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Bladder incontinence in dogs

Updated on December 30, 2008

Common causes of bladder control in dogs


Bladder control problems in dogs may develop at any age; from puppy hood to seniority and they may be due to several causes. These causes can be grouped into three main categories: structural, behavioral and health related. I will list these possible causes starting from puppy hood working up to the geriatric dog.

Puppies develop incontinence as a normal growth occurrence. Their small bladders will fill up very quickly and the puppy has not yet learned how to control the urge to urinate.

Urine accidents most likely will occur when the puppy wakes up from a nap, while playing and after meals. House training will try to teach the puppy to hold it for longer and longer periods of time. Outdoor trips may need to take place up to every 10-15 minutes when the puppy is a few weeks old. Later on the puppy will learn to hold the urine more effectively and house training will gradually become an easier task.

Some puppies may have some sort of congenital defect that will cause incontinence. The vet should be able to determine if the defect is birth related by performing a thorough physical. In some cases surgery will correct the problem.

Another form of bladder control issue we can see in young puppies is submissive urination. This form of incontinence is actually a sign of submission the puppy demonstrates to its owner or other dog. Very likely, this occurs when the puppy greets its owner. The puppy will roll over and urinate but this can also occur when the puppy is standing up.

House training problems or stress are other causes of incontinence that are behavioral. A new baby or a new dog, a recent move, or death of a companion are all examples of stress triggers that may disrupt even the most house trained dog.

As the dog reaches sexual maturity, territorial marking may appear as an annoying form of incontinence. This occurs most likely if there is a female in heat nearby, thus the dog feels the need to release a few drops of urine to mark his territory. The purpose of this behavior is to prevent the presence of competitive males around since they will have picked up the scent. This type of urination usually disappears after the dog is neutered.

Spayed females are prone to an estrogen depletion form of incontinence. Estrogen is often prescribed to solve this form of incontinence.

Urinary tract infections can be a common occurrence. The dog will squat to urinate and strain to produce little or no urine. There may be or not some blood in the urine. Sometimes the urine may appear cloudy.

Please do not scold your dog if he/she is perfectly house trained and suddenly starts urinating in your home. Rather, try to collect a urine sample so your vet can test it.

If positive for a UTI very likely your dog will be on a course of antibiotics.

Urinary stones and tumors may block the normal flow of urine. The obstruction will be in such a way that the bladder will over fill to a point that the urine will ultimately leak out. Again, try to collect the urine and provide the sample. Urinary obstructions can be very painful.

As the dog ages, there are some conditions that may affect middle aged to senior dogs. These conditions are known to cause what is called medically polyuria and polydypsia; in other words, increased drinking and increased urination. Listed conditions may be diabetes, liver disease, Cushing's disease and liver failure.

Many times some medications can cause incontinence, diuretics prescribed for heart problems and Prednisone to name a couple. If your dog is on any medication, read the side effects carefully.

A senior dog especially if female will likely lose muscle tone thus muscle weakness may cause incontinence. An almost unpronounceable medication called Phenylpropanolamine (also known as PPP) may help in this case. Ask your vet about it.

In some cases a senior dog may develop cognitive problems related to aging (a sort of canine Alzeimer version) and therefore, become incontinent along with other symptoms related to disorientation.

Bladder control problems in dogs may at times become challenging to diagnose. A good starting point on your part is to collect a clean urine sample and keep it in a transparent sterile container. Write on the container the time it was collected or inform the vet's receptionist. Ideally, keep it refrigerated. Urine samples need to be not older than four hours old to grant testing accuracy. Most likely, the vet will call you the same day with the results.


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