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What Causes Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

In order to effectively treat urinary incontinence, you need to figure out what’s causing it.

Contrary to popular belief, urinary incontinence does not describe every accident a dog has in the house or another inappropriate place. Nor does it describe accidents due to fear or excitement. It describes the situation where a dog who is potty trained under normal circumstances loses control over their bladder and has accidents. Urinary incontinence is not a behavioral issue, and your dog can’t be trained out of it. There are many things that can cause urinary incontinence in dogs, and in order to treat your dog’s incontinence, you first need to determine what’s causing it. Here are the most common causes of urinary incontinence in dogs.

#1. Weak Bladder Sphincter

A weak bladder sphincter can make it difficult for a dog to hold its bladder, and there are several things that can cause the bladder sphincter to weaken, including obesity, age and the diminished sensitivity to the neurological receptors in the bladder sphincter. This problem can occur in both male and female dogs, but it’s more common in older females, and about one in five dogs are affected. A weak bladder sphincter is sometimes referred to as spray incontinence, and low estrogen levels are believed to play a role in its development.

#2. Bladder Infection

Bladder infections are caused when a microbe — typically bacteria — makes its way into the bladder and proliferates, which irritates the bladder and makes the dog feel like they have to urinate much more often. Bladder infections are more common in young, adult, female dogs; though any dog can be diagnosed with one. A bladder infection can be diagnosed with a urinalysis or with a urine culture. If you notice that your dog is frequently straining or squatting, and there aren’t a lot of results, they may have a bladder infection. Another sign of a bladder infection is urine that is either tinged with blood or cloudy. If left untreated for too long, a bladder infection can cause bladder stones, which need to be removed surgically. If you suspect that your dog has a bladder infection, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Your dog will likely need antibiotics in order to recover from their infection.

#3. Excessive Drinking of Water

A dog’s bladder can only hold so much, and when your dog is constantly drinking large quantities of water, it can make it more difficult for them to hold their bladder. In most cases, when a dog is drinking enough water to cause urinary incontinence, there’s an underlying problem that’s causing them to drink so much water. Here are some common health problems that can lead to excessive water consumption:
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Bladder infection
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Kidney failure
  • Diabetes insipidus

Other Causes of Urinary Incontinence

Although the above three causes are the main causes of incontinence in dogs, there are a few more things that can that cause it, but these are much less common:
  • Spinal Damage: Spinal damage that affects the lower lumbar region of a dog’s spine can make it difficult impossible for a dog to hold it.
  • Infection: In addition to bladder infections, infections that are located high in the urinary tract, like near the ureter or kidneys, can cause urinary incontinence.
  • Ectopic Ureter: This is when the ureter drains into the urethra instead of the bladder, and it causes a female dog to constantly drip urine.

If your dog has been suffering from incontinence, there’s good news. There are lots of ways to treat incontinence, but the treatment will largely depend on the cause, which is why it’s so important to get an accurate diagnosis when your dog first starts showing symptoms. Stay tuned for our next blog to learn about the different treatment options available and how to manage urinary incontinence in your dog.

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