For the love of your pet: Urinary incontinence

By John Beck
Nov. 15, 2012 at 5:15 a.m.

My dog sometimes wakes up in a puddle of her own urine. Originally, it was occasional, but now it's happening all the time. I have also noticed small drops of fluid on the floor that I think could be urine. What could be causing her to do this?

What you are describing sounds like urinary incontinence. This inability to hold one's urine can have many contributing factors.

The best thing to do is seek veterinary care as soon as possible. The first thing that should be ruled out is a urinary tract infection. A urinalysis is usually performed in house and takes just a few minutes to determine if an infection is what is causing or aggravating your problem.

A negative urinalysis leads to the next question of possible trauma. Sometimes a recent or previous fall, hit by car, etc. can cause the muscle of the sphincter not to work properly. Another reason some dogs have trouble holding their urine is a problem with kidney function or the development of diabetes.

Both of these cause a marked increase in water intake, which in turn causes a huge fluctuation in the amount of urine produced. These two problems can be ruled in or out with some minor bloodwork. If all of the other problems are not options, then there is hormonal or age-related incontinence.

Hormone-responsive urinary incontinence is a condition causing involuntary voiding of urine due to decreased urethral sphincter tone. It is most common in middle-aged female dogs, but can occur in neutered male dogs as well. The onset of incontinence may be months to years after being spayed.

Dogs that have bladders that sit lower in the abdomen than normal or those that are overweight are at a higher risk. The treatment for this problem is adding an oral hormone supplement. Estrogen-derived supplements can help and sometimes eliminate your problem. They are usually given once or twice a day for a month, and then sometimes you are able to start giving them less often.

Switching to every other day or a couple of times a week can sometimes keep the problem at bay. If a hormone replacement still doesn't seem to solve the problem, there is not much else that can be done medically. They sell diapers and pee pads made specifically for those dealing with heat or incontinence problems. These provide sanitary solutions for an incurable problem.

Dr. John Beck has a veterinary practice at Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Victoria. Submit questions to Dr. Beck at



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