Incontinence in Dogs

Urinary incontinence in dogs is the inappropriate passage of urine.  It can be caused by congenital abnormalities, which the animal is born with, or acquired disorders.  Signs of urinary incontinence include the involuntary dribbling of urine, which may be noticed as puddles left behind particularly when the dog has been sitting or sleeping for a period of time.

The most common causes for urinary incontinence include:

Congenital Abnormalities:

Ectopic Ureters
The most common congenital abnormalities are ectopic ureters, which are an anatomic abnormality that the pup is born with.  Ureters are the thin tubes that drain urine produced by the kidneys into the bladder.  In ureteral ectopica, one or both ureters drain in an incorrect position in the bladder or urethera, the outlet channel from the bladder.  This condition is seen almost always in female puppies, and the most commonly affected breeds include Huskies, Poodles, Labradors, Fox Terriers, West Highland White Terriers, Collies and Welsh Corgis.  Urinary continence treatment involves surgery to reposition the offending ureter, however, many affected puppies also have other urinary abnormalities and complete continence may not be achieved.

Acquired Disorders:

Neurogenic Disorders
Compressive spinal cord lesions such as prolapsed intervertebral disks or tumors pressing on the spinal cord can reduce functionality of the nerves that control the bladder.  Neurogenic incontinence will likely be accompanied by other neurological signs such as weakness or paralysis of the legs and loss of bowel control. Treatment of neurogenic incontinence involves identification of the underlying lesion and appropriate intervention to release the compression.

Hormone-responsive Urinary Incontinence (HRUI)
This condition is thought to occur in around 25% of middle-aged to older female dogs that have been desexed and occasionally in older male castrated dogs.  The urethra, which carries urine from the bladder to the outside world, is made up of muscular sphincters are thought to be partly under the control of estrogen and testosterone, two hormones that are insufficient in older neutered animals.  HRUI is usually quite successfully treated with estrogen supplementation or other regular medication that increases the tone in the urethral sphincters.

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