Canine incontinence typically happens when your dog loses control over the muscles of his bladder. Incontinence in dogs isn't the same as inappropriate urination, which is often a behavioral issue. True incontinence occurs when your dog can no longer control the muscles that help to keep urine in his bladder. Canine incontinence is often hormonal in origin and strikes older dogs most often, though it can occur as the result of congenital defects, polyps, tumors, or nerve damage. Hormonal therapy is usually recommended for the treatment of dog incontinence, and dogs may wear absorbent doggie diapers to soak up urine as it leaks from the bladder.
A natural decline in reproductive hormone levels is considered to be the most common cause of incontinence in dogs. Female dogs, especially those who have been spayed, are generally at the highest risk for canine incontinence. Spayed females may become incontinent at as young as three years of age, though incontinence typically begins no sooner than eight years of age.
When incontinence occurs, the muscles responsible for holding urine in your dog's bladder typically weaken, and the dog can no longer consciously control the flow of urine out of his bladder. Urine usually leaks constantly from the bladders of incontinent dogs. Urine leakage generally reaches its peak when the dog is lying down or sleeping.
Minor complications can often occur alongside canine incontinence. Incontinent dogs may experience more bladder infections, as bacteria can typically penetrate the weakened urethral opening with ease. Incontinent dogs may also experience urine scalding, a condition in which the skin becomes painfully irritated due to constant exposure to the acids found in urine. Urine scalding may cause ulcers.
Canine incontinence is usually treated with hormone replacement therapy. Non-hormonal medications, such as phenylpropanolamine, are also used to treat incontinence in dogs. Hormones or other medications are typically administered daily until the dog's reproductive hormone levels return to normal. Following a return to normal hormone levels, medication can usually be administered weekly.
Hormone therapy and medication may not completely resolve your dog's incontinence symptoms. In some cases, incontinent dogs continue to experience some amount of urine leakage even with treatment. This urine leakage is typically minimal. Dogs who continue to struggle with urine leakage even after undergoing treatment for incontinence may wear doggie diapers to absorb the leaking urine.