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Dog Health:
Urinary Incontinence

 

Urinary incontinence is a condition seen in dogs but not reported in cats or other species besides humans.  Usually, it occurs in females, and most often in the spayed female dog.  Women are commonly affected by loss of urine control in their post-menopausal years.   Male dogs are prone to this as well, but less commonly so than their female counterpart.

This condition is characterized by the dog loosing control over the ability to hold urine.  Typically, a 'wet spot' is noted where the dog was sleeping, or the dog itself will be wet in the hind quarters after sleep or laying down. 

When the dog relaxes, so does the sphincter muscle of the bladder, which controls urination itself.  This is the same muscle in humans used to stop urination mid-stream.  When this muscle relaxes too much, urine is then allowed to leak out of the bladder.  Some affected dogs can dribble urine while awake and walking around.

The reason behind the incontinence in the spayed or neutered dog, is due to the lack of estrogen hormone (female) or testosterone hormone (male).  In the female dog, estrogen hormone is responsible for providing tone to the bladder sphincter muscle.  When spayed, this hormone is no longer being produced in the amount it was prior to the removal of the ovaries (where the estrogen hormone is produced). 

Small amounts of estrogen hormone is produced by the adrenal glands (small glands that are located right next to the kidneys).  Most of the time, this is enough estrogen to provide bladder sphincter tone.  However, in some cases it is not.  These dogs then require medications to support bladder sphincter tone.

Male dogs can develop urinary incontinence following neutering, as the testicles are removed, thus removing the source of testosterone in the system.  Small amounts of testosterone continue to be produced by the male dog's adrenal glands however, and the amount of testosterone produced is usually enough to maintain bladder sphincter tone.  As with the female dog, if bladder sphincter tone is not maintained, medication is required.

The medication available to assist in urinary incontinent dogs, includes hormonal replacement of either estrogen or testosterone, or the use of direct bladder sphincter stimulants.

If estrogens are utilized for female dog incontinence, they are typically given once daily over a 5-7 day period, then tapered down to three times a week.  Lately, this drug has been discontinued for the veterinary market in its original form known as Diethylstilbestrol or DES for short.  Some formulating pharmacies however, can still make DES available for the veterinarian.  Another drug, which provides direct stimulation of the bladder sphincter muscle, is known as Phenylpropanolamine or PPA for short. 

This drug has recently undergone a class reschedule change to a controlled substance, which has made the cost of medication increase.  It is still quite affordable however, and recommended when DES is not available, or in cases where DES is not effective.

In male neutered dogs, testosterone replacement can be done, but this is an expensive ordeal, and not readily available.  Most cases will respond to PPA, so this is then the recommended treatment protocol for the incontinent male dog.