Urinary Incontinence in Dogs: Causes and Treatments

Urinary incontinence is common among senior pets and special needs pets. Quite often, your dog may not even realize they’re having ‘accidents’. A urinary incontinent dog is a pet that while house trained begins to unintentionally leak urine. A urinary leak may be a few drops or a pool of urine that occurs unintentionally. Since your dog isn’t peeing in the house on purpose, behavioral training will not help and the only way to treat a dog’s incontinence is to seek medical guidance from your veterinarian.

Causes of Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

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Although incontinence can be a sign your pet is getting older, it can also be a symptom of a more serious medical condition. Pets can be incontinent for a variety of reasons and the causes of urinary incontinence can range from a simple bladder infection or a more serious condition like diabetes or Cushing’s disease. Handicapped and paralyzed pets often become incontinent due to a disruption in communication between the brain and spinal cord that causes a loss of bladder control.  Some of the most common causes of canine urinary incontinence include:

  • Diabetes
  • Weak bladder
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Spinal injury or degenerative spine condition
  • Neurological disease
  • Genetics
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Kidney disease
  • Urinary stones or urinary tract infections
  • Prostate conditions
  • Urethral sphincter induced incontinence (USMI) in female dogs

Incontinence problems and frequent urination are two very different issues. It’s important to understand that the causes of frequent peeing and the inability for a dog to hold their urine are very different. Your dog’s urinary issues can be painful if it’s difficult for your dog to pee, you see blood in urine or your dog is peeing small amounts more often, it’s time to visit the veterinarian. To determine what’s causing your dog’s urinary troubles your vet will likely schedule a urinalysis, blood tests, and possibly an ultrasound of  the urinary tract.

Incontinence Issues in Elderly Dogs

Senior dog incontinence can happen in any pet as they age, although it impacts a high percentage of elderly female dogs. Bladder leaks and incontinence is common in older dogs. As dogs age their urethral muscles lose strength which causes elderly dogs to have a harder time holding in urine. Overweight or obese pets are at a higher risk for becoming incontinent as they age. Other high risk senior dogs are those with abnormal bladder positioning, estrogen deficiency, and dogs who have experienced changes and muscle loss around the urethra .  

Common signs of senior dog incontinence:

  • Damp legs or wet patches
  • Persistent urine smell around dog or their bedding
  • Visible urine burns on your dog’s skin
  • Frequent licking around rear end and privates

Many age-related conditions can be linked to incontinence. Dogs that become senile or diagnosed with doggy Alzheimer’s are often unaware they’re urinating in the house. Most older dog bladder issues include peeing while asleep, dribbling urine while walking and leaving damp patches on furniture or bedding.

Managing Your Dog’s Urinary Incontinence

How you manage a dog’s urinary incontinence depends on the cause of their leaks. Medical treatment is possible, especially in cases of infection. A veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to  help treat bacterial infection, incontinence medication to increase muscle tone around the bladder, or hormone therapy for dogs whose incontinence is caused by a hormonal imbalance.

Proper Hygiene

Maintaining proper hygiene is vital to keeping your dog healthy. Prolonged exposure to urine and feces can lead to infection and urine burns. Dogs that are damp or wake up in a puddle of pee need to be cleaned immediately. Prolonged exposure to urine can cause painful urine burns that are difficult to treat.

Specially designed mesh pet beds will let your pet sleep comfortably as urine flows through the mesh into a tray below. This keeps your pet clean and eliminates the concern of urine burns.

Incontinent Dog Solutions

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Be prepared, bladder leaks and accidents in the house are going to happen when your pet incontinent. The best solution is to find the right way to handle your dog’s urine mess.

Remember the right approach may be change depending on the time of day, the length of time you leave your pet unattended, they mobility, and even the frequency or amount your dog pees. Be flexible, you may need to try many different diapers and styles of wraps until you find what works best for your pet.

Holistic and Natural Solutions

For pet parents looking for a more holistic approach to treating their dog’s incontinence may try the following natural remedies for canine incontinence:

  • Phytoestrogens – a soy-based holistic treatment for spay incontinence
  • Apple cider vinegar – proper dosage is important, too much apple cider vinegar may cause PH imbalances
  • Corn silk – acts as a mild diuretic and can be ingested as a pill or powder
  • Switching to a grain-free diet
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic care – proper alignment can reduce pressure and swelling around a dog’s bladder
  • More frequent walks outside

It’s important that you choose the right incontinence treatment for you and your pet. Always speak with your veterinarian to determine the right treatment plan for your dog. Just because your dog is struggling with bladder control, does not mean it’s the end. Dogs with incontinence and bladder control issues can live long, happy lives.

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