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Dr. Shane Lyon

Treating Canine Urinary Incontinence

Monday, November 4, 2019

Does your dog leak urine? Well, you are not alone! Urinary incontinence, or leaking urine, poses a common problem in dogs as they age, particularly for female dogs.

Urethral sphincter mechanism incompetence, or USMI for short, is the typical form of incontinence in dogs. This disorder is often referred to as “spay incontinence” because it appears in female dogs after they have been spayed. The cause of incontinence in these patients is most likely related to decreased estrogen levels associated with removing the ovaries during the spay.

With USMI, many patients begin to leak small amounts of urine in their sleep. You may notice a small amount of urine on their bedding or where they were laying after they wake up. For some dogs, this can progress to a point where they have difficulty holding their urine even when awake.
It’s estimated that between 5 percent and 20 percent of spayed dogs develop USMI and urine leakage. The larger the dog, the more likely it is to develop incontinence. In fact, dogs that weigh 45 pounds or more have been reported to have an incontinence incidence of 12 percent to 31 percent.

In contrast, dogs that are not spayed rarely develop urine leakage, with only around 1 percent reporting incontinence. This causes some to question the benefits of spaying. Still, in addition to population control, there are several health benefits to having your dog spayed, including a decreased risk for the development of mammary cancer. If you have questions regarding the pros and cons of spaying your female dog, consult your veterinarian.

Incontinence can result in a variety of problems for dogs including skin irritation and increased risk for a urinary tract infection. Urine leakage impacts more than our dear pet — the pet owner and family are affected as well. Soiled pet bedding, carpet and furniture are frustrating and costly to clean and maintain. This can result in indoor dogs being relocated to live as outdoor dogs, relinquished to shelters, and in severe cases, even euthanized.

Fortunately, there are a variety of treatments and most cases of incontinence can be easily managed. If your dog develops urine leakage, contact your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will speak with you about the nature of the incontinence and your dog’s general urination behaviors and perform an evaluation, including a physical examination and routine blood and urine testing. Once the cause of your dog’s incontinence is determined, your veterinarian will customize a treatment.

The most common form of treatment is a daily medication. Medications for incontinence are up to 95 percent effective and completely resolve the urine leakage for most affected patients. A few dogs will not fully respond to medication alone, but there are advanced non-surgical and surgical procedures that can help any dog achieve continence. Consultation with a veterinarian who specializes in urinary system disorders, such as a veterinary internal medicine specialist, should be considered in this group of patients.

STORY BY: Shane Lyon, DVM, MS, DACVIM (SAIM), an associate professor of small animal internal medicine at Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
MEDIA CONTACT: Derinda Blakeney, APR | OSU Center for Veterinary Health Sciences | 405-744-6740 |

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