Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He works mostly with dogs and exotic animals.
If you are out for a walk and notice that your dog's urine is not yellow, you need to find out why as soon as possible. It may be no big deal (perhaps a mild infection, or her new diet has some strange red dye in it), but it can be a lot more serious.
In my experience, many problems can be dealt with easily if taken care of right away. A tumor on the bladder wall can be removed if it's found quickly, but if left for months, most of the bladder will be lost and the dog will probably end up being euthanized.
Dark urine can be an early symptom of many problems—some more dangerous than others. If you notice any of the symptoms I describe below, talk to your vet to find out what is wrong.
Common Causes of Dark Urine in Dogs
- Urinary tract infection
- Liver disease
- Gall bladder disease
- Blood loss into the body
- Muscle damage (like being hit by a car)
- Kidney or bladder stones
- Vaginal or prostate infection
- Some poisons
- Some dog foods (with added dyes)
Reasons for Red, Black, or Clear Urine
- Blood clots: If you see fresh blood and small blood clots, it may be caused by an infection of the kidneys or bladder, kidney or bladder stones, or a tumor growing in those areas. If your dog is still intact, she may pass a blood clot when she is in heat, but it is not from the bladder.
- Black urine: If the urine is black instead of just dark, that can be another sign of blood. It usually indicates that more blood is being lost.
- Clear urine: If your dog's urine is clear and not yellow as usual, that suggests he is not able to concentrate urine. Have it checked as soon as possible because dilute urine can be a sign of many other health problems (like diabetes) that need to be treated.
Watching for Other Symptoms
Dark urine is not really the disease that is hurting your dog—it is just one of the many signs to look out for to recognize a dog has a problem. Keeping an eye open for this and other symptoms can help your vet diagnose your dog's problem quicker, and with less testing.
Other Signs and Symptoms to Look for:
- If they have a hard time urinating, it can mean a problem with the bladder, urethra, or prostate.
- If they are drinking excessive water, many systems need to be looked into. One type of hormonal disease causes a dog to become dehydrated even when drinking a lot.
- If your dog has pale or yellow gums (jaundice), she may have blood loss or destroyed blood cells somewhere in her body.
- If she is weak or has pain in her back or legs, it may mean that she has muscle damage.
Other Tests Your Dog Might Need
The first part of your dog´s visit to the vet will be a physical exam. If she is anemic, her heart may be very fast. If she has a bladder stone, it may be large enough to be felt during the exam, or she might even wince when her muscles are palpated during the exam. A female dog might have a vaginal discharge, or an older male dog might have a swollen prostate.
Expect at the very least that your dog will need a urinalysis (a microscopic examination of her urine), a complete blood count, and a blood chemical analysis to check her liver, kidneys, and other internal organs. If you hesitate because of the costs, remember the love she provides you every day and do your best to support her now that she needs you.
Besides these basic tests, some dogs will also need:
- X-rays to check for any stones in the bladder
- Ultrasound to check the kidneys, liver, and bladder wall for tumors
- Laparoscopic exam and biopsy
Will My Dog Get Better?
Your dog has an excellent chance of getting better, but her chances really depend on what the cause is and how soon you have her checked out. If she has dark urine secondary to muscle damage, the problem will clear up as soon as the muscle heals.
A liver disease, especially cancer, is a more serious problem. Getting a diagnosis early will help in many cases.
Read More From Pethelpful
It is difficult to say how things will turn out until the cause of the problem has been determined. I have read a very popular website that recommends you take a “wait and see” attitude towards your dog´s health. This is wrong. If your dog has dark urine, find out what is wrong today!
- Do It Yourself At Home Physical Exam for Your Dog
You should be aware of what is normal in your dog. This is a physical exam you can do at home before taking your dog in to see your veterinarian.
Cridge, H., Wills, R. W., & Lathan, P. (2018). Correlation between urine color and urine specific gravity in dogs: Can urine color be used to identify concentrated urine?. The Canadian veterinary journal = La revue veterinaire canadienne, 59(2), 178–180. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5764211/
Yadav, S. N., Ahmed, N., Nath, A. J., Mahanta, D., & Kalita, M. K. (2020). Urinalysis in dog and cat: A review. Veterinary world, 13(10), 2133–2141. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7704312/
Zanghi, B. M., & Gardner, C. L. (2018). Total Water Intake and Urine Measures of Hydration in Adult Dogs Drinking Tap Water or a Nutrient-Enriched Water. Frontiers in veterinary science, 5, 317. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6305449/
Lawrence, Y. A., Guard, B. C., Steiner, J. M., Suchodolski, J. S., & Lidbury, J. A. (2019). Untargeted metabolomic profiling of urine from healthy dogs and dogs with chronic hepatic disease. PloS one, 14(5), e0217797. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6544284/
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: Post knee surgery, my dog is on Cefpodoxime, and I noticed her urine is very dark since starting the drug. Could this be a side effect?
Answer: The only side effects of that drug that I know of are vomiting and diarrhea. You should take her to your vet tomorrow and have a urinalysis and bloodwork done to find out if she is having post-surgical complications.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on May 13, 2020:
Brookefuser, it is probably just dehydration, which is pretty common in dogs that travel. To be sure take her in to your vet for a blood test (BUN, check kidneys).
Brookefuser on May 12, 2020:
We just traveled internationally (12 hours) and my puppy has really dark urine now. Orange/brown in color.
She didn’t go to the bathroom on the plane at all, we have been back 4 days now.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 07, 2020:
Karen, it could be blood cells, liver disease, kidney disease, or any of the other causes listed above. You will have to take a urine sample to your regular vet to find out for sure what is going on.
Karen on February 06, 2020:
My 14 year old-diabetic pug/ Boston terrier has black colored urine?
What could possibly be the cause
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 24, 2019:
Brent, a 10 year old Boxer is a senior, so if she were mine the first thing I would do is have her blood checked (liver and kidneys) but also have a urinalysis to check for urine concentration (endocrine problem). All of those things are a possibility at her age and a lot more likely than an infection.
Brent on April 24, 2019:
Doc, my 10 year old female boxer occasionally has dark red urine. Not all the time but sometimes. It’s been going on for about 1.5 weeks. No changes in her mood or appetite. Any ideas?
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on November 10, 2018:
donna, if the urine is darker than normal you should take it in to your regular vet to be checked out.
Donna on November 09, 2018:
My dogs urine is Golden brown ?
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on December 14, 2017:
Sunny, if your puppy is having black stools that is an indication of digested blood in the intestinal tract being passed in the stool. Do you have access to a vet where you live? If you do, take a stool sample in and have it looked at and checked for worms, like hookworms. Is your puppy vaccinated against parvo? What is drools? Is that the brand of puppy food? Read the label and let me know if there are a lot of dyes in there.
Sunny on December 14, 2017:
Hello how are you? I have a pug puppy of 4 months and I started feeling it drools nutrition puppy. I just wanted to know some information that my dog is peeing Orange colour and potty is of black. I started feeding get drools since 2 days I'm getting scared please suggest me what to do.?
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on October 18, 2016:
I wanted to follow you on flipboard but I cannot find your account. What is your name/account name on that site?
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on October 17, 2016:
Thank you very much for sharing this information, DrMark. It's useful and important information for people with a dog in their family. I'll keep it in mind for my dog and share it on Flipboard so that others can see it.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 11, 2016:
I think I forgot that one, Bob! I havent seen snow in years.
Bob Bamberg on April 10, 2016:
Helpful information as usual, Doc. If people notice a color change in their dog's urine and report it to their vet right away, it can result in a much better outcome. We have a saying we learned as children here in the Northeast that reminds us that dog urine is yellow: "Don't eat the yellow snow."