Issue Description Urinary incontinence is involuntary or
uncontrollable leaking of urine from the bladder. Small quantities of
urine will leak from the urethra while an incontinent dog is resting
or sleeping, and it will commonly be seen licking the vulva or penile
Causes Incontinence can also be confused with
submissive urination. Submissive urination occurs when a dog is acting
submissive to a person or to another dog. Submissive urination occurs
more frequently in young animals. The dog usually rolls on its back
and urinates. These dogs can also urinate normally.
animals may have a birth defect causing incontinence. The most common
birth defect that causes incontinence in young dogs is ectopic
ureter(s). The ureters carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder. If
one or both ureters by-pass the bladder and connect to an abnormal
location such as the urethra or vagina, the puppy may drip urine.
Siberian Huskies are most often affected.
Other breeds that have a higher occurrence of this birth defect
Wire-haired Fox Terrier
West Highland White Terrier
Female dogs are more commonly affected. If only one ureter is abnormal
the dog will dribble urine but can also urinate normally. If both
ureters are affected then the puppy will only dribble urine and cannot
pass urine normally.
To diagnose this condition a dye study of the
bladder is usually performed. Sometimes the abnormal opening into the
vagina can be seen during a careful examination under anesthesia using
Most puppies with ectopic ureter(s)
also have a bladder infection that will improve with antibiotics but
the infection will return until the problem is corrected.
In some cases the ureter can be surgically moved back to the normal
location in the bladder and incontinence may resolve. In other cases,
long standing infection of the kidney may have damaged the kidney
requiring the removal of one kidney. In yet other cases the
abnormality of the ureter can be corrected but the pet remains
incontinent, probably due to the presence of other birth defects in
the urinary system.
A bladder infection can cause either a
strong urge to urinate or if the bladder infection is long standing it
can cause scarring of the bladder preventing it from stretching to
hold urine. In this case the pet is usually not truly incontinent in
that they know they are urinating, but they have such a strong urge to
empty their bladder that they may urinate in abnormal locations or
urinate very frequently. It is common to evaluate incontinent pets for
the presence of a bladder infection.
Pets with a partial
blockage of the urethra with a stone or a tumor may show incontinence.
If they cannot empty their bladder completely because something is
blocking the path to the outside, the bladder may get so large that
the back pressure of urine in the bladder actually forces some urine
to leak around the blockage. In these pets the enlarged bladder can be
felt on examination. Total blockage of urine flow is usually fatal in
3 to 4 days.
Hormone-responsive incontinence occurs in
neutered dogs of both sexes and occasionally in spayed female cats but
occurs most commonly in female dogs. The pet can urinate normally, but
they leak urine while resting. Physical examination and blood and
urine tests are usually normal in these pets. Hormone-responsive
incontinence can occur months to years after a pet is neutered.
As pets age they may become incontinent. This may be due to a
weakening of the muscles that hold urine in the bladder. There are
many diseases that can cause a pet to create more urine than normal
(polyuria) and several of these occur in older pets. If a pet has one
of these diseases and often has a full bladder, the full bladder can
push against the weakened sphincter and cause incontinence. Older pets
can also develop senility and simply be unaware that they are
Dogs and cats with brain or spinal cord
disease may either dribble urine or be unable to pass urine. Most
often they will have other signs of nervous system disease such as
muscle weakness or paralysis.
A less common cause of
incontinence in female dogs is called vulvovaginal stenosis. It is a
condition in which the vagina at the level where the urethra ends is
narrowed. Occasionally when the pet urinates, some urine will get
trapped in the vagina in front of this narrowed area. Then when they
rise after lying down the urine pours out. This condition can be
diagnosed by feeling the vagina with a gloved finger. In some dogs the
narrowing can be stretched under anesthesia. The incontinence may or
may not resolve as sometimes other defects are also present.
Symptoms This condition is characterized by the dog
loosing control over the ability to hold urine. Typically, a 'wet
spot' is noted where the dog was sleeping, or the dog itself will be
wet in the hind quarters after sleep or laying down.
Diagnosis The tests performed to evaluate a pet with
incontinence depend upon the age of the pet and on the presence or
absence of other signs. It is common to collect a urine sample for
bacterial culture and to see if the urine is dilute or shows evidence
of an infection. Infections of the urine may be secondary to another
cause of incontinence.
Treatment Whenever possible treatment for urinary
incontinence will be determined by the underlying cause. Definitive
treatment involves elimination of the underlying cause of the urinary
incontinence. Examples include correction of an anatomic defect,
removal of a neurologic lesion, relief of partial obstruction,
effective treatment of bacterial urinary tract infection.
In many cases, the cause of incontinence remains unknown after all
diagnostic tests have been performed. In this instance, urinary
incontinence must be treated symptomatically. The drug
phenylpropanolamine is commonly used to treat urinary incontinence
thought to be caused by weakness of urethral muscle (sphincter