Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.
Why Isn't My Dog Urinating After Surgery?
When your dog comes home after surgery, some behavioral changes are to be expected, and not peeing after surgery is not unusual. Depending on the type of surgery your dog has undergone, the causes of why your dog won't pee may vary.
The most common reason your dog is not peeing after surgery, spaying, or neutering, is often due to a reduced intake of water and pain or tenderness in the groin area. Your dog may also be reluctant to pee if they've had orthopedic surgery or a procedure that affects their mobility. Dogs that are on medications for pain or sedation may need regular assistance to get up and go outside to potty.
In this article, we will discuss the following:
- Reasons Why Your Dog Won't Pee After Surgery
- What to Do If Your Dog Is Not Urinating After Surgery
- How Often Should Dogs Urinate?
- Why Your Dog Won't Pee With a Cone On
- Urinary Tract Issues and UTI Symptoms in Dogs
- What If Your Injured Pet Won't Pee?
When in doubt, always communicate your concerns to your dog's overseeing veterinarian.
Reasons Why Your Dog Won't Pee After Surgery
Before you try to encourage your dog to pee, here are some possible explanations for your dog's reduced urine output that you should consider and rule-out before proceeding.
- How much is your dog drinking? Many times, dogs will be reluctant to drink after surgery. Less drinking obviously translates into less urine output. Some dogs may receive IV fluids during surgery to keep them well-hydrated. Generally, this results in higher fluid output, but it can sometimes stall them from taking an interest in drinking water post-operatively.
- Is your dog in pain? Depending on the type of surgery your dog has undergone, he or she may have reduced mobility and may be in pain. Dogs who have undergone orthopedic surgeries such as repair for a torn cruciate ligament, may have a hard time putting weight on the rear leg which makes walking around and urinating painful. Oftentimes, you will be sent home with a sling to assist your dog with getting up and walking around. Take it slow. A male dog, for instance, might be tender after a neuter and unwilling to pee unless provided with proper pain management.
- Is your dog still groggy? If you picked up your dog shortly after he or she was put under, they might still be groggy from the anesthesia. Your dog may be sleepy, unbalanced, and confused, and the last thing on their mind is going potty.
- Is the surgical site clean? You can get a general idea of your dog's overall health and wellness by taking a look at the surgical site. Does the incision site look infected? Signs of infection could be a big clue to systemic issues. Be sure to keep the suture site clean even weeks after surgery. Some spay and neuter clinics use suture glue, but this doesn't mean that you won't run into problems, especially if you have an active puppy. Learn about suture reactions, post-surgical conditions, and proper suture care.
What to Do if Your Dog Is Not Urinating After Surgery
Regardless of the cause, you may be wondering how long your dog can go without urinating and what steps you can take to encourage urination. So, what can you do at home to encourage urination? Here are some steps:
- Notify Your Vet: You may want to call your vet if your dog seems painful. They may need prescription pain medications, or if they are already taking them, your dog may need to have their dose increased.
- Observe the Behavior: If your dog urinates after surgery but doesn't urinate several hours after, he or she may have associated urinating with pain and is trying to hold it as long as possible to avoid the pain.
- Keep a Record of Activity: Veterinarian, Dr. Marie, recommends seeing a vet if your dog hasn't urinated within 24 hours post-surgery or is trying to urinate, but nothing comes out. In some cases, the vet may need to insert a catheter to empty the bladder.
- Assist Them: If your dog has trouble walking from orthopedic surgery, a sling or large rolled-up towel placed under them (avoid this if they had abdominal surgery or a soft-tissue procedure in the pelvic region) will help put less strain on his or her legs and will possibly help to reduce pain.
- Consider UTI Symptoms: In some cases, female dogs may get a urinary tract infection after being spayed. Symptoms of a dog urinary tract infection include straining to urinate, urinating only a few drops at a time, pink, blood-tinged urine, and licking the private areas.
- Investigate: It's a good idea to check if your dog has perhaps urinated somewhere around the house. If you have a small dog, it's easy to miss a spot or two on the carpet or a corner. Unlike cats where you can easily observe litter box activity, dogs may be more subtle when it comes to urinating in front of you, especially if they aren't feeling great.
How Often Should Dogs Urinate?
You may be wondering how often a dog should urinate. According to American Animal Hospital in New Jersey, at a minimum, a dog should urinate at least every 8 to 10 hours, but this may vary depending on the amount of water consumed, diet, and activity levels.
In most cases, dogs should be taken out every 4 to 6 hours. As with humans, holding urine in for too long isn't good practice. When urine is held for too long, bacteria concentrates in the urine which, in the long run, may predispose a dog to a urinary tract infection, bladder stones, or worse, a bladder or kidney infection.
Prior to surgery, you will want to know your dog's "normal." Do they dribble when they urinate from old age? Crouch to potty? Lift a leg? Do they have an arthritic knee that may be even more compromised after surgery? Do they have a preexisting medical condition? Take these individualized factors into account when determining what exactly is deterring your dog from urinating.
I've seen some dogs/cats after surgery not urinate for 2 days because they didn't want to and didn't have that much urine to begin with because they didn't drink much.
— JustAnswer.com's "aggieervet"
"My Dog Hasn't Peed in 24 Hours"
If your dog hasn't urinated after surgery, you may be concerned about this change. According to Veterinary Specialists of Alaska, it's normal for dogs to urinate more or less frequently after surgery. Keep in mind that their bladder may have been expressed (emptied) after surgery as well, which buys them some time. If you are giving your dog enough opportunities to try to eliminate, continue to monitor until you reach the 24-hour mark. Sometimes, it's just a matter of flipping your dog into a new position or letting them walk around a bit. But when in doubt or if you feel like something is wrong, call your vet.
"My Dog Hasn't Peed in 48 Hours (2 Days)"
Perhaps your dog has secretly eliminated when you weren't looking or even eliminated in their bed. Have you seen your dog drinking water but do they refuse to pee? If it has indeed been more than 24 hours and you are certain that your dog has not urinated, this is cause for alarm. Notify your vet right away in an effort to prevent serious health risks.
Urinary retention can put your pet's life in danger, especially if they lack bladder control due to some type of injury. This puts them at risk of a bladder rupture, which is life-threatening. In addition, lack of urine output may indicate serious dehydration.
How to Encourage a Dog to Urinate After Surgery
- Make sure fresh water is available to them at all times if they are alert.
- Be on top of their pain medication—keep a detailed record of when each dose was given and how much. Communicate to your vet if you suspect that the pain management isn't adequate.
- Assist your dog with mobility. If your dog is painful or medicated (yes, dogs that are on pain or sedation meds will "appear" lethargic), be sure to offer them regular breaks and assist them with mobility. You can use towels as slings if your vet hasn't provided you with one. If your dog is small, simply carry them outside.
- Let them "smell" their potty spot. Sometimes it helps to take dogs to the ripest pee spot—even if you live in a multi-animal household. Just make sure to keep their incision site clean.
- Give them love and attention. Sometimes dogs simply feel lousy and get depressed post-operatively. Make sure they aren't so isolated that they simply "give up." Offer them suitable stimulation.
- Communicate with your vet. If it has been 24+ hours of no urine, relay it to your vet! Depending on the surgery or injury, your dog may need its bladder expressed, catheterization, or similar.
Video: How to Lift a Dog After Abdominal surgery
Why Your Dog Won't Pee With a Cone On
We all know that the Elizabethan collar, e-collar, or "cone of shame" is not a favorite for our canine companions. Sometimes your dog will refuse to eat, drink, pee, or poop with the collar on. You may be wondering if it is okay to remove the collar. Some dogs need to smell their usual potty spot (or smell the pee of other dogs) to feel encouraged to urinate. Keep in mind that the only time it is okay to remove the collar is if your vet approved of it or you will be fully supervising your dog.
If you can supervise your dog for the entire duration, you may choose to remove the collar during feeding, drinking, or potty breaks. This means that you are not looking away for even a second. It takes one lick or nibble to undo a suture or introduce bacteria into a surgical site. If your dog is quick to try to chew, you can use a leash to guide them—this offers some head control.
Urinary Tract Issues and UTI Symptoms in Dogs
Dogs are prone to UTIs—especially female dogs. Symptoms can range from too much urine output to too little urine output. UTI symptoms often mimic what we see in humans—there may be signs of incontinence, dribbling, blood in the urine, discharge, or pain. But what indicates blockages?
Infections and blockages of the ureters due to stone formation are common causes of blood in the urine, straining to urinate, and similar problems. Keep in mind, however, that frequent urination could be tied to preexisting medical conditions (occurring for months) like kidney disease (also acute) or similar. Here are common urinary tract issues in dogs:
- Symptoms: Cystitis, hematuria (blood in urine), dysuria (straining), fever, pain.
- Description: Termed uroliths or cystic calculi, these are rock-like mineral formations in the bladder. Variations include struvite bladder stones. Struvites may form secondary to bacterial infections in the bladder due to excess ammonia. The condition is more common in females dogs than male dogs.
- Diagnosis and Treatment: Surgical removal after palpation, diagnostic imagery, urinalysis, urohydropulsion (flush out with catheter), ultrasonic dissolution (high-frequency ultrasound), dietary changes, and antibiotics. Stones can be life-threatening if there is a severe blockage of the urethra and it is not treated.
- Symptoms: Pain, kidney colic (abdominal pain), vomiting, swelling, fever, blood in the urine (hematuria), poor appetite, lethargy, and increased or decreased urine flow.
- Description: Also termed a nephrolith (nephro = kidney; lith = stone). Sometimes nephroliths may be left untreated if urine flow is normal. Large stones or fragments may lodge in the ureter (connects to the bladder) and cause life-threatening conditions. Often caused by infection or breed predisposition (e.g., Dalmations).
- Diagnosis and Treatment: Diagnostics include blood work and chemistries, urinalysis, urine culture and sensitivity test, radiographs, and a blood pressure measurement. Treatment includes dietary changes (acidifying the urine), increased water intake, surgery, and lithotripsy (ultrasound).
Mechanical issues can range from everything from loss of sphincter tone due to hormones and age to prostate issues. These issues can be related to soft tissue obstructions (tumors, growths, cysts) to neuromuscular weakness and injury—sprains, tears, etc.
What if Your Injured Pet Won't Pee?
We've already reviewed the step-by-step instructions for how to handle a dog that refuses to pee after surgery, but if your dog has been acutely injured, ranging from something as simple as a fall to something as serious as a hit-by-car (emergent attention needed) and other painful accidents, you should take them to see a vet immediately. Your veterinarian may order radiographs or an ultrasound in the clinic to diagnose any internal injury that is causing urinary retention or straining. Pelvic injuries and musculoskeletal injuries can cause your dog to stop eliminating as well. External urethral strictures, for example, are common with pelvic injuries (like hit-by-car patients). If your dog has been injured, don't delay medical attention.
As always, be sure to work with your veterinarian to investigate any underlying problems with your dog. Post-surgical complications do occur, and it is always better to be safe rather than sorry.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: My dog has not urinated for two days after knee surgery, should I be concerned?
Answer: Consult with your vet who has done the surgery. Most likely your dog is not urinating because the leg still hurts him/her and he/she is uncomfortable walking. Most dogs will start putting weight on the leg within 5 to 7 days - some though may do so much sooner. Your dog may need pain meds to feel better.
Question: My dog is not walking two days after being spayed, what should I do?
Answer: Greetings, you should consult with your vet about this. Normally, after spay surgery, your vet should have sent your dog home with some pain medications. If these were not provided, it would be a good idea to give your vet a call and see whether you can get a prescription. Another possibility is that the incision is inflamed or the stitches are particularly tight, and every time your dog moves to walk, this puts a strain on the incision which may pinch and hurt. Of course, if your dog appears weak or lethargic, has pale gums, slow capillary refill time, or feels cold to the touch, this warrants an emergency vet visit as this can be indicative of internal bleeding. Please see your vet to play it safe.
© 2014 Adrienne Farricelli
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 05, 2019:
Lisanhxo, so sorry for your loss. Although this was 20 years ago, I am sure the pain is hard to get rid of. Perhaps she has developed an infection or some or some other complication from the surgery. A necropsy could have perhaps provided an answer, but won't really do much to take the pain away. I understand your feelings though as I lost a cat once and she was leaking fluid from her legs and no vet could explain why and still today I wonder, but a necropsy is nothing nice really. I just wanted her to rest in peace.
Lisahhxo on April 02, 2019:
My 6 year old yorkiewent in for a c section after picking her up , she wanted to but could not pee, I ended up losing my precious Kiki, to this day I still do not have the answers to why it happened. She was healthy, she had full pre natal care through out pregnancy & I had her spayed following her c section, the Dr Richard Sickelsmith in Venice fl could not answer why or how it happened but over 20 years later i still wonder & morn over losing her & if there was something I should have, could have done to change things. She was so very loved and still I feel the lose. God bless for anyone who may be suffering through a similar situation.
Jenn on July 21, 2018:
My one year old Pitbull will not move from a certain spot to go urinatr or poop after being spayed
Lala on October 26, 2017:
Had my 1yr old pup spayed yesterday and she hasn’t peed yet
Penny vargas on February 25, 2017:
my dog broke his front leg and I can't get him to walk to go pee. What do I do
susie on October 24, 2016:
our animals are the greatest friends, companions and councilors. Thankful for this site to find answers and ideas to help them in any way. It is we, humans, that can't communicate to them. Really look at your pet, know their bodies by petting and massaging them. I found new growths on one of my dogs, took her to Vet, he found a tumor. We caught it early. So you'll know if something unusual is going on when you know their bodies, how their eyes look, how they walk, breathe, poop and unusual behaviors.. Can save their life by just paying attention, tuning into them. They behave like us worry, depression, lonely, frightened, so take care of them they are our children with fur and best friends.
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on July 13, 2014:
Interesting about dogs and you have such helpful topics.
ARADHYA on July 13, 2014:
Great hub , useful information.