How To Express Your Pet's Bladder

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Filed Under: Neurology

How to Express Your Pet's Bladder


Some injuries cause animals to lose the ability to urinate. This is a critical, sometimes fatal problem unless the caretaker knows how to manually cause the animal to urinate. This is called 'expressing' the bladder.

Your vet will show you how to do this and it is important that you follow your vet's instructions carefully. If your vet will not show you, find another vet who will. This page is a discussion of how to express a dog or cat and is not intended to be a substitute for a veterinarian's advice.

Your pet’s bladder needs to be completely emptied at least three times a day (every 8 hours). Some injured animals dribble or leak urine during the day. Expressing will ensure the bladder is completely empty to prevent infection. It will also reduce the amount of urine soaking the skin, which can cause sores.

Some injured animals are unable to release urine even if they want to. They do not urinate unless the bladder gets so full it overflows. Expressing will ensure urine does not stay in the bladder too long and create an environment where germs can grow. Expressing also keeps the bladder from stretching out. If the bladder becomes stretched, the pet may be unable to urinate normally even after the ability to control the bladder returns.

Following injury to the spine or rear area of an animal, cystitis (infection) of the bladder can become a serious health problem. A bladder infection can cause death in a few days if not treated. Bladder care is essential for the health of your pet, whether it has had surgery or not and whether it is completely or partially disabled.

Here are the most common signs of urinary tract infection:

  • Dribbling or a wet rear and wet bed
  • Foul odor to the urine and possibly increased licking of the genital area
  • Bloody or dark colored urine
  • Depression, loss of appetite, and a rise in temperature as infection progresses

Note that severe symptoms require immediate veterinary care.

Preventive medical treatment will help you avoid infections. Work with your veterinarian in prescribing the best medication, checking pH, culturing the urine, and teaching you how to express your pet. Urine left in the bladder can become a place where bacteria breeds.

The bladder must be manually expressed until your pet is able to fully urinate on its own. Having the bladder expressed at least three times a day is a permanent nursing care need for permanently impaired pets. The success of your nursing care program will depend on how effective you become in this care.

This page describes how to express a bladder... but you ''must'' check with your veterinarian first.

"Don't Worry!" say hundreds of messages on our message board. This becomes so easy for you and your pet after a very short time.

Small Dog
Support the animal in an upright position.
Locate the bladder. Gently do 'test squeezes' on different spots until you identify it, starting where the ribs end and moving back. Your thumb should be on one side of the abdomen and your fingers on the other side.
Gently squeeze your thumb and fingers together and see if urine is released. If not, move to a slightly different area on the bladder and try again.
This is the right spot.
The animal may lift its tail when the right spot is squeezed.
Urine should be released in a fairly steady stream. When urine decreases to a dribble, the bladder has been sufficiently expressed. This is not painful for the pet. It is often a great relief.

Medium or Large Dog
Place your hands on the pet’s sides behind the rib cage. Here the thumbs are resting lightly on the back.
Apply pressure squeezing inward and upward. Do ''not'' put pressure directly on an injured spine, especially if the dog has disk disease.
If your hands become tired, pause to rest, then begin again. As the bladder shrinks you may need to stop and move your hands to a better position. Continue expressing until the bladder is empty.
Cupping one hand

This is how I would (do) it. Stand or kneel behind Riley and gently feel for his bladder. I(t) should be about the size of an orange or small grapefruit. You want to cup it in one hand while gently pressing in and down on the opposite side. You need to control the location of the bladder with your cupping hand, trying to keep the pressure centered. Keep the pressure enough so the urine comes in a good flow. As the bladder gets smaller you will need to flatten out your cupping hand and press with it to get the rest out. I found that closing my eyes, helped because I could imagine what I was doing, since I couldn't actually see it. If you lose it, don't panic. Try again. if Riley resists, give Riley a few minutes to settle down and his bladder reposition itself. Then start again. We found that 3x-4x a day for a beagle was about right. Setting and keeping a regular schedule helps avoiding accidents.