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Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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Urinary incontinence is the loss of voluntary control of urination. Normal urination requires that the nerves and muscles of the bladder are working properly. Urinary incontinence sometimes may be confused with inappropriate urination. Inappropriate urination often is a behavioral problem. Diagnostic tests may be needed to distinguish between urinary incontinence and inappropriate urinations.

Probably the most common form of incontinence in dogs is called "primary sphincter mechanism" incontinence and is thought to be caused by weakness of the urethral muscle. It is most common in middle-aged medium- to large-size spayed female dogs.

Urinary incontinence can have neurogenic and non-neurogenic causes.

  • Neurogenic causes of incontinence include those that are caused by abnormalities of parts of the nervous system involved in regulation of urination.
  • Non-neurogenic causes of incontinence include congenital problems (abnormalities present at birth) such as a misplaced ureteral opening (ectopic ureter), over-distension of the bladder due to partial obstruction, hormone-responsive incontinence, and incontinence associated with urinary tract infection.

    What to Watch For

  • Dribbling of urine
  • Finding of wet spots where the pet was sleeping
  • Irritated skin from contact with urine

    Finding wet spots in the house does not necessarily imply that the pet is incontinent. Pets with increased thirst and increased urination may urinate in the house due to increased urine volume and not being allowed outside frequently enough.

    Straining while urinating and blood in the urine suggest other disorders such as bacterial cystitis or bladder stones.

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