One of the first things you as a pet parent can do is to carefully observe the problem. If your dog is having “accidents,” it would be helpful to know if the dog is consciously urinating or is “leaking” urine as is seen with urinary incontinence. Some details to share can be obvious:
- What is the timing of the urination?
- Is it happening frequently or only occasionally?
- Do you find puddles of urine where your dog has been sleeping?
- Does the urine have an unusual color or unpleasant odor?
But what could be causing the incontinence? There are several possible causes, including:
- Urinary tract or bladder infections will often result in frequent and urgent urination. A burning sensation in the bladder and resultant spasms that occur express small amounts of urine frequently. Bladder infections are common in dogs and must be ruled out before any treatment is considered. In these cases, urination is often conscious (not true incontinence), but is difficult to control due to the sense of urgency.
- A neurological or spinal problem can occasionally result in an inability to empty the bladder or control urine flow. Generally these dogs will have other signs of spinal cord disease
- Another infrequent cause of incontinence is called “paradoxical incontinence,” wherein an obstruction actually leads to overflowing small amounts of urine. Problems such as stones or tumors in the urethra can cause partial obstructions that will often result in incontinence.
- Dementia and senile changes causing dogs to forget or be unaware of their urination are possible. There are products available that may increase mental awareness in old dogs.
- Estrogen responsive incontinence or hormonal responsive incontinence, commonly called spay incontinence, is the most frequent cause of involuntary urination in dogs. It can occur anywhere from immediately after spaying to ten years later, with the average being around three years.
Treatment of incontinence is usually simple and effective. There are many different ways of treating incontinence, and the choice may depend on the cause. Phenylpropanolamine (PPA), a decongestant that helps to tighten the sphincter muscle, is the most commonly used treatment for incontinence in both male and female dogs.
Another effective natural treatment is Corn Silk, available in capsules at most health food stores.
Some dogs stop being incontinent when all grains are removed from their diet.