Urinary Incontinence

What is urinary incontinence?

Urinary Incontinence is the loss of voluntary control of urination. Incontinence is usually a failure in the mechanism of urine storage.

Who is affected?

Incontinence is most common in middle aged and older female dogs, but can also occur in older males and juveniles. Large breed dogs most often affected.

Obese dogs and those on certain medications are also more likely to be affected.

What goes wrong?

The three most common reasons for incontinence involve:

  1. Neurological causes leading to disruption of the nerve pathways involved in urination. These can be either spinal injuries, inherited defects or from brain damage.
  2. Increased bladder contractility or inability to expand. Usually secondary to infections, tumours or pressure on the bladder wall.
  3. Urethral disorders including urinary tract infections, prostate disease (in males) or abnormal conformation.

Neurological and bladder related incontinence tends to be shown as frequent, involuntary urination or constant leakage of small amounts. Urethral disorders tend to appear as intermittent incontinence.

What else could it be?

Incontinence needs to be differentiated from voluntary but inappropriate urination. Discharges from the urethra in males and females can also be confused with incontinence. Increased urination can also appear as incontinence, and may be related to a different disease process (such as diabetes).

What can be done?

Depending on the cause of urinary incontinence, there are several solutions. These will depend on each individual pet. Medications are available to regain control of urination, often more than one treatment at a time is necessary. A visit to the vet to clarify the cause of incontinence is required for prescription medication but also to make sure there is not another underlying cause of the incontinence.