It’s not uncommon for older dogs to become urine incontinent. This issue typically starts in middle-age and can be a symptom of several underlying conditions, with some being serious and others only mildly irritating. This article will offer insight into what owners of middle-aged and senior dogs need to know about urinary incontinence and how to help.
There Are Many Underlying Causes of Dog Incontinence
Urinary incontinence can be caused by several underlying causes, ranging from minor urinary tract infections to serious conditions like diabetes, kidney failure, and Cushing’s disease. Don’t be too nervous, though. Most issues that cause senior urinary incontinence are not life-threatening, and pet owners can purchase a belly band for dogs to prevent all the mess associated with this condition.
Not all conditions that cause urinary incontinence are obvious. Arthritis can cause incontinence by preventing older dogs from being able to crouch down enough to empty their bladders completely, and spinal column disorders can compress dogs’ nerves, leading them to become incontinent. Certain medications can also increase urine production, further complicating the situation.
The first step dog owners should take is always to head to the veterinarian for a diagnosis of the dog’s underlying condition. Pay attention to other associated symptoms like excessive drinking, blood in the animal’s urine, signs of pain, and excessive urination. These and other symptoms may be able to point vets in the right direction more quickly.
Urinary Incontinence Can Sometimes Be Treated
There are two drugs frequently used to treat urinary incontinence in dogs. They are phenylpropanolamine and diethylstilbestrol. The first drug strengthens contractions of the dog’s urinary sphincter, while the latter option is a form of hormone replacement therapy most helpful for female dogs who have been spayed, resulting in a loss of estrogen.
Pharmaceutical drugs won’t usually cure incontinence. Instead, they must be taken daily to control it.
Dogs who have developed incontinence due to spinal cord injuries and some other medical conditions may benefit from corrective surgery. Similarly, those who have developed bladder stones can benefit from surgery to remove them. Make sure to ask the veterinarian about all possible options.
Some Breeds Are More Prone to Incontinence Than Others
Some dog breeds are at higher risk of developing incontinence than others. High-risk breeds include Cocker Spaniels, Old English Sheepdogs, and Dobermans. Additionally, spayed females of any breed are more likely than unspayed females or male dogs to develop urinary incontinence due to their lack of estrogen.
Different breeds also such as a bichon frise develop senior urinary incontinence at different ages. A Great Dane, for example, would be middle-aged at around five and would thus be more prone to developing urinary incontinence, while a tiny terrier would still be considered a young dog at that age. Some dogs, including Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers, are also more prone to neurological and musculoskeletal diseases that can lead to both urinary and fecal incontinence.
Many Dogs Feel Embarrassed About Their Incontinence
Pet owners should exercise plenty of compassion when managing their senior dogs’ urinary incontinence. Animals that have been house-trained their entire lives may feel embarrassed about their incontinence issues. This makes sense, given that they have been trained their entire lives to feel that peeing in the house makes them bad dogs.
Make sure to take these dogs out often, especially after meals and immediately after waking up from naps, and consider pee-pad or belly band training. This will help the animals recognize that it is okay for them to pee in the house as long as they are using a pee-pad or wearing a belly band. Give senior dogs plenty of love and don’t take frustrations out on them. No dog suffers from urinary incontinence by choice, and some underlying conditions can cause pain or discomfort in addition to unpleasant messes.
Incontinence Isn’t Always Immediately Obvious
Not all senior dogs suffering from urinary incontinence lose complete control of their bladders. Some experience minor leakage instead, which can make it more difficult for pet owners to recognize that there is a problem.
Look for wet patches where the dog typically lies down and check for the smell of urine. If the dog is long-haired, check the animal’s legs for dampness. If it has short hair, look for skin rashes on the dog’s rear legs, which often result from constant contact between urine and the animal’s skin.
If pet owners notice any of these issues, they should take their dogs to the veterinarian. The vet will be able to offer a detailed diagnosis and may be able to suggest medications or surgical interventions that will help.
Urinary Incontinence Can Be Stress-Induced
Dogs of all ages can experience stress-induced urinary incontinence, including senior dogs. If a veterinarian has already ruled out all potential medical causes of incontinence, it’s worth taking a look at the animal’s lifestyle to see if stress might be to blame.
The first step is always to identify the animal’s unique stress triggers. Some dogs experience anxiety when left alone, while others become anxious when they get bored or when they are exposed to excessive noise, especially if they aren’t used to it.
Make sure to provide the calmest possible home environment for extremely stressed-out pups. Pet owners who live in the city may find that playing calming music or other background noises can help to alleviate their dogs’ anxiety, especially if the owners are away from home. Giving the dog a blanket or towel that smells like the owner can also help.
Avoid prescription sedatives if possible. They can have negative side effects, including health problems and disorientation that can lead to injury. Instead, try natural supplements.
The Bottom Line
It is difficult to make generalizations about urinary incontinence in senior dogs since the issue can be caused by many different underlying problems. The first step any dog owner should take is to head to the vet. The second step to take is to learn about the dog’s problem and potential solutions, including those listed above, that could improve the animal’s comfort and decrease messes.