When a companion begins to drip or leak urine, it can cause
great concern for the animal’s guardian. Incontinence causes the animal great
distress as well; they do not wish to urinate in the house or on their bed, yet
cannot control their own bodily functions properly. Urinary incontinence is
the involuntary passing or leakage of urine and occurs in 20% of dogs at
some point in their lifetime. Cats are less often affected. Treatment for
incontinence is typically fairly simple and effective, so don’t panic if your
companion begins to drip. (Marking & spraying, frequent urination, and
submissive urination are not considered urinary incontinence and are not
encompassed in this article).
Most cases of incontinence are due to:
A weak bladder sphincter is the most common cause of
incontinence. Spayed females are most susceptible to a weakened bladder
sphincter due to low estrogen levels along with other factors and can be
affected at any age after spaying. Male dogs can develop weakened sphincters as
well – typically older male dogs.
Obesity can contribute to a weak bladder sphincter – one more reason to keep
your companion fit. Female dogs with this type of incontinence will commonly
respond to hormone treatment.
Natural supplements that include soy isoflavones
or other herbs which provide phytoestrogens and/or glandular extracts may be useful in treating this
type of incontinence.
Homeopathic remedies have shown good
success in treating incontinence due to a weak bladder sphincter. In some
cases a change to a
grain-free diet has been shown to cure this type of incontinence. A
combination of diet and supplements can often solve the issue quickly.
A urinary tract infection (UTI) or bladder stones should be
suspected when additional symptoms are present such as frequent urination,
painful urination, straining to urinate or blood in the urine. If any of these
symptoms are present then a urinalysis and urine culture needs to be performed
for proper diagnosis. Urinary tract infections are a common cause of
incontinence in young adult female dogs and geriatric cats. Clearing the
infection is the first order of treatment.
A mild infection may respond to anti-microbial herbs.
Chinese herbs with anti-microbial properties may be helpful. An
herbal tonic can also be useful in helping to heal an
irritated bladder and urinary tract. A more severe infection should be treated
with antibiotics, (along with
probiotics to help restore the healthy bacteria needed in the digestive
tract. Give the probiotics two hours apart from the antibiotics for best
The cause of the UTI should be questioned and addressed as
well. Diet is the first place to look and is easily addressed. Many animals
with incontinence issues from a variety of causes improve greatly or are cured
through changing to a raw, grain free diet. At the very least a grain-free
and/or hypoallergenic diet is worth trying for several weeks to see how the
Blockage of the urethra from a stone (or tumor) can cause
incontinence when the animal cannot empty their bladder completely. The
bladder may get so full that the pressure of urine in the bladder actually
forces some urine to leak around the blockage. Blood may be seen in the urine
that does pass and the enlarged bladder can be felt on examination. Total
blockage of urine flow is a veterinary emergency and pets should be taken in as
soon as possible.
For smaller stones, a diet change may be all that is needed
- again, raw and grain free is best. Additional
vitamin C can also be helpful. Larger stones may require surgery. There
are Chinese herbal formulas that can be effective in dissolving urinary crystals
and stones, but these are best prescribed by a holistic veterinarian. Please
American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association’s Referral Directory
for a list of practitioners.
For treatment of chronic urinary tract infections, stones
or other chronic urinary issues, please see the article
Treating Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease – which is written with cats in
mind but also applies to dogs.
Older pets can also develop senility and simply be unaware
that they are dribbling urine.
There are some excellent
Chinese herb geriatric support supplements for animals
needing a boost in cognitive and immune health. And, once again, a diet change can be very
helpful for these animals. Please see
What You Need to Know About Your Pet's Food and
Supporting Your Aging Companion.
Older animals are also more prone to some of the health
problems that can lead to urinary incontinence as a secondary issue due to
excessive water intake. These include
diabetes, Cushing’s disease,
hyperthyroidism (in cats), and
kidney disease. These and other related problems can usually be ruled
out by a blood panel and urine culture.
Ectopic ureter(s) are a fairly uncommon physical
abnormality that puppies may be born with. The ureters carry urine from the
kidneys to the bladder. Ectopic ureters by-pass the bladder and connect to an
abnormal location such as the urethra or vagina causing the puppy to drip urine.
Another less common cause of incontinence in female dogs is
called vulvovaginal stenosis. It is a condition in which the vagina at the level
where the urethra ends is narrowed. Occasionally when the pet urinates, some
urine will get trapped in the vagina in front of this narrowed area. Then when
they rise after lying down the urine pours out.
Dogs with spinal cord disease or damage are also
susceptible to urinary incontinence. Chiropractic care and/or acupuncture may
be very helpful in these cases. Both chiropractic care and acupuncture can
contribute to the resolution of other causes of incontinence as well.
It is quite useful to try a variety of treatments or
combination of treatments when dealing with urinary incontinence. Even if
conventional pharmaceutical treatment becomes necessary, drug dosages may be
reduced by combining conventional treatment with natural or alternative
treatments. Once you have ruled out physical issues and have an idea of what
may be contributing to your companion’s incontinence, natural treatments can
help solve the problem:
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