Incontinence (leakage of urine) in dogs can happen to both males and females. The incontinence may be as mild as a few drops of urine to emptying the entire bladder contents. It can happen as early as puppyhood, later on during senior years and any time in between. The causes of incontinence are varied. Certain medical conditions, medications and even genetics can cause incontinence,
When a dog first shows symptoms of incontinence, the most important thing to do is visit your veterinarian and have some tests done. These tests would include blood tests, a urinalysis, and a sterile urine culture. Let's look at each of these tests more closely.
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Blood tests can provide clues as to what may be causing the incontinence problem. Some of these clues may include:
- Renal problems (compromised kidneys can cause more water intake)
- Liver disorders (which may cause leakage)
- Diabetes (increased thirst causes incontinence)
- Cushing's disease (also affects kidneys and increased thirst)
- High White Blood Cell Count, indicating an infection
A Urinalysis will show the concentration of the urine, pH of the urine, and it may show signs of a bacterial infection (which also causes incontinence).
Whenever urine leakage occurs, always do a Sterile Urine Culture. This is when urine is drawn directly out of the bladder in a sterile manner at the veterinarian's office. This urine is sent to a lab to be cultured. While a urinalysis may or may not contain bacteria, a sterile urine culture is the most definitive method for confirming a urinary tract infection. This culture identifies the bacteria present and it contains information on which antibiotic is best to use to kill the bacteria causing the urinary tract infection (UTI). If the culture is negative, the incontinent problem persists, and no diagnosis has been determined, it might be wise to repeat the sterile culture in a few weeks to double check. An untreated UTI can create renal problems later on if not treated.
A UTI can be common to puppies and seniors if they do not have the opportunity to urinate frequently. Holding urine can create the environment for bacteria to grow. It is important that dogs of any age have ample opportunity to urinate during the day, have access to water and consume a moist diet. This helps flush bacteria and crystals from the system.
In some instances, the cause for the incontinence problem may not be immediately known. In that case, your veterinarian may offer some prescription medications to control the leakage. One of these is DES (Diethylstilbestrol) which is female hormones. This medication is not always effective and has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals. Further, the side effects include:
- The most-serious side effect of estrogen therapy is bone-marrow suppression and toxicity that may progress to a fatal aplastic anemia. Estrogen toxicity manifests itself first by a leucocytosis, followed by bone-marrow depression with anemia, thrombocytopenia and leukopenia. Blood dyscrasias and changes in the peripheral blood-smear may be evident by two weeks. Although this serious adverse-effect is more common after large or repeated doses, it may occur at the recommended dose. Side effects are more common in older animals. Because of the potential toxic-side-effects of estrogen use, it is always important to use the lowest effective dose for the shortest period of time.
- Other side effects include signs of estrus, lethargy, diarrhea, vomiting, vaginal discharge, pyometra, polydypsia, polyuria and feminization of male dogs.
A more popular prescription drug is Proin (phenylpropanolamine). This drug is also known as dexatrim for humans, which was taken off the market due to its side effects. It is a decongestant and a stimulant. Proin is said to tone the muscles of the urethra, but the side effects are very dangerous.
"The most common side effects noted while administering proin are restlessness, irritability, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and loss of appetite. Restlessness, weakness, pale gums, seizures, or difficulty in urinating are also reported as occasional side effects while being treated with phenylpropanolamine."
Also, "Avoid using proin in animals with a history of allergy to the ingredients of this drug. Animals suffering from conditions of glaucoma, enlarged prostate, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, heart problems or high blood pressure should be kept away from proin. Abstain from using Proin in pregnant and breeding animals as it can cause harmful effects in them."
Let's look at an alternative to using these drugs. Change your dog's diet! It is important to remove all grains and starches from the diet. Grains include wheat, corn, rice, barley, amaranth, buckwheat and oats. Starches include potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, green peas, beans and lentils. This idea was first presented by Jeni Boniface (Aunt Jeni's Raw Dog Food) some years ago, and while none of us are sure *why* it works, we have seen it work time after time. This means changing your dog's diet to either a raw diet or a home-prepared diet, of 75% animal-based protein and 25% low glycemic vegetables. For more information on these diets and how to prepare them, I recommend my book, "Natural and Raw Nutrition for Dogs". It is a great guide to making both raw and home cooked meals for your dogs.
You can click on the following link to find more information in low-glycemic diet article:
This diet is also found in a low fat version, which is useful for diabetes, Cushing's disease and if red meat is removed, also good for a compromised liver.
The first supplement suggestion is HAC Kidni Kare. This herbal tincture contains corn silk, which is one of the best remedies for incontinence. It helps strengthen the musculature of the urinary tract and can show positive results in just a few days. It is easy to administer as a liquid. I simply add it to the food, or some favorite liquid. This herbal formula is safe to give long term without harmful side effects, unless your dog has a corn allergy. However, I have not had a dog react to corn silk.
I also suggest the Bertes Immune Blend, which contains vitamin C, vitamin E, B vitamins, Probiotics (beneficial bacteria, good for the immune system, digestive tract and helps to prevent urinary tract infections), and digestive enzymes.
Last, I suggest adding in EPA Fish Oil Capsulesat one gel cap per ten pounds of body weight daily. The omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil are renal protective and help the immune system. The EPA Fish Oil capsules have other benefits, such as helping the coat and skin, and helps protect the heart.
I hope you find this information and some of the treatment choices helpful. If you suffer from incontinence, you know how uncomfortable you are. Incontinence is just as uncomfortable for your dog, so being able to alleviate the problem will make both you and your dog happier!
Happy Valentine's Day to everyone! I hope your February is filled with love, happiness and good health!