leaky dogs: a primer on urinary incontinence - part 1
Does your dog awake from her sleep in a puddle of urine? Does she dribble urine when she stands up or is walking about? If so, she has involuntary urine leakage, known as urinary incontinence.
Not only can this be bothersome and even embarrassing (dare I anthropomorphize) for the dog, it is truly a huge cleanup nightmare for the humans who live with a leaky dog. Urinary incontinence often results in frustrated attempts to use diapers, many loads of laundry, and irrational reprimands for the poor dog who has no control over the situation. Worst-case scenario, the dog who normally sleeps beside her master’s bed, is banished to the backyard.
The good news is, for most dogs, the leaking can be stopped or markedly diminished with appropriate therapy. But first, the cause of the incontinence must be established with appropriate diagnostic testing performed by a veterinarian.
What your vet will want to know
If you have a leaky dog, be prepared to answer the following questions during your appointment:
1. When did the incontinence begin?
2. When is the leakage typically observed – during sleep or with activity, before or after urinating outside?
3. Is your dog drinking more water than normal? Ideally measure how much water she drinks during a 24-hour time period. Normal water intake during 24 hours should be no more than one ounce per pound of the dog’s body weight per day.
4. Does the act of urination appear normal in terms of time spent squatting, strength of urine stream, and appearance and odor of urine?
5. Are there any other observed symptoms such as difficulty passing a bowel movement or hind end weakness?
6. Has there been a recent change in diet or addition of medications or supplements?
7. Have you ever lived with a leaky dog? What was the diagnosis and what was the outcome?
Your veterinarian will be able to use this information to help diagnose the cause of your dog’s incontinence.
Urinary incontinence vs. normal urination
When urine travels from the bladder (its holding reservoir) to the outside world it passes through a rather narrow tubular channel called the urethra. A muscular sphincter is present right at the point where the urethra connects with the bladder. It is this urethral sphincter that prevents urine leakage by remaining tightly closed. When the brain sends a signal that it is time to urinate, the bladder contracts at the same time the sphincter relaxes thus allowing urine to flow.
Many different factors can cause interruption to this process, resulting in a leaky friend. In the next blog, we’ll take a look at some of the different types of urinary incontinence, predisposing factors to be aware of, and treatments available to keep your pets high and dry.