Dog urinary incontinence is the involuntary passing of urine. Breeds most often affected are Fox Terrier, Labrador Retriever, Miniature Poodle, Welsh Corgi, Wire-haired West Highland White Terrier and Siberian Husky. Urinating or wetting pattern changes are signals of dog urinary incontinence.
Do not confuse canine urinary incontinence with submissive urination or leaking, when a dog is acting submissive to a person or another dog. When over-excited, fearful, or being punished, dogs sometimes have accidents. Over-excited wetting is best ignored. Stay calm, don’t punish.
Infection, irritation or inflammations weaken the mucous lining of the bladder and urethra, weakening the dog’s defense against infective agents. Females are most susceptible. A urine bacterial culture will reveal an infection.
Dog urinary incontinence can result from abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord controlling bladder function, evidenced by the dog dribbling or unable to pass urine, often with other signs of nervous system disease.
Entopic ureter(s) is a defect that causes dog urinary incontinence. If a birth defect is suspected, a dye study, X-rays, or ultrasound of the bladder and/or urinary tract is usually performed.
Infections may be a secondary cause.
Young dogs with ectopic ureter(s) may have bladder infections that will improve with antibiotics. However, infections will return until the problem is corrected. Infections induce a strong urge to urinate, possibly causing urination in abnormal locations and/or very frequently. Prolonged infection before treatment can cause scarring of the bladder, preventing it from stretching to hold urine. This is not urinary incontinence in the true sense since the dog knows it is urinating. Blood tests may be performed to look for kidney damage from infection or diseases that might lead to increased urine production and urinary incontinence.
Abnormal openings to the vagina can be a cause for incontinence. The condition vulvovaginal stenosis is diagnosed by feeling the vagina with a gloved finger — the vagina is narrowed where the urethra ends. Urine gets trapped in the vagina in front of this narrowing, and urine pours out when getting up. The narrowing can be stretched under anesthesia. However, the dog’s incontinence may not resolve, other defects are sometimes present. A urethral stone is the most common cause of blockage, but cancerous or other growths can produce incontinence as well as Cushing’s disease, diabetes and renal failure.
Total blockage of urine flow is usually fatal in 3-4 days. Polyuria and other diseases may cause a dog to create more urine than normal. More often with female dogs, hormone-responsive urinary incontinence can occur months to years after neutering. Dobermans commonly suffer from “spay incontinence,” beginning sometime after the spay surgery. Blood and urine tests are usually normal in these pets; the dog will urinate as normal, but leak urine while resting. Geriatric urinary incontinence is caused by a weakening of the muscles, senility, reduced bladder capacity or control. Treatment may resolve the incontinence, and behavioral problems can be corrected with training that modifies the behavior.
What to tell the veterinarian before treatment:
- When did incontinence first appear?
- Occurs at rest or with activity?
- Can the dog urinate normally?
- Any blood in urine, dark-colored urine, smelly urine?
- Frequency of urination?
- Does the dog seem uncomfortable when urinating?
- How much water does the dog drink?
- Previous illness?
- Any medications, e.g. diuretics, anticonvulsants or prednisone?
- Surgeries? (e.g. neutering)
- Signs of nervous system disease, weakness or seizures?
Estrogen, ephedrine, phenylpropanolamine: these drugs can have side effects, so low doses are tried first and may be slow to have effect. As long as there are no undesirable side effects, a drug trial should continue for several weeks before it is deemed ineffective.
Pros: Relatively inexpensive, for dogs with only occasional problems with urinary incontinence; effective with females and elderly spayed years previous; easy to administer, drops on food.
Cons: Not always effective. Possible side effects are irritability, nervousness, panting, restlessness, rapid heartbeat, and excitability.
Pros: Easy to administer (small pill); high success rate; used with propaline if needed for stronger treatment.
Cons: Possible side effects.
Pros: May stimulate the body into working; a type of hormone replacement.
Cons: Long term use may pose serious health risks.
Pros: Success rate is good when drug treatments have failed.
Cons: Expensive, painful; long recuperation period.