June 7, 2021

Medical Issues

Urinary Incontinence in Pets

by Aili V. Heintz, DVM

You wake up in the morning, ready to start the day off fresh with your dog cuddled up by you on your bed.  Your day couldn’t be off to a better start!  Until you reach down and notice that your blanket is wet with pee where your pup was sleeping.

How could this be?  You let him out before bed, and he didn’t wake you during the night.  Is he just being sassy or is it something else? Well, it may not be your pup’s fault; it may be the start of urinary incontinence. 

What is urinary incontinence?

Urinary incontinence refers to the loss of the ability to hold or control urination/peeing.  Urinary incontinence typically occurs during sleep or times of rest.  But don’t despair! There are things to help your pet with urinary incontinence.  The first important step is to tell your vet what is happening!

What causes urinary incontinence?

Urinary incontinence can be caused by multiple different things and can occur in combination with other causes. 

These include:

  • neurological problems (such as spinal injuries)
  • bladder dysfunction
  • tumors
  • urinary tract infections/bladder infections
  • urethral problems (the urethra is at the end of the urinary tract that when closed keeps urine in.  When the muscles fail to close tight enough, urine can leak out.)
  • congenital anatomical issues (something in the urinary tract did not form correctly at birth)
  • holding urine too long/urine retention

What will my vet do?

Make sure to give your vet a thorough explanation of what you are seeing at home. Tell her the following information:

  • when and where the accidents are occurring 
  • whether your pet is awake or asleep when accidents happen
  • whether or not your pet is aware that he is leaking urine

Remember your vet isn’t at home with you seeing the accidents happen, so the more information you can give her, the better!

After a physical exam, the doctor will most likely want to run a urinalysis (test your pet’s pee sample) to rule out infection. It doesn’t make sense to treat urinary incontinence if the root cause is a bladder infection. If the urine test appears all normal (no signs of infection or other issues), then it’s time to talk about supplements or medications.

How do I treat my pet’s incontinence?

The doctor will recommend treatment options based on how frequently your pet is having incontinence issues. For some pets, an incontinence supplement may be the solution.  Other pets may have accidents more frequently, and your vet may recommend an incontinence medication. Incontinence is not a “curable” problem, but rather it is a medical issue that can be managed. Your pet will likely be on a supplement or medication for the rest of his life. 

What if I don’t do anything?

Just like for people, urinary incontinence in our pets can be uncomfortable and can cause other issues. Your pet may develop secondary skin infections from the leaking and burns from lying in his urine.  These conditions can be painful and typically require medication.

We have seen some pets that have had such bad urine scalding that they have had large, open wounds on their hind ends.  Imagine trying to sit with such a sore rump. Ouch! 

With the increased moisture around your pet’s backside, yeast and bacteria can grow.  These bacteria affect the skin, and they can also spread up into the urinary tract and make their way to the bladder causing bladder/urinary tract infections. 

Give yourself peace of mind!

Not only can urinary incontinence be a pain (both literally and figuratively) for your pet, but it can be a pain for you, too!  The constant cleaning of blankets, pillows, and couches is exhausting. Incontinence issues can lead to constant vet visits to treat secondary health issues. In addition, you spend a lot of time worrying about what your pup may have peed on next! All of this can take its toll on you. 

Urinary incontinence is a manageable condition.  You can do some things to help make your pet happier and dribble-free.  If you think your pet may have incontinence issues, call us today for an appointment.  

Dr. HeintzDr. Heintz is a small and exotic animal veterinarian at Countrycare Animal Complex in Green Bay, WI. She earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign. Her passion is helping all animals, whether furry, scaly, or feathered, lead long and healthy lives.