spring a leak: urinary incontinence in pets

Dr. Kim Smyth
Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Sep 27 2011
St. Bernard dog | Urinary incontinence in pets

Urinary incontinence is very common in older pets, especially female dogs. It can be troublesome for owners to deal with as well as embarrassing for our best friends. But most of the time, a quick fix is just around the corner.

The most important thing to do when dealing with a case of urinary incontinence is to make sure that it really is urinary incontinence. The classic case involves an involuntary leakage of urine.

For instance, your pet is curled up peacefully sleeping on your brand new couch, and when she gets up there’s a puddle of urine where she was sleeping. This is involuntary urination. Other things like submissive urination, behavior problems, loss of house training and urine marking are voluntary urinations and must be ruled out.

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So, after we’ve decided that it actually is urinary incontinence, we have to then figure out why it is happening. Often, the culprit is simply a weak bladder sphincter, which happens with age. But there are other more sinister causes of incontinence that have to be ruled out.

Ruling out the risks

Urinary tract infections and bladder stones are often behind incontinence, so the very first thing your veterinarian will probably do is perform a urinalysis. An X-ray may be needed to rule out bladder stones. If an infection is found, antibiotics will be prescribed and once the infection is cleared, the incontinence should clear as well.

Unfortunately, bladder cancer can also be the cause of incontinence. Abnormal bladder cells may show up in the urinalysis and your veterinarian will probably want to perform an ultrasound of your pet’s bladder to assess the health.

Puppy potty problems

Urinary incontinence isn’t limited to our senior friends. Ectopic ureters, or ureters that are in the wrong place, are a common cause of incontinence in puppies.

The tubes that form the passage way for urine from the kidneys to the bladder sometimes enter the bladder in the wrong place. When this happens, urine will constantly leak as it is produced. Ectopic ureters are seldom the cause for incontinence in older dogs.

Finally, anything that increases the amount of urine produced can lead to incontinence. If your pet’s bladder is full, she may have trouble holding it. Diseases that cause her to drink more water (like diabetes, kidney or liver disease and Cushing’s disease) will also cause her to produce more urine. Incontinence will not subside until those diseases are controlled.

If your pet has developed a little leak, try not to worry. Like I said before, most often the culprit is age. All urinary incontinence warrants a trip to the vet, just to make sure nothing more serious is occurring. If age-related incontinence is found in your pet, oral medications can be quite helpful in controlling leaks.

In rare, severe cases, surgery can be pursued, and if all else fails, there are pet diapers (both for males and females) that will do the trick!

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