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Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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Diagnosis

Diagnostic tests must be performed to confirm the diagnosis of urinary incontinence and exclude other diseases that may cause similar symptoms such as bacterial urinary tract infection, urolithiasis (stones or calculi) or prostatic disease in male dogs. Tests may include:

  • Complete medical history and physical examination, including palpation of the abdomen, rectal examination in males to evaluate the prostate gland, and vaginal examination in females

  • Urinalysis to evaluate for presence of white cells, red cells, and bacteria

  • Urine culture and sensitivity to evaluate for presence of bacterial urinary tract infection

  • A complete blood count and serum biochemistry tests to evaluate the pet's general health and function of other body systems

  • Plain abdominal X-rays to evaluate for stones

  • Contrast dye studies to evaluate for congenital abnormalities and bladder position

  • In difficult cases, special physiologic studies of urination (urethral pressure profile, cystometrogram) may be recommended. These tests will require referral to a specialist.

    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 mechanism incompetence).

    Home Care and Prevention

    Administer medications prescribed by your veterinarian to your pet as directed. Allow your pet free access to fresh clean water and frequent opportunities to urinate. Make sure the bedding is clean and dry.

    Follow-up with your veterinarian for examinations and urinalysis. If your pet has an inadequate response to treatment, additional tests may be necessary to identify the cause of the incontinence.

    Contact your veterinarian if you notice any signs of urinary tract infection (e.g. straining, blood in the urine) or urinary obstruction (e.g. painful urinations, frequent unsuccessful attempts to urinate).

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