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Old dogs are beloved family members, and they’ve probably been at your side through good times and bad. However, as dogs get older, they can develop various health conditions that require more attention and care from you.
If your old dog keeps peeing in the house long after they’ve been potty trained, they may have developed urinary incontinence. But what exactly is dog incontinence and how can you help treat it? Read on to learn everything you need to know about this condition.
Urinary incontinence is the involuntary lack of control of urination, generally when your dog is resting or sleeping. Signs of urinary incontinence can appear as accidents in the house, whether your dog is asleep or awake.
In a young and healthy dog, urine is retained in the bladder and released through the urethra when your dog has to urinate. Muscular tissue at the base of your dog’s bladder acts as a valve to prevent the bladder from leaking. Hormones also play a role in preventing the involuntary release of urine.
If your dog is lacking bladder control, they’re said to have urinary incontinence. This can be common in senior pets, or as your pet ages. In female dogs, urinary incontinence is generally seen around 9 – 10 years of age. In males, the problem generally doesn’t begin until 10 years of age.
Urinary incontinence may be a sign of an underlying medical condition such as imbalanced hormones, urinary tract infections, or various diseases. Below are a few potential causes, but talk to your veterinarian for a formal diagnosis.1
Hormonal imbalances are the most common cause of urinary incontinence in dogs. It may be more common in spayed adult females than males, just as it can be more common in neutered dogs than dogs who haven’t been neutered. Both spayed and neutered dogs have lowered hormone levels that could lead to incontinence.
In male dogs, testosterone assists in the prevention of involuntary urination, while in female dogs, estrogen assists. As your dog ages, the production of these hormones begins to decrease. If you have a spayed or neutered dog, the hormones associated with this are already lower than dogs who haven’t been altered.
Some dogs may have a disorder where the muscles that close the urethra don’t contract as tightly as they should. They may also have a congenital defect or other abnormality from an injury that affects their bladder function. Ectopic ureters are one of the more common abnormalities that cause incontinence in dogs.1
Bladder stones can block up or press on the bladder in a dog. Both conditions may cause difficulty urinating and bladder leakage.
UTIs can both cause and be caused by incontinence. UTIs affect the bladder function and may hinder a dog’s control over their bladder. However, incontinence can also cause UTIs, as it’s easier for bacteria to enter the urethral canal when the muscle is weakened.
The brain and nerves both help to control dogs bladders. Spinal cord injuries, nerve damage, and brain diseases may hinder that control and cause dogs to involuntarily pee.2
Some dogs may refuse to urinate because of stress, change, or fear. This can cause them to have an abnormally full bladder that may leak.
There are also a few diseases that can cause dogs to have an abnormally full bladder. Diabetes, kidney disease, or Cushing’s disease may be making your dog drink more than they need. If your vet suspects one of these diseases, they may run some diagnostic tests to rule them out.3
It’s important that your dog pees regularly. However, just because your dog is peeing in the house, doesn’t mean they have incontinence. Incontinence is when your dog can’t control their bladder, whereas inappropriate urination is when they’re peeing for other reasons.
In many situations, the cause of inappropriate urination is behavioral. They may be excited about something, peeing to mark their territory, or perhaps they’re not fully potty-trained. Whatever the case, if your dog is consciously peeing indoors, it’s typically not incontinence. It may require a different set of training and treatment options.
There are a few ways you can care for your dog at home. While none of these solve your dog’s incontinence, they could help you manage it and help your pup feel more comfortable.
Take your dog out more often and encourage them to go to reduce the amount of pee stored in their bladder. If they’re peeing a little in their sleep or just around the house, then consider using doggie diapers, belly bands, or waterproof pads for their bedding. All these products will keep their piddle controlled and your cleanup to a minimum.
What does a veterinary visit for incontinence look like and how can they treat this condition? It depends on what’s causing it.
First, the veterinarian will likely do a physical exam and run some diagnostic tests. You can expect an ultrasound, urinalysis, urine culture, bloodwork, or potentially a urethral catheterization. Based on the findings, they may either run more tests or be able to diagnose the issue.1
If your dog’s incontinence is a symptom of a disease, neurological condition, or other underlying problem, your vet can work with you to help treat it. Depending on the diagnosis, your dog may require a disease management plan, medications, or surgery.
Hormone supplements or medications may also be prescribed to help prevent urinary incontinence.
Vet bills for the physical exam, diagnostic testing, and any medications or treatment can add up fast, especially when dealing with a senior dog with urinary incontinence. Dog insurance could help cover the costs associated with exams, treatment, and more.4 Get your free quote from MetLife Pet Insurance today!
1 “Urinary Incontinence (Urethral Incontinence) in Dogs,” VCA Animal Hospitals
2 “How to Identify and Treat Incontinence in Older Dogs,” The Spruce Pets
3 “Incontinence in Dogs: Why Does My Housetrained Dog Pee Indoors?” American Kennel Club
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