Ectopic Ureters in Dogs

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Overview of Ectopic Ureters in Dogs

Ectopic ureter is an abnormality present at birth in which one or both of the ducts that bring urine from the kidneys to the bladder fail to open into the bladder in the normal way. The affected dog is born with this problem and the resulting urinary incontinence usually begins at birth. Siberian huskies, golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers and miniature poodles may be more predisposed than other breeds. This problem is diagnosed in females 20 times more often than in males.

Urinary incontinence in a young dog is often misinterpreted as difficulty in housebreaking the pet. Ectopic ureters can predispose the animal to urinary tract and kidney infections. Urinary incontinence can persist even after surgical correction and often leads owners to elect euthanasia for the dog.

Diagnosis of Ectopic Ureters in Dogs

Tests to diagnose ectopic ureters in dogs may include:

  • Complete physical examination
  • Complete blood count 
  • Chemistry profile
  • Urine analysis and culture
  • Abdominal radiographs
  • Contrast radiographs
  • Cystoscopy
  • Abdominal ultrasound examination
  • Urethral pressure measurements
  • Treatment of Ectopic Ureters in Dogs

  • Antibiotic therapy for concurrent urinary tract infections
  • Medications to increase the urethral muscle tone and minimize dribbling
  • Surgical correction of the abnormal ureter(s)
  • Home Care and Prevention

    After surgery and discharge from the hospital, your dog will be restricted from excessive activity. She may be given anti-inflammatory medications or analgesics (pain killers) for the first few days to keep her comfortable. Some dogs may be sent home with oral antibiotics for several days if a urinary tract infection is also present or suspected.

    Your dog may be given medications to increase the urethral muscle tone in order to minimize dribbling after surgery or if no surgery was done.

    Watch for potential complications after surgery, including:

  • Persistent urinary incontinence
  • Incision problems such as swelling or discharge
  • Blood-tinged urine
  • Straining or inability to urinate
  • Distension of the abdomen

    This abnormality is present at birth and cannot be prevented. Although the cause of the developmental abnormality is not completely known, it is advisable not to breed the affected dog.

  • In-depth Information on Ectopic Ureters in Dogs

    A ureter is the tube through which the urine passes from the kidney to the bladder. Ectopic ureter is an abnormally placed opening of the ureter, either into the urinary bladder or at another site in the lower genitourinary tract.

    Urine traveling in the ureters normally enters the bladder in a region called the trigone near the narrow tip of the bladder where the urethra carries urine out. Animals with ectopic ureters have abnormal ureteral openings at the trigone, or the ureters bypass the bladder and open directly into the urethra, uterus or vagina. Regardless of the actual anatomic abnormality, the muscles of the urethra often function improperly and the urine is poorly contained. This results in the urinary incontinence or dribbling that prompts the owner to seek veterinary help. Some animals may have partial urethral muscle function allowing them to retain their urine, urinate normally at times and only dribble occasionally.

    Ectopic ureter is a developmental abnormality that occurs early in fetal life. An underlying cause for the anomaly is not known but other developmental abnormalities of the urogenital system are often present in the same animal.

    It is not known why some breeds are more commonly affected with this condition than others; genetic factors are suspected in some family lines. Siberian huskies, golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers and miniature poodles are the commonly affected breeds with this condition.

    Ectopic ureters are diagnosed much more frequently in females than in males. It is believed that because of the relatively long length of the male urethra, males infrequently experience urinary incontinence when ectopic ureters are present. Although the true occurrence of ectopic ureters is not known in males, it is likely that it happens as often as it does in females.

    Young puppies are usually adopted just after weaning from their mothers. Urinary incontinence or dribbling urine may be tolerated in the beginning by an owner believing that the animal is simply difficult to house train. But when the dribbling continues even after a recent urination outside on a walk, owners usually realize that something is not right and bring the problems to the attention of their veterinarian.

    The aberrant location of the ureteral openings and malfunctioning of the urethral sphincter muscles can allow bacteria to gain access into the bladder or even up into the kidneys. Bladder infections (cystitis) may exacerbate these animals’ urinary symptoms by causing frequent and painful urinations, and bloody urine. Infections in the kidneys (pyelonephritis) can severely damage the kidneys and lead to systemic illness.

    As many of these animals also have malfunctioning of their urethral sphincter muscles, urinary incontinence may persist after surgical correction. Some medications may help to strengthen the urethral muscle, but if the incontinence continues, many owners opt for euthanasia.

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