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Key takeaways

Dark urine is commonly observed in dogs, and is often normal.

  • The color of urine varies for healthy pets, but some illnesses and injuries can contribute to a color change in the urine along with other symptoms
  • Conditions associated with dark urine include any illness or injury that causes bleeding into the urinary tract, damages muscle or red blood cells, as well as some types of immune-mediated diseases, diseases affecting the liver or kidneys, and some types of poisoning
  • Dark urine is classified by the substance present in the urine to cause the color change, such as blood or bile pigments
  • Diagnosis of potential causes for dark urine may include physical examination, bloodwork, urinalysis and diagnostic imaging
  • Treatment depends on the nature of the underlying condition
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A closer look: Dark Urine in Dogs

Healthy urine presents in a spectrum of colors and most of the time color changes are of no significance. It is not common for a dog to have a condition where dark urine is the only observation, as it typically occurs along with other symptoms.

The presence of dark urine is not considered a medical emergency, but if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as straining to urinate, it requires immediate veterinary attention.

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Possible causes

Color changes in urine are a normal indicator of the constantly fluctuating state of a healthy dog’s internal organs throughout the day. For example, the first morning urination is the most concentrated and therefore is often darker in color.

There are some instances where a color change can be directly associated with specific underlying factors, such as dehydration and some types of medication.

Conditions that cause blood or other pigment in the urine are much more serious.

Note that in any case, dark urine in and of itself is not cause for concern. When dark urine is related to a more serious condition, other, more severe symptoms, are expected.

Risk factors

Dark urine in dogs in dogs may be characterized by:

  • Frequency: how often is the dark urine present? Is it regular or occasional?
  • Development: did the dark urine suddenly arise (acute) or has it been present long-term (chronic)?
  • Specific timing: does it happen throughout the voiding or only at the beginning or end of the stream?

Dark urine can also be classified upon testing according to the substance in the urine that gives it the dark color: blood, hemoglobin, bilirubin, or myoglobin.

Testing and diagnosis

The color of urine is not diagnostic itself, so a dog presenting with dark urine and other symptoms will need the some or all of the following diagnostics to determine the root cause and best course of action:

  • Physical examination
  • Urinalysis
  • Bloodwork
  • Diagnostic Imaging

Treatment will depend on the underlying cause. For example a urinary tract infection will be treated with antibiotics, and bladder stones may be treated with either diet or surgery. Some causes of dark urine, like what occurs after a day of extreme exercise, resolve on their own.

Similar symptoms

Dark urine is self-evident and not easily mistaken for other symptoms. The more common mistake to make is assuming dark urine means a dog is sick. The color of urine is highly subjective and varies for completely healthy dogs.

Associated symptoms

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