Straining to Urinate (Stranguria) in Horses

Published on
Last updated on
2 min read

Key takeaways

Straining to urinate (stranguria) describes when horses require an abnormally high degree of effort to void the bladder of urine. Horses experiencing difficulty urinating may strain while doing so, presenting with discomfort in the process.

  • Straining horses may seem to stretch or groan while producing a small or inconsistent stream of urine
  • Stranguria often coincides with colic, and is associated with conditions affecting the urinary tract, including renal failure, toxicosis, herpesvirus, and grass sickness
  • Horses straining to urinate benefit from veterinary attention, and if no urine is passing at all then emergency intervention is indicated
  • Diagnostics include a physical examination, bloodwork, rectal examination, diagnostic imaging, and urinalysis
  • Treatment varies depending on the underlying condition, and may include fluid therapy, antibiotics, or surgery
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A closer look: Straining to Urinate (Stranguria) in Horses

Straining to urinate is uncommon, although more common in male horses. Horses that are straining to urinate but are otherwise healthy benefit from veterinary intervention, however it is unlikely to be severe.

Horses not producing any urine or presenting with other symptoms such as colic require emergency intervention.

Possible causes

Risk factors

Severity of stranguria varies depending on urinary production. Horses not producing urine require emergency intervention compared to horses still producing urine.

Stranguira can also be intermittent or persistent.

Straining to urinate also varies in how much strain is evident. More severe discomfort may lead to colic.

Since straining to urinate is commonly associated with disease or dysfunction of the urinary tract, horses at higher risk of urinary tract disorder are at higher risk of straining to urinate. The symptom is more common in male horses.

Testing and diagnosis

Diagnostics include:

  • A physical examination
  • Bloodwork
  • Rectal examination
  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Urinalysis

Treatment depends on the underlying cause. These vary, but may include:

  • Medication, such as antibiotics or anti-inflammatories.
  • Surgery
  • Supportive fluid therapy

If a patient is unable to urinate at all a catheter may be required during the recovery process.

Similar symptoms

Stranguira is self evident, as horses have a unique urinary posture.

Associated symptoms


No Author - Writing for Horse Side Vet Guide
No Author - Writing for Horse Side Vet Guide
Amy Johnson, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM - Writing for The Horse

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