When is bladder expression needed?
If your IVDD-affected dog is not managing to pee on his own, then your vet may ask you to express (squeeze out) his bladder. The aim is to get your dog through these tricky few days to weeks by emptying his bladder regularly. Hopefully he’ll eventually manage to pee on his own again. It’s important not to let the bladder become so full that it’s overstretched, as this can cause it some long term damage.
How to express your dog’s bladder
The basic technique for emptying the bladder is quite straightforward. Always give your dog a good chance to pee naturally first (carry him to a suitable patch of ground outside, and let him walk on a lead for up to a few minutes, with support from a hindquarter sling if needed). To express the bladder, Start with your dog positioned on a non-slip surface in a supported standing position. Most people find it easier to use two hands to express their dog’s bladder to start with, so have someone else there to distract him from in front. Place a hand on each side of your dog’s belly, and use the flat parts of your hands to apply slow, steady pressure to empty the bladder. Avoid digging your fingertips in, or trying to overpower your dog. For a demonstration, try this link.
In some dogs, the bladder is full but it simply won’t empty even with quite firm pressure. In which case take your hands off, let your dog relax for a moment, then try again. If you still can’t express your dog’s bladder, then ask your vet what to do. Your dog might need medication to make it easier for the bladder to empty. Or your vet may need to pass a catheter into the bladder so as to empty it. In the early stages, it’s sometimes necessary to admit the dog to the hospital and have a catheter kept in place for a few days (an indwelling catheter).
Where to express your dog’s bladder
The best place to express your dog’s bladder is on the ground outdoors, with your dog supported in a standing position on soil, bark chips or short grass. Expressing the bladder outdoors will help your dog to associate peeing with being outdoors, thus helping him return to normal function more easily.
If you must express your dog’s bladder indoors, then stand him on an incontinence pad, or have him resting or standing on a non-slip mat while you express the bladder into a dish or onto some disposable padding. Do not dangle your dog over a drain, toilet or sink while expressing his bladder. A dangling position leaves him feeling helpless, may be unsafe for his spine, and it teaches him nothing about how to learn to pee again.
As the IVDD inflammation settles down, your dog will hopefully start to be able to control his own pee again. This may take days, weeks or even months, but it’s important to help your dog learn. Set him up for success by doing the bladder expression with your dog supported in a standing position, ideally on a suitable patch of ground outdoors.