infected or it expands the bladder until it is over distended. Urinary retention is a serious and painful problem.
Because the majority of paralyzed dogs are also incontinent, they are prone to developing urinary retention as a medical complication to their overall condition.
Able-bodied dogs and cats can develop urinary retention, but typically it is due to an obstruction. Pets with this form of the condition require surgery to remove the obstruction. The blockage is generally caused by a bladder stone, bladder crystals, a tumor or a physical abnormality. It can also be caused by kidney disease.
Paralyzed dogs are prone to developing “functional” urinary retention. This means the problem is not due to a blockage. Instead it is a complication of the normal action of the bladder. (If you have an incontinent dog, you know their bladder does NOT act normally.)
The causes of functional urinary retention
- Complication from a urinary tract infection
- Recurrent urinary tract infections
- Rupture of the bladder
- Rupture of the urethra
- Loss of coordination to the muscles in the bladder
- Chronically allowing the bladder to become over distended
- Not manually expressing the bladder often enough
- Not fully emptying the bladder when it is manually expressed
- Lesions of the pelvic nerves
- Lesions of the spinal cord
- Fractures of the spine
- Disc disease
- Dogs with midbrain neurological disorders
- Dogs with Cushing’s disease
Symptoms of paralyzed dogs with urinary retention
- Swollen or bloated bladder and belly
- Weak urine stream
- Attempting to urinate (or manually express) without success
- A bladder that leaks urine because it is so full
- Signs of abdominal pain
Treatment for functional urinary retention
Depending on your dog’s symptoms your veterinarian will order tests that range from a urinalysis and bloodwork to a Myelogram or CT scan. The scans are ordered to determine whether a rupture or lesion might be causing the problem.
Dogs with urinary retention are generally hospitalized. They are put on a catheter to release the excess urine. Your veterinarian will also determine if there are electrolyte imbalances in your dog’s system that were caused by the buildup of urine.
The overall goal of the treatment is to get your dog’s body to return to whatever normal function it had before the retention. This is true even if your pup’s hind end is paralyzed.
Most dogs respond well to treatment and do not have any side effects. As the owner, you might be asked to attend a refresher course on how to manually express your dog’s bladder.
Other dogs with urinary retention will need to be catheterized when they go home. This will keep the problem from recurring, but it requires the owner to learn how to insert the catheter for manual expression.