Is your dog leaking urine when lying down, sleeping, or even walking around the house? You are not alone. Urinary incontinence affects many dogs. The condition appears more in middle-aged and old dogs, especially spayed females, but it can also occur in young dogs. Having your loved dog leaking urine is frustrating for any canine owner. On a good note though, it can be controlled easily. Here we explore common causes of urinary incontinence in dogs.
Is Your Dog Leaking Urine or Voluntarily Peeing?
The term urinary incontinence is used to describe urine dribbling i.e. that is the involuntary passage of urine by a dog. This is an annoying dog health problem but before you conclude, you need to make sure that you are confusing it with actual urination.
Dogs often urinate when they get frightened or feel threatened. This type of submissive urination is seen more commonly among puppies and younger dogs. Most dogs eventually outgrow the habit. Unneutered male dogs also tend to urinate around to mark their territory. A dog may also urinate anywhere and everywhere if not sufficiently housetrained.
Urinary incontinence can show up all of a sudden or develop slowly over time. In some cases, it may come and go for a while before becoming a chronic problem. The most obvious symptom of urinary incontinence is leaking urine. You will also want to watch out for the following signs and symptoms:
- Wet bedding or wet patches in the places where your dog has been resting
- Licking around the vulva or penile area
- Urine smell on your dog as well as her bedding, carpets, furniture etc.
- Damp legs. This is especially common when the dog breeds with long hair are affected.
Why is My Dog Leaking Urine?
Urine is produced in the kidneys. From the kidneys, it goes down to the bladder (for storage) via a pair of tubes called ureters. The bladder is elastic and adjusts accordingly to accommodate more urine as it flows in. When a dog makes a conscious decision to urinate, urine flows out through a small tube called urethra.
A band of muscles at the base of the bladder play the role of a valve to prevent the urine from leaking out. A normal dog can control these muscles. Urinary incontinence occurs when a dog loses its ability to control this action, leading to involuntary leaking of urine. This usually involves small amounts of urine and tends to occur more when a dog is sleeping or lying down to rest.
Middle-aged and older spayed female dogs are most commonly affected but males can as well suffer from this health problem.
The hormones estrogen in females and testosterone in males play a part in the control of muscular tissues at the base of the bladder. Any factor that interferes with the natural levels of these hormones can cause your dog to leak urine. Among the most common reasons for dog leaking urine are:
Aging-Related Bladder Weakening
When you see your dog leaking urine, the first thing you want to consider is her age.
Older dogs often have poor bladder tone (weakened bladder muscles). This can manifest in leaking urine. This is usually caused by declining levels of the hormones estrogen and testosterone.
Spaying and neutering often compound this problem as it involves surgical removal of ovaries and testicles, the main sites of production for these hormones.
According to Catherine Sturgeon, a veterinary surgeon and a contributor at TheVeterinaryExpert.com, spayed female dogs are at about 8 times more predisposed to developing urinary incontinence than their unneutered counterparts.
Obesity can also contribute to this dog health problem.
Sometimes a senior dog with canine cognitive dysfunction (also known as dementia, canine senility, or old dog syndrome) will forget his basic house training and suffer from urinary incontinence as a result.
For example, the dog may forget to signal you when she needs to answer to a call outside. Such dog may then end up with an overfilled bladder, culminating in the leaking of urine.
Urinary Tract Infection
A urinary tract infection, usually a bladder infection, is another likely reason why your dog keeps leaking urine. This happens when the dog loses control of its bladders as a result of the infection.
Although urinary tract infections (UTI) can appear in both male and female dogs of any age, female dogs are more predisposed to the problem. You should suspect a UTI is your dog is leaking a milky (cloudy) or bloody urine.
Bladder infection and urinary incontinence present a kind of a vicious cycle or a “chicken-and-egg” kind of scenario if you like.
Urinary incontinence is associated with weak sphincter muscles. A weak sphincter is believed to make it easier for bacteria to migrate up the urethra and into the bladder. These bacteria can colonize the bladder and cause its infection. Consider also that incontinence causes urine to leak and provide a suitable breeding ground for bacteria.
For a young dog, leaking urine could be the result of a congenital anatomical abnormality. A birth defect is known as “ectopic ureter(s)” is often the underlying problem. This is a rare condition whereby one ureter (or both) by-pass the bladder, instead of connecting at an abnormal position e.g. the urethra or vagina.
According to the Washington State University, this birth defect is seen more often in Siberian Huskies. Other breeds with a higher predisposition to this problem are:
- Miniature Poodle
- Labrador Retriever
- Wire-haired Fox Terrier
- West Highland White Terrier
- Welsh Corgi
Vaginal strictures can as well cause leaking of urine in dogs, says Vetstreet.com
Excessive Water Intake
Consumption of excess water can also be the underlying cause for a trend in your dog leaking urine. Yes, some young dogs can drink so much water that their bladder is simply not in a position to hold it.
You may or may not be aware that your dog is drinking a lot of water. Whatever the case, a measurement called “specific gravity” will help to detect the problem. This measures the amount of bio-chemicals dissolved in dog’s urine and then compares it with pure water.
If the gravity is roughly equal to that of water, this is an indication of dilute urine, usually from excess water intake. This warrants further tests for the diseases known to underlie excess drinking of water in dogs. These include:
- Diabetes mellitus
- Cushing’s disease
- Bladder infection
- Diabetes insipidus
- Kidney failure
Other likely reasons for your dog leaking urine constantly are:
- Bladder tumors or polyps
- Injury to the nerves leading to the bladder
Treatment of Urine Dripping (Urinary Incontinence)
If left to continue unabated, urinary incontinence can cause damage e.g. to hardwood floors, and cause unpleasant urine smell around your house, not to mention cause your canine companion discomfort. For example, when a tract infection is involved, it can cause your dog to strain or even cry when urinating as well as back pain, vomiting, lethargy and loss of appetite.
The underlying reason for your dog leaking urine will determine the appropriate treatment. Some treatment options are listed below:
- Antibiotics: Bladder infections may necessitate treatment with antibiotics.
- Phenylpropanolamine (PPA): This is a non-hormonal medication that although banned the FDA for human use, is still used to treat urine leakage in dogs. Phenylpropanolamine is also known as Proin.
- Hormone-substitutes: Incontinence caused by hormone-deficiency is often treated with diethylstilbestrol, an estrogen-substitute. It is often necessary to put affected dogs on PPA or diethylstilbestrol for the rest of their life.
- Surgery: Cases of urinary incontinence that don’t resolve with the use of the above medications may require surgical interventions such as colposuspension (for female dogs) and cystourethropexy (for male dogs).
- Healthypets.mercola.com: Urine Dribbling: Never EVER Punish Your Pet for This ‘Accident’
- TheVeterinaryExpert.com: Urinary Incontinence in the Female Dog Part 1 – Causes
- PetEducation.com: The Causes Of Urinary Incontinence
- Vetstreet.com: What You Need to Know About Spay Incontinence in Female Dogs
- Vetmed.wsu.edu: Urinary Incontinence
- Vets-now.com: Urinary Incontinence In Older Dogs
- Pets.webmd.com: Urinary Incontinence in Dogs
My Lab was diagnosed with A birth defect known as “ectopic ureter(s)” is often the underlying problem. This is a rare condition whereby one ureter (or both) by-pass the bladder, instead connecting at an abnormal position e.g. the urethra or vagina. Neither of her ureters were connected to the bladder. She had surgery at 3 months old and the ureters were successfully connected. Lately she has started to leak, fist just a few spots and now a puddle when she lays down. She has been on Proin all of her life and the Vet just upped her dose to three a day. She is still leaking a lot and is constantly thirsty. I have replaced all of the carpet in my house to washable floors but I worry about her back end being constantly wet.
Thank you. You just answered a question I had about my dog since I got her. Shes had small occasional leaking almost always when sleeping. I dont think she realizes she is doing it till I say something. She is 7 now and this does give me an idea it may be not enough estrogen as she is spayed. One question tho can I just get artificial estrogen at the store over the counter for her? will that help?? Oh she is half Australian Shepard & half choc lab.
I have a 4yr. old spayed Rottweiler who sometimes will pee the bed at night. This doesn’t wake her up. Any suggestion as to what may be causing this problem?