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What to do About Lack of Bladder Control in Dogs

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Does Your Dog Suffer from Bladder Control Issues?

Lack of bladder control, also known as urinary incontinence, is a condition that most commonly affects spayed female larger breeds of dogs, and dogs who are middle aged to elderly. If your dog suddenly has started urinating in the house or is having difficulty urinating, then she may be suffering from urinary incontinence. This guide will help you understand the condition better so you can get her the treatment she needs.

A wide range of factors can cause urinary incontinence, some more serious than others. One of the most common reasons is obesity. Desexing also can sometimes cause a dog to suffer incontinence. Other, more serious causes of urinary incontinence can include:

  • Urinary tract infection
  • Injury to or disruption of the nerves around the bladder
  • Overactive bladder syndrome
  • Lesions in the brain or on the spinal cord
  • Chronic inflammatory disease
  • Tumor or other mass putting pressure on the bladder
  • Birth defect, underdevelopment of the bladder
  • Fluctuating hormone levels
  • Psychological or emotional issues

Signs and Symptoms of Bladder Control Issues in Dogs

If you think your dog might be suffering from lack of bladder control, you may start to notice several tell-tale signs. Here is a checklist that you can use to monitor your dog so your veterinarian will have the most comprehensive information when treating her.

  • Involuntary urination
  • Wet spots in bedding or sleeping area
  • Wet hair on lower abdomen or between the legs
  • Licking and skin inflammation around the genitals
  • Frequent urinary tract infections

Discussing Bladder Control Issues with Your Dog's Veterinarian

Once you've completed the checklist above, print it out and take it to your veterinarian so you can discuss your dog's health with your veterinarian. Inform your veterinarian of any information you have about your pet's condition, such as when it started, what her behavior has been like and when it changed, and any recent changes to her diet or lifestyle.

After performing a thorough physical examination and review of your pet's medical history, your veterinarian will order a urinalysis and a complete chemical blood profile to help determine what is causing the pet's bladder issues. X-rays also may be ordered to rule out any pathology in the urinary tract.

Treating a Bladder Control Issue in Your Dog

Treatment will be determined based on what is causing the urinary incontinence. For instance, if the cause is fluctuating hormone levels, then your veterinarian usually will prescribe hormone supplements or the drug Phenylpropanolamine. If an infection is causing the dog's problem, then an antibiotic usually will help improve her functions.

If the nerves in the spine are being compressed due to inflammation, your veterinarian will prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication to help reduce the pressure on the nerves. Once the underlying cause of the lack of bladder control is treated properly, your dog may regain her ability to urinate normally again.

As always, be sure to inform your veterinarian about any medications or supplements your dog is currently taking so your veterinarian can make the best treatment decision for your pet's unique case and help reduce the risk of a potential drug interaction.

About the Author

Dr. Evan Ware

Dr. Evan Ware is a veterinary practitioner in Phoenix, Arizona. He received both his undergraduate degree in microbiology and his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from The Ohio State University.

Dr. Ware is currently the Medical Director of University Animal Hospital (VCA) and is also the owner of two other hospitals, including Laveen Veterinary Center and Phoenix Veterinary Center. His areas of expertise include orthopedic medicine and surgery, veterinary oncology and chemotherapy, and general and advanced soft-tissue surgery.