Incontinence: Some Causes and Some Treatments
My first dog “Trooper” was a Siberian Husky who loved to run and roam around; he was a free spirit and did not like to be indoors surrounded by walls. Huskies are used as “sled dogs” and apparently do well when they are working and pulling things around in cold weather. One day the door to the garage was open a little and Trooper got out and started running as fast as he could go. I tried to catch up to him, called him, nothing worked. I then got in my car and started driving around the neighborhood and still I could not find him. I went to bed that night very sad thinking that I might have lost “Trooper” and I was hoping and praying that he was not injured and he did not get into a fight with another dog.
The next day I was up early working on some “lost dog” flyers when I was pleasantly surprised when the doorbell rang and it was someone returning Trooper. From where he was found it was over12 miles away from my home! I thanked the friendly neighbor returning him and began examining Trooper top to bottom. Everything seemed ok and he certainly did not look harmed in any way. I had my Trooper back! Later that afternoon however I did notice that Trooper was now dribbling some urine. I noticed his bedding the next morning was also wet with urine and for some reason Trooper now seemed to be suffering from a condition known as urinary incontinence. I couldn’t and still can’t figure out if there was somehow a connection between him getting lost for 1 day and all of a sudden acquiring this condition but the timing was quite suspect. Well… most probably it was just a coincidence.
Usually urine is held up in the bladder until the dog wants to urinate; dogs under most circumstance have pretty good control over their bladder and over emptying the bladder. When the dog chooses to urinate, the urine passes through a small tube called the urethra and then exits the body. Some dogs that have a weakened urethral muscle may however have a very difficult time controlling the timing of their urination. The urine involuntarily leaks from the urethra while the dog is even resting or sleeping. This condition is extremely common in spayed females who suffer at a very high rate. Signs of urinary incontinence may include dribbling of urine, finding wet spots where the dog was sleeping, and noticing irritated skin from prolonged contact with urine.
In a female, estrogen gives strength to the muscular tissue of the bladder. In normal dogs, urine is prevented from leaking out of the bladder by a band of muscular tissue at the base of the bladder. This muscle acts as a valve that the dog consciously controls. Certain hormones are important in the control of this valve. In a male, testosterone has a similar effect on the bladder. If anything affects the levels of these hormones, then the dog’s ability to retain their urine is also affected. The production of these hormones decreases when a dog is spayed or neutered.
Older dogs may also have urinary incontinence due to tumors or some other growths or some level of deformities in the bladder. Hormone levels also start to decrease as the dog gets older. In some cases, birth defects can also be the cause of urinary incontinence. A dog with partial blockage of the urethra with a stone may show signs of incontinence. Male dogs may develop prostate disease which also may result in urinary incontinence. Injury of the nerves going to the bladder can also cause incontinence.
There are several complications associated with urinary incontinence besides getting your carpet and floor wet; among many other complications, there is an increase in chances of acquiring a bladder infection. This condition must be treated as soon as detected to avoid additional complications.
Treatment in some cases, depending on the cause, may be requiring surgery to correct the area or to clear up an obstruction. It is most important to treat the underlying cause of the incontinence. Prescription medication is also available to treat incontinence. Proin (phenypropanolamine) is available in 25mg, 50mg, and 75mg chewable tablets. This medication increases norepinephrine and therefore increases the tone of the muscle of the urethra and the neck of the bladder. Proin use usually takes several days to begin working as it should, and improvements are then observed. Proin is a prescription medication and does have its share of adverse effects. Additionally it may also cause problems for dogs with glaucoma, thyroid disease, diabetes, and heart conditions. It is extremely important to follow your veterinarian’s advice on how to give this medication.
Special Warning: Because Proin comes as a chewable tablet it is extremely important to keep the medication far away from your pets and locked up so they don’t ingest more than they should. Proin is a very potent prescription medication that may have severe adverse effects on your pet if ingested in overdose quantities.
Other medication used to treat urinary incontinence includes DES which is an estrogen and may provide hormone replacement if the dog is deficient. This medication is available as a compounded medication at the pharmacy and works by increasing the urethral tone and is often used in combination with Proin for added effect.
If you suspect that your dog is suffering from urinary incontinence it is extremely important to go in for a veterinary checkup. Your veterinarian can diagnose the problem and correct it if it’s correctable and, if not, can prescribe the appropriate medication. This condition should not be left untreated because it can lead to other problems not to mention if one pet dribbles, the other marks, and your home will start smelling like an outhouse.
Remember, if you have any questions about any medication your pet is taking, a 1800PetMeds pharmacist is available to help answer your questions for you.