What You Need to Know About Spay Incontinence in Female Dogs

Incontinent Dog

Is your female dog suddenly dribbling urine in her sleep or even while she's climbing stairs? If so, she may be suffering from urinary incontinence, which commonly affects middle-aged and older spayed female dogs. And although many owners simply assume that incontinence signifies an untreatable, age-related change, it turns out that it is often an easy problem to solve.

Here's a look at how the condition is diagnosed — and what veterinarians will do to treat it.

What Causes Incontinence in Dogs?

There are several potential culprits behind canine urinary incontinence:

  • Bladder infections, stones, polyps or tumors
  • Overflow incontinence, which occurs when a dog is affected by a medical condition that causes her to drink excessively, such as diabetes and Cushing’s disease
  • Spinal cord disease
  • Developmental urinary tract abnormalities, including ectopic ureters and vaginal strictures
  • Weakened bladder (urethral) sphincters in spayed female dogs, also known as estrogen-responsive or spay incontinence, which is the most common cause

How Is Canine Incontinence Diagnosed?

As a first step, veterinarians will usually recommend a urinalysis and a urine culture. If the urinalysis reveals evidence of a medical disorder that may be causing your pet to over-consume water, your veterinarian will likely recommend complete bloodwork in order to make a definitive diagnosis. The urine culture is used to identify the type of bacteria growing in the urine.

Depending on the gender and age of your dog, your veterinarian may recommend additional testing, such as abdominal X-rays or an ultrasound. The following are some common reasons why your veterinarian might order such tests:

  • Male dogs aren't typically affected by urinary incontinence, so they need to be evaluated carefully for urethral, bladder and prostate disease.
  • Older dogs need to be screened thoroughly for bladder infections, stones and cancer.
  • Male or female dogs who develop incontinence at less than 1 year of age should always be evaluated for developmental abnormalities.

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