What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Urination, Straining or Difficulty


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.

  • 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.
You also might be observing
Very Common
Less Common
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your role


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 Not To Do

Do not give your horse diuretics without first consulting your vet.

your vet's role

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.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Does the horse's attitude and appetite seem normal?
  • Do you notice blood in the horse's urine?
  • What is the appearance of the horse's urine?
  • Are you seeing other signs of abdominal pain (colic)?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • Do you notice the horse dribbling urine?
  • Does the horse's urine stream seem slow or weak?
  • Does your horse drop his penis down when he urinates?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

Very Common
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Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP