How to Express a Dogs Bladder
Please note, the following information does not take the place of advice from your veterinarian.
Until proven otherwise by a veterinarian, you should assume that a paralyzed dog cannot urinate. Depending on the location of a dogs spinal cord injury they may dribble urine all the time (due to lack of sphincter tone), or may seem to have control, not urinating for a while (due to excessive sphincter tone), then appearing to do so either randomly or when excited. In this latter case what you are seeing is overflow, the bladder filling to the point where it can hold no more, the excess flowing out.
It is very important that if your vet tells you that you need to express your dogs bladder that you talk to them and have them demonstrate bladder expression. They will show you what your dogs bladder feels like, what technique to use, and how hard you need to press. Expressing a dogs bladder is something that will take you time to master and you may need your vet to give you a hands on demonstration several times before you get the hang of it. Don’t give up or get frustrated, with time you will become an expert.
The following links and videos show a variety of techniques and options for bladder expression, based on a dog’s size. These include expressing smaller dogs by holding them over a toilet or puppy training pad, expressing them lying laterally, or while in a cart or held upright using a sling. The important thing to bear in mind when deciding on how you will express your dogs bladder is that you are both comfortable. Remember, you are no help to your dog if you have hurt your back lifting or moving them.
A personal tip when expressing – when you begin apply steady pressure until the flow changes from a stream to drops. At this point take a break of about 30 seconds, to allow the bladder to regain its shape, then try expressing again – you might be surprised at how much more urine comes out. Every dog is different, with experience you will find out what works best for you. For example, my own dog has a very large, flaccid bladder: I express him for about 5 minutes twice daily and then catheterize him once as it is impossible to fully empty it by expressing alone
Another important aspect of bladder expression is to look at the color and be aware of the smell of the urine you express. being unable to fully empty their bladder puts your dog at increased risk for a urinary tract infection (UTI). If the urine has a foul smell, looks bloody, cloudy, or if your dog seems uncomfortable it might signal a UTI. At this point a trip to the vet is needed. Ask them to do a urine CULTURE, not just a urinalysis. Unfortunately urinary tract infections in paralyzed dogs can become chronic and antibiotic resistant so you want to be sure that you are treating with the most appropriate antibiotic for the infection your dog currently has.
Descriptions of Bladder Expression in Dogs