Overview of Symptoms: Canine Urinary Incontinence
Incontinence in dogs is a term used to describe urination or bladder control problems. Typically this includes urinary problems such as leaking, dribbling, urination at night when sleeping, and urination in the home. The cause can be simply due to declining levels of muscle control in older dogs, muscle control issues in spayed females due to hormonal issues, other problems such as kidney disease, or even nerve problems.
The problem is most often seen in female dogs who are suffering from a condition called urethral sphincter mechanism (USMI). This condition usually sets in after your dog has been spayed (ovariohysterectomy).
It is possible for male dogs and female dogs that have not been spayed to suffer from this condition.
The most indicative symptom of USMI is urine which is leaking from your dog.
If your dog has other symptoms such as feces or bowel problems, see our guide to canine fecal incontinence.
Diagnosis of Canine Urinary Incontinence
Your veterinarian will do a physical exam and will want to see your dog urinate. She will look at the amount of urine, the force of the stream and if the stream comes out in dribs and drabs. Your dog's bladder will be checked to see if it emptied completely (by feeling the area of your dog's body). If a physical exam doesn't reveal any problems, then x-rays or ultrasound might be used.
Tests will be conducted on the urine itself (urinalysis) to look for signs of bacterial infection and unusual amounts of crystals. The concentration of the urine will be examined to see if the levels of urea are correct.
It is possible that dogs with USMI can develop infection since the urinary system is not working normally.
Treatment of Canine Urinary Incontinence
If the urinalysis shows that your dog has a bacterial infection, this will be treated first since the infection itself could be the cause of the problem. Antibiotics are an effective approach for killing off the bacteria.
If your dog frequently gets urinary infections, you could try a natural homeopathic approach such as PetAlive UTI-Free Formula to support the urinary system and help establish a normal PH.
If you dog is suffering from USMI, then certain prescription medications can be tried to help improve muscle tone. Hormone therapy may also help. Medications that are frequently used are Diethylstilbestrol, Premarin (estrogen), Phenylpropanolamine (watch for side effects such as blood pressure and anxiety) and pseudoephedrine.
Treatment for urethral sphincter mechanism cannot be cured and will continue for the life of your dog. If medications do not work, there is a surgical alternative called colposuspension where the bladder is repositioned. Collagen injections in the area may also help.
There is a homeopathic remedy that targets muscle tone and help to temporarily strengthen the bladder. It is called PetAlive Better-Bladder Control and is worth researching as a natural complement to other approaches.
Home Approaches for Helping Canine Urinary Incontinence
If your dog leaks while sleeping you might want to try providing a smaller amount of water for your dog at night. Don't eliminate water all together as this could be dangerous. You could also try taking your dog for a walk every time he or she wakes up. Increased walking will encourage more urination outdoors which will help the urination problem and is a common method for preventing infection and stones.
Consider keeping your dog on a predictable eating and walking schedule. For example, if you feed your dog 3x a day, take him or her for a walk after each meal. Your dog will get into a urination pattern that may help.
If you believe that the canine urinary incontinence is a behavioral issue such as nerves or stress when you are away, consider confining your dog to a crate or cage. The familiarity of the area may keep your dog from being stressed since he or she can anticipate where she will be and what will happen. Dogs tend not to urinate where they sleep, so she will learn to hold it in until you return.
If all else fails you can consider purchasing dog diapers. Make sure your dog doesn't walk around in a wet diaper to avoid skin conditions such as moist dermatitis.
Lulich JP, Osborne CA, Bartges JW, et al.
Canine lower urinary tract disorders
Ettinger SJ,Feldman EC, eds.
Textbook of veterinary internal medicine.
5th ed. Philadelphia: WB Saunders
The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Dogs and Cats