My Dog Is Leaking

Jan 6, 2016 / General Care / Internal Medicine / Dogs

[yellow labrador retriever on a rug]

About 90 percent of incontinence patients respond to medications.

Have you ever noticed that your dog leaves a wet spot of urine when she gets up from sleeping? On your bed? On your favorite hand-woven rug?

If so, it’s very likely that your dog has urinary incontinence.

Urinary incontinence is a condition where there is involuntary loss of urine. The problem appears most frequently among spayed female dogs.

What causes urinary incontinence in dogs?

Some animals are born with defects that cause incontinence. The most common of these congenital defects—and the most common form of incontinence in young dogs—is an ectopic ureter. The term “ectopic ureter” means the ureter, which is the tube that carries urine out of the kidney, winds up connecting somewhere other than to the bladder, which is where it is supposed to go.

An ectopic ureter may occur in any breed, but happens most commonly in golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, Siberian huskies, and English bulldogs. Typically, affected dogs are female and less than one year old at diagnosis. They may dribble urine while walking around, leak while lying down, or be very hard to house train.

Another cause of incontinence is urethral sphincter mechanism incompetence. Among the causes of this disorder are intervertebral disk disease, degenerative disorders of the spinal cord, and trauma. Urethral sphincter mechanism incompetence is commonly associated with spayed female dogs.

Ectopic ureters are uncommon to rare, while urethral sphincter mechanism incompetence is much more common. However, in many cases of urinary incontinence, no cause can be identified.

How will your veterinarian address urinary incontinence in your dog?

In order to find the cause of your pet’s incontinence, your veterinarian will first ask you questions about your dog’s problem and perform a physical examination. Based on the findings, your veterinarian will likely recommend additional tests, which may include a urinalysis, urine culture, blood tests, abdominal radiographs, or an abdominal ultrasound.

Some of these tests will check whether your dog has a urinary tract infection or some other systemic disorder. The ultrasound or X-rays can help determine whether there is a kidney stone or growth in your dog’s urinary tract.

What is the treatment for urinary incontinence in dogs?

For ectopic ureters, surgery is the treatment in most cases, although some may be managed with lasers via cystoscopy, a procedure in which a thin, lighted tube is inserted into the bladder via the urethra.

If the cause is determined to be urethral sphincter mechanism incompetence, your veterinarian may prescribe one or two drugs that could resolve the problem. Commonly used drugs include phenylpropanolamine and estrogens, such as estriol and diethylstilbestrol.

If your dog responds to these medications, the leaking should stop within a few days or a week after starting the medication. About 90 percent of incontinence patients do respond to medications.

If medical therapy does not work for your dog, your veterinarian may recommend additional diagnostics or recommend referral to a specialist. The specialist will look further for an underlying cause and may suggest advanced diagnostic imaging, such as contrast computed tomography (CT), or cystoscopy.

In some cases a surgical solution is required to treat urinary incontinence. In these cases, an artificial urethral valve may be implanted by a surgeon.

For more information about urinary incontinence in dogs, please see your local veterinarian.

By Stanley Rubin, DVM, MS, DACVIM

Photo from Pixabay