How to diagnose and treat incontinence in dogs.
Incontinence in dogs is the loss of ability to control the bladder. This may show up as just a few dribble marks on the dog’s bedding or spots on the carpet. Or it may be as severe as puddles of urine left all over the house.
The problem can afflict both male and female dogs, but typically is only a problem in older dogs. However, spayed female dogs as young as three years old may develop the problem.
Causes of Incontinence in Dogs
The most common cause of canine incontinence is caused by a hormone deficiency. Known as hormone-responsive incontinence, this condition arises when a dog loses the ability to produce sufficient hormones (testosterone in males and estrogen in females). These hormones are essential for control of the urethral sphincter, a band of muscle near the base of the bladder, which controls the release and retention of urine.
The production of these hormones naturally decreases as a dog ages, usually becoming apparent at age eight or nine. However, in neutered dogs, particularly spayed females, it may occur much earlier
There are also other forms of incontinence in addition to the hormone responsive variety. These include;
- Submissive urination: a behavioral problem where the dog responds to a stressful situation by assuming a submissive posture and releasing a small amount of urine.
- Overdistention of the bladder: this causes a partial obstruction that leads to dribbling.
- Kidney failure: in the case of kidney failure, the dog will drink a lot more than usual, causing incontinence problems.
- Neurogenic incontinence: caused by a disruption to the nerves that control the bladder, often as the result of a tumor, infection, or injury.
Treating Incontinence in Dogs
In many cases incontinence in dogs is treatable, so there’s no reason for you or your dog to suffer.
If your dog regularly has accidents, or dribbles urine, if he frequently licks at the genital area, or if you notice an increased water intake, it is time to see your vet.
The vet will need to conduct a number of tests to determine the cause of your dog’s incontinence and to rule out conditions such as diabetes, urinary tract infection, or kidney infection.
In addition, the vet will also do a urine analysis to check for bacteria. There may also be a need for blood tests and X-rays, to rule out other health issues that may be causing the problem.
Often, however, the culprit will be a hormone deficiency, and the good news is that these cases of incontinence are easily treated with hormone therapy.
If the cause is neurogenic, treatment will be more difficult, and may require long-term catheterization, combined with antibiotics to reduce the possibility of infection.
Incontinence in Dogs: Prevention
There’s not much you can do to prevent most forms of incontinence, other than to get your dog to a vet once you notice the symptoms.
The one exception is submissive urination, which is a behavioral issue and can therefore be addressed by training to improve the dogs level of confidence. Alternatively, you may want to keep the dog out of situations she finds stressful.
One thing you should never do is punish the dog for accidents. It doesn’t work and will only make the problem worse, which is a pity because incontinence in dogs is usually easy to cure.