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Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

ASPCA logoUrinary incontinence occurs when a housetrained dog loses control of his bladder. This can range in severity from occasional small urine leaks to inadvertent voiding of a large amount of urine.

What Causes Urinary Incontinence in Dogs?

  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Weak bladder sphincter
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Urinary stones
  • Spinal injury or degeneration (frequently seen in German shepherds)
  • Protruding intervertebral disc
  • Prostate disorders
  • Presence of other diseases that cause excessive water consumption, such as diabetes, kidney disease, hyperadrenocorticism
  • Congenital abnormalities
  • Anatomic disorders
  • Certain medications

What Are the General Symptoms of Urinary Incontinence in Dogs?

Dripping urine, which can irritate the skin and cause redness, is one of the most recognizable symptoms of incontinence, as is excessive licking of the vulva or penis area. Pet parents may also notice the area where the dog sleeps is contaminated with urine.

What Should I Do If I Think My Dog Is Incontinent?

Consult with a veterinarian, who will confirm the diagnosis and try to determine a cause. The vet will take a thorough history, perform a physical exam and likely conduct a urinalysis to verify whether your dog is suffering from a bladder infection, which requires treatment with antibiotics. Other tests may include a urine culture, blood work, radiographs and ultrasound.

What Are Some Complications of Urinary Incontinence in Dogs?

Some bouts of urinary incontinence ebb and wane, but others can progress and cause more serious bladder and kidney infections.  A skin infection may result in areas that are in constant contact with urine.

Are Certain Dogs Prone to Urinary Incontinence?

Although urinary incontinence can afflict dogs of any age, breed or gender, it is most often seen in middle-aged to older spayed females; cocker spaniels, springer spaniels, Doberman pinschers and Old English sheepdogs are among the breeds often prone to incontinence.

How Is Urinary Incontinence Treated?

Treatment for incontinence will depend on its underlying cause. Medications can often effectively manage this condition and prevent everyday accidents. Some treatments focus on hormone therapy, while others, such as phenylpropanolamine, strengthen the urethral sphincter, which controls urine flow. Surgery also may be an option if medication alone doesn’t work. Collagen injections, a newer therapy for incontinence, appear to have promising results.

In cases of incontinence due to bladder stones, a protruding disc or congenital abnormality, surgery may be recommended.

How Can I Manage Urinary Incontinence?

  • Pile clean blankets and towels in your dog’s favorite sleeping spot, or put waterproof pads under her bedding to absorb any moisture.
  • Take your dog for more frequent walks, including first thing in the morning and shortly after she wakes from a nap.
  • Consider using doggie diapers, which are available at many pet stores.
  • Please consult with your vet before limiting your dog’s water intake.
  • Provide proper hygiene to prevent any related skin infections.
  • Always monitor your pet’s condition, since it can quickly accelerate to infection, especially in elderly dogs.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from the ASPCA

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