Causes of Urinary Incontinence in Dogs
There are a number of conditions that affect urinary function in dogs. Some of these may lead to frequent urination or pain when voiding, but they don’t necessarily point to true urinary incontinence. Behavioral issues such as not being fully house trained, excited urination, submissive urination, and marking territory can also lead dogs to urinate at inappropriate times and places.
Understanding the difference between incontinence and other medical conditions and incontinence and behavioral issues is important because it can help you to get the right treatment for your dog. It can also help you to be patient with your pet while managing a situation that can cause frustration and household problems.
Incontinence in Female Dogs
Older female dogs that have been spayed are at greater risk for incontinence because they have significantly lower levels of estrogen, which is important for maintaining the sphincter muscles that control urine passing from the bladder. Incontinence affects about 20 percent of spayed females with medium to larger dogs (i.e., German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Boxers, etc.) more likely to develop the problem.
While it is significantly less common, another cause of incontinence in female dogs is vulvovaginal stenosis. In this condition the vagina narrows at the point where the urethra ends, which can cause urine to get trapped in the vagina. Urine may then spill out from this area when dogs rise after lying down. This condition may be able to be corrected depending on whether the dog has other preexisting conditions.
Birth defects can cause incontinence in both male and female dogs. The most common defect is ectopic ureter. The ureters are supposed to connect the kidneys and the bladder, but in ectopic ureter, one or both of the ureters is not connected properly. Thus, urine cannot pass from the kidneys to the bladder and dogs drip urine. This birth defect is most common in Siberian Huskies. Other breeds at risk of ectopic ureter include:
- Miniature Poodle
- Labrador Retriever
- Welsh Corgi
- Wire-haired Fox Terrier
- West Highland White Terrier
Other conditions that may lead to incontinence include:
- Lack of testosterone in neutered male dogs
- Brain or spinal cord damage
- Blockage of the urethra by a stone or tumor
- Advanced age, which may lead to a weakening of the muscles that hold urine in the bladder
If your dog has blood in the urine or is obviously in pain when voiding, you should have your pet examined by a veterinarian to see whether there is a bacterial infection of the bladder. Dogs with bladder infections will show signs of incontinence (frequent urination or urine leaking), but antibiotics will usually clear the infection and put an end to your dog’s urinary incontinence.
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.