Incontinence in Pets
Urinary incontinence is a house-trained dog or a litter box-trained cat losing control of its bladder. Incontinence can affect pets of any gender, age, or breed, but some of the following dog breeds are prone to it1,2:
Cocker Spaniels, Springer Spaniels, Doberman Pinschers, Old English Sheepdogs, Boxers, German Shepherds, Giant Schnauzers, Irish Setters, Rottweilers, Weimaraners
Incontinence should not be confused with house-training challenges or submissive urination ("stress incontinence"). (Stress incontinence, which can happen in young dogs, follows the normal biological voiding process.)3
Possible causes of urinary incontinence in dogs and cats include1,4:
Common signs and symptoms of urinary incontinence include1:
Dripping urine, or involuntary loss of urine
Wet hair or inflammation of the skin around the genitals
Licking of the vulva or penis area
Urine spot where your pet sleeps
Some additional signs of urinary incontinence in female dogs include discomfort or behavioral changes, scalding of the skin or severe eczema, and (in severe cases) an offensive odor.
In middle-aged to older spayed females, a hormonal imbalance can cause incontinence. One out of 5 spayed female dogs can be affected by incontinence, which usually develops about 3 years after the surgery.5 About 30% of female dogs that develop urinary incontinence also weigh more than 45 lbs.6
It is seen less frequently, but is also possible, in young females and older neutered males. Hormonal incontinence is caused by a deficiency of estrogen (in females) or testosterone (in males). Both of these hormones are important in maintaining muscle tone of the urethral sphincter.
Hormone therapy, such as Incurin® for spayed female dogs, can help treat incontinence due to hormonal imbalance.
Urethral muscle-related incontinence1
Some treatments and surgeries, or collagen injections can help strengthen the urethral muscles that control your pet's flow of urine.
Spinal cord incontinence1
Your veterinarian may recommend surgery for a protruding disc.
Your veterinarian may recommend surgery to correct any congenital abnormalities that are causing urinary incontinence in your pet.
- ASPCA. Urinary incontinence. http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/urinary-incontinence. Accessed May 1, 2014.
- Holt PE. Urinary incontinence in the bitch due to sphincter mechanism incompetence: prevalence in referred dogs and retrospective analysis of sixty cases. J Small Anim Pract. 1985;26(4):181-190.
- WebMD. Urinary incontinence and bladder problems in dogs. http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/dog-urinary-incontinence-and-bladder-problems. Accessed May 1, 2014.
- PetMD. Lack of bladder control in dogs. http://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/urinary/c_multi_incontinence_urinary. Accessed May 1, 2014.
- Ettinger SJ, Feldman EC, eds. Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine: Diseases of the Dog and Cat. 7th ed. St. Louis, MO: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:162, 1905.
- Holt PE. Urological Disorders of the Dog & Cat-Investigation Diagnosis and Treatment. London: Manson Publishing; 2008:150.