Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Urination, Straining or Difficulty

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

  • If you notice signs of colic, along with this sign.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) in the resting horse indicate fever (Temp >101F/38.3C) or heart rate greater than 48 BPM.

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

A normal horse produces a strong urine stream that rapidly empties the bladder. Difficulty urinating can be caused by a number of conditions affecting the bladder or the urethra, the tube that carries urine out from the bladder. Urethral problems are more common in male horses because their urethra is much longer and more likely to be blocked by stones or growths. Occasionally, either sex will urinate very small amounts of urine, or appear to strain.

A horse having difficulty urinating might have a weak and turbulent stream. They might stretch out with little urine voided, or groan when they are urinating. Horses that are ill from other causes, especially conditions causing abdominal pain (colic), may appear to be having difficulty urinating.

Horse owners are often confused by this behavior in horses demonstrating abdominal (colic) pain. If the posturing to urinate is a result of abdominal pain, the sign will improve when the underlying intestinal condition resolves or is corrected. Straining to urinate can also be caused by a blockage due to bladder stone, blood clot, or pressure from a mass on bladder or urethra, any of which can be a veterinary emergency.

WHAT TO DO

Pay attention to the color and amount of the urine produced. Try to catch some with a cup if you can and save it for your vet to examine. Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), and look for other signs of illness or injury. Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet will assess your horse’s overall health to get a sense of the nature of the problem, and then move on to rule out conditions of the urinary tract.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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