What’s it like to express a dog’s bladder?

A lot of people wonder what is involved in expressing a dog’s bladder, in case their dog has a spinal injury and can no longer control his or her “business.” Unfortunately most vets are not too encouraging of people to try it, and I think this causes many people to decide to euthanize because the vet implies it is really difficult to do.

I too was mystified. It seemed like an odd and involved process. Then I took a chance and agreed to foster a little girl who had gone down in the back.
So, here’s the real scoop, from my experience with TWO down dachsies, Tabby and Luke.
Question: How often do you do it?
Answer: I express Tabby and Luke’s bladders whenever I let the other dogs out to potty. About 6 times a day. So yes, they go all day when I’m at work without being expressed.
Question: How long does it take?
Answer: About 10 – 20 seconds. Yep, that’s it!
Question: Do you need equipment or hoses or protective clothing or syringes or bags or tubes or rubber gloves or anything like that?
Answer: No special stuff is needed. Just your hands. I can do it anywhere, including over my toilet. (Talk about potty trained!)
Question: So, HOW do you do it?
Answer 1 (Female): I squat next to my toilet in the bathroom (or outside), and hold Tabby with her behind hanging over the toilet, resting her front half on my left thigh. (She is so used to it, sometimes she keeps a toy in her mouth during the whole thing.) With my right hand, I reach under her body and cup my thumb and fingers around her abdomen. I feel in her tummy for something that feels like a water balloon — that’s the bladder. I squeeze gently, mostly with my thumb and middle finger, with a sort of milking motion toward her tail, and the stream of urine comes out in a little arc. Success! After, I put her on the floor, she shakes her head, and “thumps” away. I actually have a little video of myself doing this, but haven’t figured out yet how to post it on the website.
Answer 2 (Male): I hold Luke vertically with my left arm while I stand outside, resting his bottom on my left thigh, with my left leg slightly bent. He looks at me with his enormous brown eyes and kisses my face. With my right hand (again thumb and middle finger), I squeeze around the base of his penis until I feel the “water balloon” of his bladder. (Luke has a bit more bladder muscular function, so he has little spurts instead of just a stream.) I get him started with a gentle squeeze and he does the rest. Then I make sure the bladder is empty by feeling that the bladder is flat. After, I put him down inside and he barks for a treat.
Question: Does it hurt?
Answer: No, it doesn’t hurt them at all. (Or me.) Luke has some muscular control, so sometimes he resists my squeeze with his abdominal muscles, but then he relaxes so he can pee.
Question: Can husbands learn to do it?
Answer: Yes, my husband can do it too. A common statement in my home is “Honey, have you squeezed Tabby since dinner?”
Question: What about the poop?
Answer: The poop is really different from the pee. (Boy, I never thought I’d write that sentence!) First of all, the poop will come out on its own, without you helping, and there’s no risk of it staying inside and causing infection.
With the bladder, you have to empty it often or the dog will become poisoned in its own waste. The pee will not come out by itself; it will only overflow what it CANNOT contain as more urine flows into the bladder from the kidneys. The rest stays put. That’s one reason why these dogs are so prone to urinary tract infections.
Back to the poop: With Tabby, I can feel whether there is anything in her bowel by feeling around her spinal column, near her tail. Tabby’s injury was so profound that she has NO muscle tone in her back half. Then I can squeeze the poop out like toothpaste. Luke has muscle tone in his back half, so I can’t feel his rectum like that. He just poops when he’s ready, and I clean up the floor. I give both of them fiber supplements so they have nice, tidy poops.
Question: How often do you wash your hands a day?
Answer: Countless times!
Question: Can you express a bladder while wearing formal, fancy, clothing?
Answer: Yes, I have done so many times: gotten dressed for a fancy event and then gone out in the back yard to “squeeze” the dogs right before we leave, in high heels and all.
Send any other questions my way! But the biggest thing to remember is, if this kind of injury happens to your dog, don’t let the intimidation of the bladder expression keep you from keeping him at home.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Jonah Potter
    Dec 22, 2009 @ 13:47:09

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