Dogs urinate multiple times daily, so most pet owners are familiar with the color and scent of their pet’s pee. However, dog urine is difficult to track because it quickly disappears into the grass, gravel, or dirt, making it difficult to analyze. The easiest way to track whether your dog’s urine is healthy is to understand the urine’s color and smell. As an owner, the number one thing you can do for your dog’s urinary tract health is to ensure your dog is properly hydrated. This article will discuss what it means if your dog’s urine has a strong odor or a weird color.
Dog Urine has Strong Odor?
Any change in dog urine odor is very concerning. Strong-smelling dog urine typically means that the dog either has an infection or concentrated urine. If you notice that your dog’s urine starts to smell, you should immediately collect a sample in a cup and give it to your veterinarian. The first thing your veterinarian is likely to do is test for a urinary tract infection.
Causes for Dog’s Urine that has Strong Odors
Below are three common infections and diseases that cause dog urine to have (or appear to have) a strong odor: urinary tract infections, kidney disease, and anal gland buildup.
Urinary Tract Infection
Dog urinary tract infections (UTIs) typically cause your dog’s urine to smell extremely sour or like rotting fish. Most bacterial infections will cause your dog’s urine to smell fishy. Other urine symptoms of a UTI include cloudy urine, darker than normal urine, and peeing more than usual. In addition, your dog may likely be straining, have difficulty urinating, or have some type of blood in its urine, creating a metallic dog urine smell. If your dog is very well potty trained, they also might be having accidents around the house since your dog may have difficulty holding their urine in.
To diagnose a UTI, your veterinarian will need to collect and analyze a sample of your dog’s urine. They will analyze the urine sample for the presence of white blood cells and let the urine cultivate for bacteria. They can then test if the bacteria is related to a UTI. It typically takes a few days to analyze the urine and diagnose a dog with a UTI. In the meantime, your dog will likely be prescribed an antibiotic to target the bacteria and make it more comfortable when urinating. The antibiotics should help if your dog’s urine has a strong odor.
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Typically, dogs with kidney disease will have a foul odor, and their urine will smell metallic if they urinate blood. In addition, you may notice that your dog’s breath smells like ammonia. Like humans, kidneys help balance the waste in a dog’s body, specifically in blood. This includes maintaining salt, water, blood pressure, calcium, and phosphorous levels.
When a dog’s kidneys don’t function properly, toxins build up in a dog, and it will become sick. Kidney disease is often associated with age, so if your dog is on the older side, it may exhibit signs of kidney disease. Dog kidney disease is treated with IV fluids, antibiotics, and diuretics. In extreme cases, your dog will have to get surgery.
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Anal Gland Build-Up
Owners often get confused when their dog smells like iron, metal, or other metallic materials when relieving itself. They think it is coming from their dog’s urine when the smell is actually coming from their dog’s anal glands. Dogs have two anal glands on the inside of their rectum that secrete a very distinct smell. If a dog cannot release their anal glands when pooping, then the anal glands build up and create a metallic smell in your dog.
Dogs are regularly supposed to release their anal glands when they poop, but if your dog has softer stools, they typically cannot release their anal glands. You can either clean your dog’s anal glands yourself or take them to a veterinarian to have them cleaned. This should get rid of your dog’s metallic smell.
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Dog Urine Smells Fishy
A UTI is the most common cause if your dog’s urine smells fishy. In fact, UTIs will affect more than 14% of all dogs throughout their lifetime. In addition, female dogs are significantly more likely to get UTIs, but UTIs can also appear in male dogs. We recommend you immediately collect a sample of your dog’s urine and take it to a veterinarian to get tested. Even if you can’t get a sample, you should still take your dog in as soon as possible. UTIs will make your dog uncomfortable and can be potentially dangerous if left untreated. In addition, veterinarians can help rule out bladder cancer or kidney disease if your dog is urinating blood.
Signs that your dog has a UTI
- Whimpering while your dog urinates
- Urinating around the house
- Dog urine smells fishy
- Licking around the genital area
- Cloudy and/or bloody urine
The good news is that if your dog’s urine smells fishy and it is diagnosed as a UTI, then it is fairly easy to treat with antibiotics. Symptoms should start clearing up within a couple of days. In most cases, a UTI will not leave any lasting damage to your dog.
As an owner, you can help prevent your dog from getting a UTI. Below are some tips:
- Make sure your dog is drinking enough water. If your dog is properly hydrated, its urine will be clear to light yellow.
- Make sure that your dog’s genital area is clean. This includes shaving hair, properly wiping the genital area, and preventing bacteria from getting on the genital area. Often dogs will lick their genital area, which causes bacteria to spread.
- Make sure that your dog is frequently urinating. The longer your dog holds in their urine, the more bacteria will build up in its bladder. Try to let your dog urinate every few hours.
Foul Smelling Dog Urine
Diagnosing the cause of foul-smelling dog urine is difficult since it can be as simple as a dog UTI to a significant urinary tract disease like cancer. It’s best to take a sample of your dog’s urine and bring it to a vet. In general, here are some tips to help diagnose the foul smelling dog urine:
- Metabolic diseases, like kidney failure, cause your dog to increase their water consumption significantly. As a result, this causes your dog to urinate more often and in larger quantities. Monitor the number of times that your dog urinates throughout the day.
- Bacterial diseases such as UTIs cause a dog’s urine to have a strong odor or fishy smell. You’ll also notice abnormal urination or general discomfort when your dog is trying to urinate.
In general, if you start noticing foul-smelling dog urine, you should immediately take your dog to the veterinarian so they can diagnose your dog.
Dog has Green Urine Discharge
Dark yellow or greenish urine is caused by bilirubin spilling into the kidneys. Bilirubin is normal and is created when red blood cells break down. Normally it travels to the liver, where it mixes with bile. It is then stored in the gallbladder until it exits your dog through its feces. However, if bilirubin is spilling into the kidneys, this can be indicative of liver disease, gallbladder disease, or an issue in the means by which the blood cells are broken down.
The cause of your dog’s green urine is difficult to diagnose because it can be as simple as a UTI, which causes cloudy and/or greenish urine. Your dog’s green urine discharge also may be because your dog is eating too much green pigmentation from grass, food coloring, or medications. I would personally get your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible to make a diagnosis. Make sure to bring urine and stool samples if you have them.
Dog is Unable to Concentrate Urine
Your dog’s body regulates the amount of water it allows in its urine. For example, if your dog is poorly hydrated, its body will want to conserve water and allow less water into its urine. This regulatory action is called “concentrating.” If your vet suspects that your dog’s body is concentrating its urine incorrectly, your vet may run a urine specific gravity test to figure out how concentrated its urine is (how much water it contains).
Dogs that have unusually high specific gravity have hypersthenuria. This means signs of a chemical imbalance, often pointing to kidney issues. These are some signs if your dog is unable to concentrate its urine:
- Excessive urination
- Drinking a lot of water
- Liquid diarrhea
- Watery vomit
It’s best to consult a veterinarian if your dog cannot concentrate their urine. They likely have a urinary and/or bladder infection or kidney issues.
Conclusion if Dog’s Urine has a Strong Odor
Most likely, if your dog’s urine has a strong odor, it will have either a UTI or kidney issues. If your dog’s urine smells fishy, is cloudy, or your dog has trouble urinating, they likely have a UTI. If your dog’s urine has a metallic smell, is bloody, and they are drinking an excessive amount of water, then this may signal kidney disease or other serious issues. In either case, you would want to bring a urine and stool sample to your veterinarian for further testing.
The best way to prevent your dog’s urine from having a strong odor is to keep them properly hydrated. Keeping your dog hydrated helps them urinate more often, eliminating a bacterial buildup in their bladder. This significantly helps eliminate UTIs. Water also helps the kidney regulate waste throughout your dog’s body.
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FAQs about Strong Smelling Dog Urine
My female dog’s urine smells bad. I never experienced my male dog’s pee smelling strong. What is happening?
Your female dog may have a UTI. Female dogs are more likely to get UTIs than male dogs. UTIs are caused by bacteria getting into the urethra. Female dogs have wider and shorter urethras, so it’s easier for unwanted bacteria to get in. However, whether it’s a UTI or something else, if you notice a change in color or smell in your female dog’s urine, you should take her to your veterinarian.
My puppy’s pee smells strong — is that an issue?
Yes, just like adult dogs, puppy pee that smells bad indicates a health problem, such as a UTI. You may think pet urine always smells bad if you have only owned cats before getting your puppy. However, this is not the case. Unlike cat urine, healthy dog urine should be practically odorless. You should talk to your veterinarian if your puppy’s urine smells bad.
My dog just smells like urine in general. Is there a way I can get rid of that smell?
Yes, you can wash your dog with an antibacterial shampoo. Using an effective antibacterial shampoo will eliminate the smell and ensure it doesn’t come back in the future. For more information, check out our article Best Dog Shampoo for Urine Smell and Odor Control.
Dr. Sabrina Kong graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in England in 2016 and has been working at a small animal clinic in Northern California since then. She grew up in the Bay Area and got her bachelor’s degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She also became a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner through a program at the University of Tennessee.
When she isn’t in the clinic taking care of her four-legged patients, she enjoys traveling and trying new foods with her friends and her three-legged dog, Apollo. She adopted Apollo from her clinic when he was a puppy with numerous health issues. Dr. Kong truly cares about taking care of animals.