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Urinary Incontinence: A Practical Guide for Dog Owners

Urinary Incontinence: A Practical Guide for Dog Owners

As dogs get older, they may start to develop similar conditions to the ones some elderly people get. Urinary or urethral incontinence is one of the common age-related issues, and it’s as impossible for your dog to manage or prevent as it is for a person. Discover the facts behind your dog’s incontinence, and learn how to handle it with the tact and compassion that will keep your pet comfortable during his or her senior years. While urinary incontinence is unusual in younger dogs, it can also occur in disabled pets or with certain medical conditions. 

Causes of Canine Urinary Incontinence

Bladder or urinary incontinence in dogs is commonly caused by a hormonal imbalance, a urinary tract infection, or a prostate disorder in male dogs. These can often be addressed by getting medical attention, but other causes that are more challenging include:

  • weak bladder sphincter
  • urinary stones
  • spinal injury or degeneration
  • protruding intervertebral disc
  • diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease, or hyperadrenocorticism, all of which cause dogs to drink large quantities of water
  • congenital or inherited abnormalities
  • some prescription dog medications

Urethral incontinence is found in more than one-fifth (20%) of all spayed female dogs. It develops most commonly in middle-aged to senior medium and large breed dogs, although any male or female dog can be affected if the condition is inherited or caused by a disability. 

How to Recognize Urinary Incontinence Symptoms

Since there can be many reasons why your dog produces urine unexpectedly, it’s important to differentiate between urinary incontinence and issues such as poor housetraining or “submissive urination,” which require completely different approaches. 

If you find wet spots on your dog’s bedding, or on the floor where he (or she) has been lying, this is a sign that he may no longer have adequate muscle control. Another indication is urine dribbling behind the dog as he walks, or after he has urinated. In most cases, the dog will not be aware of the urine.

An alternative sign that your dog may be struggling with urinary issues is skin irritation and redness, particularly down the inner surface of the hind legs or around the genital area. This can be made worse by excessive licking, which is usually the dog’s attempt to relieve the irritation. 

Treatment Options for Your Pet’s Incontinence

Treatments depend on finding the root cause of the urinary incontinence, and your veterinarian will look into all possible reasons for it. To diagnose the issue, s/he will give the dog a physical examination, take a urine culture to check for lesions, and potentially perform a urethral pressure profile (UPP) test to determine the strength of the bladder. X-rays might also be taken to determine whether any masses are present that could be causing the problem. 

Once the reason for the incontinence is identified, treatment options could include:

  • Hormone therapy, 
  • Referral to an animal chiropractor to correct,
  • Surgery to remove bladder stones or correct a disc or spinal abnormality, or
  • Medications such as antibiotics for urinal infections or phenylpropanolamine* to strengthen the urethral sphincter. 

*When it comes to phenylpropanolamine, Proin is the brand most commonly prescribed for dogs, but it has unpleasant side effects so I don’t recommend it. 

In some cases, collagen injections have shown promise by acting as a bulking agent to help reduce leakage. The dog may still need other medication after this procedure, but it has proved to be beneficial when drugs alone were ineffective. 

Home Care for Your Dog

Meanwhile, there are a number of things you can do to give your dog relief from his symptoms, and to manage the issue so it doesn’t become a cause of frustration in the home:

  1. Reduce skin irritation by bathing your dog often, and try a mild saltwater rinse on the inflamed areas to soothe the redness. Natural dog supplements can help support the dog’s immune system from within, and reduce the risk of triggering an allergic reaction to the inflammation. 
  2. Take the dog out often or give him frequent access to a potty area to avoid accumulating urine in the bladder. This will decrease the chance of “accidents,” which can be very stressful to an older dog or one who has been trained his whole life to avoid soiling the home. 
  3. Provide absorbent bedding materials so that if spotting or pooling does occur, he isn’t forced to lie in the wetness. This can cause skin infections, irritation, and could spread the liquid all over the house for you to slip on or to cause odors to develop. 
  4. Many dogs are quite comfortable wearing a dog diaper, and if you have a large quantity of leakage this may be the answer for your pet.  

In some instances, you may have to simply live with the problem, but always remain aware that incontinence is not the dog’s fault. Most of the time, dogs are completely unaware that they are affected, and avoid any form of reprimand that can cause your dog anxiety. 

Learn more about Dr. Garber’s Canine Skin & Allergy bioformula.

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