If you are in a conversation about incontinence, most people will probably think about people, probably aging parents. However, if there are dog owners in the room, they might discuss the same problem, but with their aging dogs. The problem is not just to do with age. In dogs, as in humans, there are many symptoms of incontinence which can usually be dealt with quite easily.
The name isn’t the most user friendly, but Canine Urinary Incontinence is the title used by your veterinarian for this difficulty. It is the loss of the ability to control their bladder. This can vary from leakage of a few drops to a completely soaked area and animal. It often trickles out when they are either asleep or just lying down. The dog will probably be as surprised as you when they see and feel the wet spot.
In aging dogs, the first signs can be triggered by a hormone deficiency, much like in a human. The hormones affect the dog’s capacity to control their urethral sphincter. This on and off switch controls the muscles at the base of the bladder. Simply put, the sphincter controls the flow out of the urethra.
All dogs have fewer hormones as they grow older. Neutered dogs or spayed dogs are most likely to show the condition two thirds of the way through their life because their reproductive organs—those that make the hormones—have been removed. If the lack of hormones isn’t the problem, then it is because the sphincter is simply worn out.
It is often a treatable condition and might be covered by your pet insurance so do your research when taking out a policy. It shouldn’t mean a loss of quality of life for your dog, but it is best to start treatment before the condition becomes a big problem to you, your pet, or your carpet.
The problem occurs in about 20% of older dogs, but can affect much younger dogs for a range of other reasons.
A trip to the dog doctor will probably produce one of two results. If the problem is treatable, drugs will probably solve the issue. If not, then the use of doggie diapers will become regular. Neither is a problem—it’s the same result as for people.
There are a number of other fundamental problems that can result in an incontinence problem in dogs. Any infection of the bladder area, the liver or the kidneys can cause the trouble.
Stones are treatable, but tumors are a much bigger problem.
As in humans, if it’s cystitis or a urinary tract infection, a few drugs will probably solve the difficulty in days. The real worry is if kidney failure is the root cause, as this almost certainly won’t be treatable.
If your dog has been taking diuretics for a different situation, the body might produce too much urine for the size of the bladder with the resulting trouble. Some dogs simply drink too much water and don’t time their discharge correctly. This might be a sign of diabetes or some other illnesses.
Older dogs can start with hip or arthritic problems. They won’t want to go outside as often as it might be painful to move and they can’t be bothered to fight the bigger problem. If you treat your dog for the pain, the lazy incontinence problem might go away.
The dog’s nervous system can be the root cause for some water problems. If they faint, have an epileptic fit or show some paralysis in the rear legs, that might start an incontinence problem.
Just as with humans, a tendency to forget things as they age can be the simple reason your dog spills water when they should remember to go outside. House trained dogs might simply forget what they are supposed to do and when.
You should take your dog to an expert if you begin to see a problem developing. The sooner you can visit the veterinarian, the sooner the problem can be found and hopefully solved and you might prevent a much larger problem form developing.
Your expert will give your dog a full examination to check for any problems. They will run a urinalysis and urine test to see if bacteria are causing the problem. They might suggest a blood test which will look at potential kidney, liver and other problems. They might suggest an X-ray to rule out some problems while trying to track down the root cause.
You will need to ensure that your pet insurance is up to date as the veterinarian’s bills may increase as your dog gets older. And don’t worry about moving to dog diapers if medication doesn’t solve the incontinence issue; they will be a good choice for both you and your pet.