Urinary Incontinence: Natural Treatment Options for Dogs
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:
- Weak bladder sphincter
- Infection in the urinary tract (usually bladder infection)
- Bladder stones
- Excessive consumption of water
- Congenital structural defect
- Spinal cord damage or disease
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 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 raw, dehydrated, freeze-dried or grain-free diet has been shown to cure this type of incontinence. A combination of diet and supplements can often solve the issue quickly.
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 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 results).
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 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 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 see the 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.
"It is quite useful to try a variety of treatments or combination of treatments when dealing with urinary incontinence."
Additional Concerns for 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 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.
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 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:
A grain-free diet is a good place to begin. Raw would be ideal, dehydrated or freeze dried is second choice, and a combination of grain-free kibble and canned would be third choice for dogs, canned only for cats. (See What You Need to Know About Your Pet's Food and All About Raw Food). Homeopathic remedies can be combined with herbal and nutraceutical supplements if need be.
*Consult a holistic veterinarian regarding chiropractic care or acupuncture to determine if these treatments can help your companion.