When a pet owner gets the news that his dog has lost the ability to control her bladder, it can cause a feeling of panic. But learning to express your dog’s bladder just takes time and patience.
Some dogs experience urinary incontinence due to an accident or injury, which may be temporary. Others lose control permanently due to disease or aging. Whatever the case may be, take the time to develop your own technique with your dog. What seemed like an insurmountable problem can become just a routine part of the day.
Use steady even pressure when expressing your dog, and use the same command every time you do it. Try to be calm! Soon, both you and your dog will have figured this out together.
Watch this video for an excellent introduction on how to express your dog’s bladder, thanks to the Southeast Veterinary Neurology of Miami:
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. The dog may lift her tail when the right spot is squeezed.
5. 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.
How to express a medium or large sized dog
1. Place your hands on the pet’s sides behind the rib cage. Rest your thumbs lightly on the dog’s back.
2. Apply steady, gentle pressure squeezing inward and upward. Do NOT put pressure directly on an injured spine, especially if the dog has disk disease.
3. 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.
Expressing a disabled dog
1. While a disabled dog may need the wheelchair for mobility, a cart can serve double duty as an expressing aid. Reach under the dog to place your hands on the waist in front of the thighs.
2. Try to feel the bladder by pressing into the sides with your fingertips. When you locate it, squeeze your hands together to begin expressing.
3. Notice how far the waist is being pushed in as the dog is expressed.
Express, rest, and repeat until no more urine is produced.
If a dog is large or heavy, he or she can be supported in a wheelchair, just as with a disabled dog. This piece of equipment works very well as an expressing station.
You can also create an expressing station in other ways. One pet owner created an expressing station on her back porch using a small metal hook, a clothes line, and small pulleys to hook up the line. A clip was attached to one end of the line to clip into a dog’s walking harness. Step on the line to hold it steady.
Another pet owner designed a simple expressing station using a two-leg ladder, a bar, and a sling. On the bar, he put nails at several locations (to later fix the sling handles and adjust the height of the sling that holds the abdomen of the dog).
First, use the sling to help the dog stand up and get under the ladder. Once there, extend the bar through the two handles of the sling. Then rest the bar on one step of the ladder at one side, and then to the other side of the ladder. Adjust the sling height using the nails placed at different positions on the bar. Then, let go of the sling and allow it to hold the dog.
You can now use both hands to express the dog’s bladder. The whole process takes only five minutes or so to accomplish, once you get the hang of it. And with the help of the expressing station, one person can do easily this alone.
Expressing with fists for firmer pressure
Some people (especially women) find that it helps if you make a fist with each hand. Then, use the open face of the fist (thumbs pointing forward) or knuckle to knuckle (thumbs pointing toward yourself when expressing). Using the whole fist allows you to use more pressure spread over a larger area than just the fingertips.
Firm pressure is necessary in the beginning, but once you get your dog going, you’ll have no more trouble!
Express all you can, wait a moment, and then do it again, multiple times in each session. You can only feel the bladder when it is not abnormally distended. Find the spot that works for your dog, and repeat the actions numerous times each session.
There is another way to empty the bladder that works for some pets. It may be useful on a short-term or emergency basis. It involves external stimulation of the pet’s genital area to encourage urination, as a mother cat does with tiny kittens.
When expressing the bladder, you control how completely the bladder is emptied, but with external stimulation you are limited to how well the pet can empty the bladder on her own. External stimulation may cause the pet to wet on your hand, which does not happen with expressing.
If your vet has shown you how to express your pet and you are unable to do it properly, ask for another demonstration. If you are in a situation where your pet’s bladder needs to be emptied and you have not been shown how to express or catheterize your pet, this method may help temporarily until you can see a vet.
Here are some additional references on expressing a pet: