dog urinary incontinence

Canine Hormone-Responsive Urinary Incontinence

Does your dog ever wake up and the bedding is wet with urine? It could very well be a condition known as canine hormone-responsive urinary incontinence. But what exactly does that mean? Read on to learn more

This article was written by a FirstVet vet

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Causes of Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

Incontinence is basically when your dog loses voluntary control of the bladder and “leaks” urine, usually when relaxed and sleeping. There are many causes of urinary incontinence such as a bladder infection, an anatomical issue, a disease that causes more urine to be produced, paralysis, or simply old age. This article however will concentrate on a type of incontinence that is referred to as “hormone-responsive.”

Hormone-responsive incontinence occurs primarily in female dogs after they’ve been spayed. It can also occur in neutered male dogs. The lack of estrogen in these dogs (along with obesity and larger breed size) can cause laxity or loosening of the bladder sphincter or valve resulting in the leakage of urine, especially during sleep.

Symptoms of Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

The main symptom is as described, leakage of urine primarily when lying down, relaxed and sleeping, or at least resting. There are some other possibilities such as frequent licking of the vulvar area, unpleasant odors, and even urine scald or skin infections.

How is urinary incontinence diagnosed in dogs?

The age of the dog has a big influence on what tests will be performed and how the diagnosis is made. For example, if the dog is an older female dog that was spayed at a young age but still appears to have good brain function, then all that may be recommended aside from a physical exam is possibly a urine test called a urinalysis.

If the urine appears to be normal (no red or white blood cells or bacteria present, no crystals, normal pH, etc.) then a trial run on medication to treat the incontinence may be the next recommended step.

Treatment at the Vet and Home Remedies for Incontinence in Dogs

There isn’t much that can be at home aside from monitoring for symptoms and good general nursing care. Changing the bedding several times daily, keeping the skin on the vulvar area and stomach clean with mild antibacterial soap and warm water are both helpful. It’s important to rinse thoroughly as any soap residue can be irritating to the skin as well as dry thoroughly to help prevent moisture buildup.

The good news is, most of these dogs respond well to relatively inexpensive medications. Weaning down to the lowest effective dose of this medication is always a good idea, however, it will likely be required for the rest of your dog’s life.

Can incontinence be prevented?

There is little that you can do aside from keeping your dog at a healthy weight for her frame throughout her life and especially into her senior years. Urinary incontinence is a small possible risk of the recommended routine spay surgery however the benefits of spaying your dog far outweigh the small risk of developing urinary incontinence.

When to Call the Vet

If you’re noticing increasing amounts of wet spots of urine on your dog’s bedding and/or a bad odor or red/irritated skin, you should plan to call your vet as an exam is now a good idea. You can book a video call with us at FirstVet to get an initial assessment of your dog and to help determine if any follow-up might be needed.

Read more:

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) in Dogs

Diseases of the Dog’s Prostate

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Have more questions about urinary incontinence in dogs?

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This article was written by a FirstVet vet

Did you know that FirstVet offers video calls with experienced vets? You can get a consultation within 30 minutes by downloading the FirstVet app for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

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