Canine Urinary Incontinence Causes and Treatments

Canine urinary incontinence is common in older dogs.

Canine Urinary Incontinence (CUI) is a common condition in dogs, but a frustrating one for owners. Many owners misunderstand the condition as a behavior issue and think the dog is being naughty or disobedient. CUI is a medical condition that may be treated successfully.

About Canine Urinary Incontinence

Briefly defined, CUI is the loss of bladder control in a house trained dog. This is involuntary urination, and the dog may be unaware that it has released urine. The quantity of urine may vary from a small dribble to a large puddle.

CUI should not be confused with submissive urination where the dog takes a submissive posture, such as rolling on its back, and releases urine. This is common in younger dogs. Submissive urination is not a lack of bladder control and should not be confused with incontinence.

The condition is seen in both genders, but is much more prevalent in female dogs. Middle-aged and elderly spayed females are especially susceptible. Approximately 20 percent of older spayed females may suffer from the disorder. Medium and large breed dogs are more prone to being incontinent, especially Springer Spaniels, Doberman Pinschers and Old English Sheepdogs.

The most apparent symptom is the leaking of urine. An owner may notice a puddle or wet spot where the dog has been sleeping. Less obvious symptoms are redness irritation around the penis or vulva, discoloration or staining of the coat and the dog excessively licking and cleaning its genitals.

CUI Causes

There are numerous causes of Canine Urinary Incontinence. These causes include:

  • Hormonal imbalance for both neutered males and spayed females
  • Weakened bladder sphincter, probably the most common cause; causes the inability to control bladder function
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Bladder stones; can be eventually fatal
  • Spinal degeneration or injury
  • Neurological disorders
  • Prostrate disorders in male dogs
  • Anatomical abnormalities; can be from congenital diseases, including diabetes or kidney disease
  • Infections
  • Medications such as corticosteroids

Diagnosis and Treatment

With so many causes, it is important to have a veterinarian diagnose the condition and determine the cause. The vet will perform a physical exam and analyze a urine sample. He may take a blood sample to determine such things as liver function or possible disease. The vet may also use x-rays and ultrasounds to determine possible malformations.

You can help your vet diagnose the condition by answering a few questions about your dog:

  • Can the dog urinate normally?
  • How frequently does the dog urinate?
  • Is she in pain or discomfort when she urinates?
  • Is the dog incontinent when sleeping and resting or when she is active?
  • How much water does she drink?
  • What previous surgeries or illnesses has she had?
  • Which medication is the dog taking?
  • Are there any signs of neurolgical illness such as seizures or weakness?

Treatment of CUI depends on the cause of the condition. If bladder stones are causing the incontinence, surgery is required to remove the stones. Surgery may also be required to correct any urinary tract abnormalities or spinal issues. Medications are more commonly prescribed to treat UCI. Some cases respond well to medications to increase the tone of the bladder muscles. Others will benefit from hormone therapy. Newer treatments, such as collagen injections, are showing promising results.

You may want to also discuss homeopathic treatments with your vet. Some herbal and natural remedies have been shown to help CUI, such as berberis and uva ursi. Always discuss these options with your vet before giving your dog any supplements.

Tips for Living With CUI

While treatment can be successful, in some cases accidents will still happen. Here are a few tips for making life easier with an incontinent dog:

  • Place waterproof pads and washable blankets in your dog's favorite sleeping spot to absorb any leaks.
  • Discuss with your vet proper hygene to prevent skin irritation and infection.
  • Walk your dog more frequently to keep the bladder empty.
  • Doggie diapers, available in many pet stores, can help with more severe problems.
  • Odor and urine removal products will help clean accidents.
  • Do not limit your dog's water intake without discussing it with your vet.
  • Stay vigilant for any changes in your dog's condition. If changes occur, contact your vet as soon as possible.

CUI is common and treatable. Your furry friend can be made more comfortable with care and compassion. A few small adjustments can also make the owner's life easier.

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Canine Urinary Incontinence Causes and Treatments