Natural Support for Your Dog's Urinary Health
Written by: Dr. Jean Hofve, Holistic Veterinarian, DVM
What is Dog Urinary Incontinence?
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).
What Causes Dog Urinary Incontinence?
Weak Bladder Sphincter
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 for pets can also contribute to a weak bladder sphincter - one more reason to keep your companion fit. Female dogs with this type of incontinence may respond well to hormone supplementation. Natural dog supplements that include soy isoflavones or other herbs which provide phytoestrogens and/or glandular extracts may help promote optimal bladder health and function.
Holistic care for dogs, like homeopathics, can also support a healthy bladder sphincter, and, in some cases, a change to a raw food for dogs, dehydrated dog food, freeze-dried dog food, or grain-free dog food can help enhance bladder function. A combination of diet and supplements is a great way to help support a healthy bladder.
U.T.I. and Kidney Stones
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 discuss with your veterinarian whether 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.
Chinese herbs for pets with anti-microbial properties may be helpful to promote urinary tract health. Administering herbal tinctures might be useful in helping maintain normal function of the urinary tract. A more severe infection should be treated with antibiotics under the direction of a veterinarian, (along with probiotics to help maintain the healthy bacteria needed in the digestive tract. Give the probiotics two hours apart from the antibiotics for best results).
The cause of the UTI should be questioned and addressed as well. Diet is the first place to look and is easily addressed. Changing to a raw, grain-free diet may help improve incontinence issues by supporting optimal bladder health. At the very least a grain-free and/or hypoallergenic diet may be worth trying for several weeks to see how the animal responds.
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 beneficial - again, raw and grain free is best. Additional vitamin C can also be helpful to maintain normal kidney function. Larger stones may require surgery.
There are Chinese herbal formulas that may also be effective in supporting normal kidney detoxification, but these are best prescribed by a holistic veterinarian. Please see the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association's Referral Directory for a list of practitioners*.
*Consult a holistic veterinarian regarding chiropractic care or acupuncture to determine if these treatments can help your companion.
Many home treatments for cats of chronic urinary tract infections, stones or other chronic urinary issues for cats also apply to dogs.
"It is quite useful to try a variety of treatments or combination of treatments when dealing with urinary incontinence."
Additional Concerns for Incontinence
Senior Dogs and Incontinence
Older pets can also develop senility and simply be unaware that they are dribbling urine. There are some excellent Chinese herb geriatric support supplements to help support cognitive and immune function. And, once again, a diet change can be very helpful for these animals. It's important that you support your aging pet holistically and address all of their issues with their wellbeing in mind.
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.
Puppies and Incontinence
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 helpful in these cases. Both chiropractic care and acupuncture can promote optimal bladder health.
Natural Treatment & Home Remedies
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 supplments.
Once you have ruled out physical issues and have an idea of what may be contributing to your companion's incontinence, natural approaches can support healthy bladder function:
A grain-free diet is a good place to begin. Raw food is ideal, dehydrated or freeze dried is second choice, and a combination of natural kibble and natural wet food would be third choice for dogs, and only wet food for cats.
Homeopathic products can also be combined with herbal supplements and tinctures if need be.
Information in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure your pet and is not a substitute for veterinary care provided by a licensed veterinarian. For any medical or health-related advice concerning the care and treatment of your pet, contact your veterinarian.