Spay Incontinence in Dogs

German shepherds are slightly more prone to spay incontinence than other breeds.
German shepherds are slightly more prone to spay incontinence than other breeds. | Source

It is surprisingly common for female dogs to become somewhat incontinent after being spayed.  One figure I have seen bandied about is that 1 in every 5 female dogs (20%) will suffer from some degree of spay incontinence.

Spaying a dog early, before her first heat, can greatly reduce the incidence of spay incontinence.  If you do not plan to breed your dog, you should have her spayed as soon as possible.  Large breeds are more likely to be affected by spay incontinence than smaller breeds.  Newfoundlands, Doberman pinschers, boxers, and German shepherds seem to be particularly prone to spa incontinence.

What causes spay incontinence?

Spay incontinence is a hormonal problem which results when a female dog's uterus and ovaries are removed during spaying. 

The hormone estrogen is partly responsible for regulating the function of the bladder.   Estrogen helps tighten the bladder walls, and controls tension in the bladder sphincter.  If the bladder sphincter becomes too loose, urine can dribble out.

How to tell if a dog has spay incontinence

The symptoms of incontinence are pretty straightforward. When your dog gets up after sleeping, she may leave a damp spot behind.  Her backside may be damp, even though she hasn’t been outside to get wet.  The odor of urine can often be noticeable.  Dogs with white fur may even experience yellow staining around the back of the legs and hocks, from urine which dribbles out slowly as they sleep.

If these signs all happened soon after your dog was spayed, then it is likely spay incontinence.  However, it could also be signs of a bladder infection or urinary tract infection.  Be sure to check with your veterinarian to rule out any other possible causes.

It is also very important to treat spay incontinence.  Having urine constantly present on the skin can cause ulcers, irritation, skin infections, vaginitis, and other related problems.  Your dog’s constant licking can create problems as well, including hot spots and skin infections.

Treatment for spay incontinence

There are several different medicines available for spay incontinence.  Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) is a common treatment.  This decongestant helps tighten up the sphincter. 

PPA is available in a chewable, liver-flavored tablet under the brand name Proin.  It works for about 70% of dogs with spay incontinence, and its safety record is good.  Some side effects include signs of irritability such as pacing, panting, and increased anxiety levels.  Talk to your veterinarian if your dog experiences these symptoms.

Another medical treatment for spay incontinence is to give an estrogen supplement.  DES is a synthetic estrogen, and it works quite well to address the problem of dogs who become incontinent after spaying.  However, long-term usage can cause a persistent form of anemia, so it should not be used lightly.

There are several herbal supplements which purport to help incontinence in dogs.  I know someone who swears by sawgrass supplements for her incontinent dog.  Other people have had good results from corn silk supplements.

As always, use these supplements with caution, and observe your dog closely to make sure they are working.  If an herbal supplement controls your dog’s incontinence, then great!  But if not, be prepared to go to the next level and see a vet for a prescription. 

Regardless of which treatment you try first, if it doesn’t work, keep looking!  There are a lot of different treatment options for a dog who suffers from spay incontinence.  Keep trying and you will find a treatment that works!

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Comments 1 comment

Jacalyn 23 months ago

A simple and ingnelitelt point, well made. Thanks!

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