Why your dog may be leaking urine and what to do about it.
Canine urinary incontinence is when a house-trained or litter-box trained dog loses control of his or her bladder and so ‘leaks’. This is extremely unpleasant for both you and your dog and it can affect animals of any gender, age or breed. There are a number of common causes of canine incontinence and fortunately importantly for your sanity and the cleanliness of your house, there are treatment options. Tom Farrington MRCVS., MVB., VetMFHom, gives an overview of the possible causes of incontinence in dogs and your treatment options.
Symptoms of incontinence in dogs
• Involuntary urine leakage. It’s important to note that puppy incontinence is generally temporary and usually only involves leaking when the puppy is excited or submissive. Most puppies grow out of this
• Wet hair on the lower abdominal area, or between the rear legs
• Wet spots or puddles in the bedding or sleeping area
• Urinary tract infections
• Inflammation of the skin around the genitals
• A smell of ammonia from the stale urine
• Staining on the hair on the lower abdominal area, or between the rear legs
• Wet spots left as the dog rises
• Constant licking of the area between the hind legs or behind them in females and in males constant cleaning of the penis due to what one would assume is a trickling sensation
Causes of incontinence in dogs
There are several possible common causes of urinary incontinence in dogs, the six most common of which include:
• Hormone imbalance – In middle-aged to older spayed females, a hormonal imbalance can cause incontinence. One out of 5 spayed female dogs can be affected by incontinence, which usually develops about 3 years after the surgery. It is seen less frequently, but is also possible, in young females and older neutered males where hormonal incontinence is caused by a deficiency of estrogen (in females) or testosterone (in males). Both of these hormones are important in maintaining muscle tone of the urethral sphincter.
• Infections – Urinary tract infections (UTI’s) will make your dog feel an increasing need to eliminate urine more frequently than usual. Apart from this, the whole urination process can become very difficult and uncomfortable for him or her, which can cause anxiety and stress which further amplifies the problem. Bladder infections can also be included in this category where a prolonged bladder infection can actually scar the bladder and deter it from holding urine normally.
• Spinal column and spinal cord injury or disease – Problems of the spine, including arthritis, deficient alignment of the vertebrae or other disc issues can cause neurological problems which interfere with the proper functions of the urinary tract and the intestines.
• Old age is another common cause of incontinence in dogs, not only from probable urethral sphincter weakness but also possibly from the onset of senility.
• The presence of other diseases that cause excessive water consumption, such as diabetes, kidney disease, hyperadrenocorticism. A high salt or sugar intake. Cancer at the neck of the bladder preventing the sphincter closing.
• Obesity – a common risk factor for incontinence in dogs, obesity influences incontinence in two ways. First, it’s a determining factor for diseases like diabetes, kidney failure and kidney stones which cause an increased water intake. Obesity can also mess up the hormone levels in your dog’s body, which act like neurotransmitters and tell the bladder when it’s full. Apart from this, obesity is also correlated with an increased risk of infections that are directly linked to incontinence.
What to do if your dog becomes incontinent
The first thing to do if your dog starts to exhibit symptoms of incontinence is to pay a visit to your veterinarian, so he or she can assist in an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan. Your vet will ask you a lot of questions and perform a complete physical exam and will more than likely order tests on your dog’s urine to check for signs of urinary tract infection and other abnormalities, as well as blood work to rule out conditions such as diabetes. Imaging such as X-rays or an ultrasound may also be needed as it can even be related to certain cancers due to a condition which is known as the hypercalcemia of malignancy – a condition that is easily overlooked in a dog that otherwise may appear healthy.
Your vet’s diagnosis will determine the treatment plan put in place for your dog. For example, antibiotics may be prescribed to tackle a causal infection; hormone replacements may be advised if your dog has been neutered or has developed urinary incontinence because of old age; or for serious medical cases, surgery may be performed to remove a bladder or tract obstruction, for reparation of the bladder or urinary tract or to tackle a spinal cord injury.
However, there are several other steps that you can take to help to manage your dog’s incontinence naturally and comfortably.
As with humans, obesity is a very serious health issue for dogs and can lead to life-long and life-threatening illnesses. Several of these can contribute to or directly cause incontinence issues, as the excess fat leaves no space in the abdomen for the bladder to fill normally. Diet is only part of the health equation however, and in order to maintain (or lose) weight, an increase in activity is also necessary in order to meet any weight loss goals, but be careful with overweight dogs who have spinal problems!
This should never be restricted without consulting your veterinarian as it can have serious consequences for patients with diabetes, kidney disease and even on certain conventional drugs. That said, it can be a useful method to stop overflow incontinence at night in dogs with weak bladder control where you take away the water a few hours before bedtime and reintroduce it as soon as your dog wakes up. An even less restrictive approach is to put out a block of ice that slowly melts overnight, allowing some access to water but not enough to cause overflow.
If your geriatric dog has intentionally stopped going out or using his litter box, help him out a bit by adding more litter boxes to the environment, or move the bed closer to the door out or to the litter box. By doing this, your dog will have a shorter distance to travel and it will be easier for him to relieve himself properly. If your dog has forgotten where the litter lives, remind him from time to time by taking him there. For older dogs, make sure you include more frequent walks – especially first thing in the morning when your dog awakens and last thing before bedtime. Pile clean blankets and towels in your dog’s favorite sleeping spots and consider putting waterproof pads under bedding to absorb any moisture and of course some plastic sheeting to protect the surface underneath all the protective measures
Consider using doggie diapers, which are available at many pet stores. Although your dog may not be particularly fond of wearing these at first, we would highly recommend them over the need to clean furniture or carpeting frequently or put an otherwise happy dog to sleep. The good news is your dog will adjust relatively quickly to wearing these and a natural helping hand from Homeopet’s Anxiety Relief can help him or her get over any anxiety humps during the early days.
There are a number of natural medicines available from your local pet store, or through many good online retailers that can help tackle the issue of incontinence in your dog.
HomeoPet Feline UTI+ helps provide relief from symptoms of urinary tract disease in cats by easing burning, supporting kidney function and tackling the anxiety often at the root of the problem. While this product is designed specifically for cats, in my own personal experience and through use in my veterinary practice I have found that it can work equally well in dogs under similar circumstances and being fully homeopathic, is perfectly safe.
The ingredients in Feline UTI+ have drug monographs covering burning straining, difficult or inappropriate urination; urine with a range of abnormalities from having blood through mucous and pus to odor and color changes, either with or without the presence of crystals gravel or stones. Chronic and acute complaints such as cystitis and nephritis may also obtain relief from the addition of Homeopet Feline UTI+ which can be used in combination with conventional medications or in less severe self-limiting cases (those which would recover naturally) on its own, helping reduce chemical toxicity and the systemic disturbance caused by medications. Feline UTI+ is easily administered and should be dropped directly on to the mucous membrane of the mouth, including the lips, by raising the head until the mouth opens. Where an animal finds this distressful or you are unable to comply, the medication can be put in the food, water, or as a last resort well-diluted milk as in some cases milk can aggravate bladder conditions.
HomeoPet Leaks No More is a natural medicine that can provide relief for urinary incontinence or leaking that occurs in older dogs and spayed females/neutered males. Easily administered in a similar manner to Feline UTI+ above, Leaks No More is a great way to support any other treatments that your veterinarian may recommend for your dog as there are no known adverse effects or contraindications, other than the reversible effect of over dosage. Leaks No More contains a unique combination of homeopathic ingredients which have been used for centuries to support health and wellbeing and can help to support your pet through the challenge of incontinence.
HomeoPet Joint Stress is a natural medicine and might seem an odd addition to an article on Urinary Incontinence. However, those who have had back pain would be able to tell you they do occasionally leave it too long before going to the toilet…and the same is often true for our pets. Such delays can lead to your cat being unable to get to the toilet area in time, which often leads to sudden large spills on the floor. HomeoPet Joint Stress supports joint mobility right across the body and can provide relief in some such cases of “incontinence”.
Verde Pet Health Canine Calming Soft Chews is a natural supplement which can provide relief from anxiety. As a proportion of Urinary issues are related to anxiety, including the introduction of pet diapers (nappies), the introduction of these tasty chews can help ease some of these issues in a gentle natural way.
Urinary incontinence in dogs can have many causes and accurate diagnosis by your vet is key to effective treatment. Fortunately, there are many things that can be done to help alleviate the situation and improve your dog’s quality of life.
If you have any questions regarding the natural health care of your pet, please contact our customer service team, we’re here to help.