Like humans, dogs need to relieve themselves. For older dogs who are incontinent and live indoors, this can be problematic. Because this is a common issue for senior dogs, it is important that their owners be understanding and take proactive measures to minimize the negative effects of incontinence..
Older dog incontinence is a severe medical condition. Dogs suffering from incontinence will involuntarily lose control over their bladder and may not be aware when small leaks, or even large amounts of urine, occur. The condition must not be confused with behavior-related urination problems.
Keep reading to learn more about incontinence in older dogs. A better understanding of the condition will make you aware155 that there are ways to help older dogs with urinary incontinence.
Leaking Urine in Older Dogs
It is essential to understand that urinary incontinence is not the same as behavioral-related urination problems. Older dogs suffering from incontinence don’t pee on purpose. Often, a senior dog with incontinence problems won’t even know when a leak happens.
Accidents happen, and in this case, you cannot blame or scold your dog. There is no point in scolding any dog for urinary accidents, but it’s particular sad when it happens to an incontinent dog as they likely don’t even know they have had an accident.
What Dogs are Most Likely to Have Urinary Incontinence?
Middle-aged to older spayed female dogs are very prone to urinary incontinence, commonly caused by lower estrogen levels. The lower estrogen levels make many senior female dogs lose muscle tone in the urethra. Spayed female dogs might also experience urethral sphincter mechanism incompetence.
All dogs become more prone to incontinence as they grow older and move towards their senior years. First signs of incontinence usually appear during middle-age. Different dogs reach middle-age at different times. While bigger dogs are considered middle-aged as young as five years old, smaller dogs reach this stage of their life much later.
Also, some dog breeds are more prone to incontinence, including:
- Cocker spaniels
- Doberman pinschers
- German Shepherds
Causes of Incontinence in Older Dogs
Incontinence can happen to any dog, but the medical condition is more prevalent among older dogs. There are various reasons why a dog can become incontinent. Usually, dogs become incontinent when they are sick.
Older dogs can have less control over their bladder due to illnesses such as bladder infections, urinary tract infections or abnormalities, and so on. You must address the problem as soon as you notice it because if left untreated, incontinence can worsen. You know your dog’s incontinence problem is worsening when it experiences more urine leaking or when the urine starts irritating your dog’s skin.
Incontinence happens when your dog’s bladder neck becomes so weak it can no longer retain urine within the bladder. When your older dog lies down, internal pressure changes can cause the urine to flow into the bladder’s neck and leak out. Your dog may not even realize that it is leaking urine while lying down.
The older a dog gets, the more susceptible it becomes to incontinence. A dog can become incontinent due to urinary tract infection, weak bladder, hormonal imbalance, urinary stones, anatomic abnormalities, kidney diseases, spinal injury, and more. You have to bring your dog to the vet if you suspect your dog has any of these diseases.
Older dogs are more likely to have urinary problems than younger dogs because their bladders become weaker as they age. Older dogs’ urethral muscles are not as strong as they used to be, making it challenging for them to hold in their pee. Obesity can also cause incontinence in dogs.
Illnesses That Cause Urinary Incontinence
Dogs with illnesses can experience urinary incontinence. Common conditions linked to urinary incontinence are urinary tract infections, kidney disease, spinal problems, arthritis, gastrointestinal disorders, and brain disease. Let’s explore these diseases.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
The most common cause of urinary incontinence in older dogs is urinary tract infection. Dogs that have this infection are usually given antibiotics. If you suspect your dog has a UTI, you must treat it immediately because the illness can lead to more severe problems, such as tumors or bladder stones.
Dogs with diabetes can also get UTI.s Although a UTI is more common in older female dogs, the disease can also happen to any dogs aged seven and older. All dog breeds and genders are prone to getting UTI.
Urinary tract infections may be related to kidney problems, especially in older dogs. You know your dog might suffer from kidney disease when it starts drinking more water than usual and urinates more.
When dogs grow older, their bladders are not as strong as they used to be. If a dog keeps drinking water (because it has kidney disease), it will have to urinate more. The problem is senior dogs can’t hold much urine, hence inappropriate urination.
Urinary incontinence can also be caused by nerve issues when there is a problem with the spine. If your dog has ever experienced a traumatic spinal injury or an intervertebral disc disease, it can develop incontinence at an older age. If your dog’s nerve is damaged, neither medical treatment nor surgery would be able to treat your dog’s urinary incontinence.
Suppose your dog has spinal injuries, but no nerve is damaged. In that case, continuous efforts can be made to limit the nerve injury, restore function to damaged nerves, control pain, and optimize rehabilitation for your dog. Proper treatment for spinal injuries is essential to avoid weakness or paralysis, pain, and incontinence.
Like humans, dogs can suffer arthritis, too. Older dogs, especially, are prone to arthritis which affects their mobility. A dog with arthritis will find it challenging to move its body, including getting into the proper urination or defecation position.
Your dog may find it challenging to urinate or defecate, causing it to hold it in instead. When the dog can no longer hold it in, it has an accident. Many older dogs experiencing this don’t even know that they have had accidents.
If your dog has gastrointestinal disorders, it can have diarrhea that looks like incontinence. Take your dog to the vet as soon as you notice that your dog has abnormal looking stools so that x-rays or an ultrasound can be done to investigate the problem. If your older dog has reservoir incontinence, it will excrete stools in an abnormal manner.
When a dog’s brain is damaged or diseased, the dog may lose its ability to control its bladder or bowels, thus urinating or defecating without realizing it. An older dog may also experience dementia, a cognitive dysfunction that causes the dog to lose its memory. The dog may not even remember the basics, like house training.
How To Know if Your Dog Is Incontinent
Dog incontinence can happen unexpectedly, but it becomes more apparent when a dog has other medical conditions. Older dogs usually face incontinence and may accidentally pee (even dropping stool) while walking.
A dog suffering from incontinence usually does not have discomfort or pain when there is a urine leak. If you notice scalding on your dog’s skin, your dog’s skin has likely come into contact with urine a lot lately. Scalding can cause your dog to feel distressed and cause it to lick the scalding area excessively, so if you notice your dog frequently licking around the back end more often, that could be an indication of incontinence.
You should check your dog’s bedding. If it’s wet despite always being dry before, it could mean that your dog is incontinent. The damp patches will dry out, so even if you notice them days after your dog had the accident, you would know that your dog is incontinent.
Usually, the legs of incontinent dogs are damp (from pee), so you know that your dog has problems controlling its bladder upon noticing this. The most obvious indicator of your dog’s incontinence is the smell of pee. Your dog will smell like pee, so will the bedding where it sleeps.
Urinary incontinence may also cause your dog to go outside more often or drink more water than usual. Take note of these symptoms and other suspicious symptoms, and let your veterinarian know. Early detection is essential because it can help prevent your dog’s condition from worsening or developing an infection in the bladder or kidneys.
What To Do if Your Older Dog Has Urinary Incontinence
If you notice your dog can no longer hold in its pee, don’t scold it because it doesn’t do that on purpose. When your older dog is going through hard times like this, it needs more care and support from you. One of the first things to do to help your dog is to arrange an appointment for your dog to see a veterinarian.
Your vet will run through some tests to check your dog’s health. A review of your dog’s history is also essential. Some of the tests your veterinarian may do are blood tests, ultrasound, urinalysis, urine culture, and radiography.
Medication or Surgery
If your dog has a bacterial infection, your vet may give it antibiotics to eliminate the infection and leakage. For dogs with hormonal imbalance, hormone therapy is usually prescribed. Your vet may give your female dog medications with a low dose of estrogen (testosterone for male dogs), such as Incurin®, to increase her urethral tone and reduce urinary incontinence.
Your vet mat recommends Phenylpropanolamine (PPA), commonly used for controlling urinary continence in dogs. If medications don’t work, your vet may suggest your dog undergo a surgical treatment. Surgical treatments are usually recommended when dogs have bladder stones or congenital abnormalities.
If surgery is necessary, your dog may need to have the position of its bladder neck changed. If your dog has to take prescribed medical treatment, know that the treatment will be life-long. On the bright side, your dog’s condition will be more manageable.
At home, you can avoid urine accidents by having your pooch wear dog diapers. Let your dog use diapers when they go outside, too. It would help to take your dog for walks more often.
Accidents can happen in bed, so it would help put waterproof pads under your dog’s bedding. You want to change the pads regularly. Perhaps you could get a Vetbed®, which is excellent bedding for dogs (and cats) that keeps moisture away from the skin.
It would be best to keep your dog clean always to prevent skin infections caused by prolonged exposure to urine. You may want to have a waterproof pad ready outside, too. With this strategy, your dog will feel motivated to go out to pee more often.
You can use the waterproof pads to train your dog to sleep and lie down only on surfaces that are easy to clean. Use the waterproof pads to train your dog to sleep on specific/favorite spots only. With this method, cleaning becomes easier for you.
Encourage Your Dog To Pee Outside More Often
Older dogs with incontinence don’t always realize that they’re urinating. That’s because they cannot control their bladders the way they used to in the past. Therefore, you need to help your dog pee, just like back in the days when it was still a puppy.
Encourage your dog to go outside more often to pee. You can also put a waterproof pad where your dog can pee. Let your dog out to pee a few times before bedtime, as this can reduce the risk of your dog peeing at night indoors.
Do not reduce your dog’s water intake. Your dog should get enough water, so let it drink as usual. Urinary incontinence in older dogs is usually not caused by excessive drinking, after all, unless your dog is suffering from an illness that is causing it to drink more than usual.
You don’t want your dog’s legs to be dirtied by urine, so you want to make sure you keep your dog’s legs pee-free. Ensuring your dog’s legs are clean always allows you to reduce your dog’s risk of getting urine scald.
Urinary incontinence is something that’s beyond your dog’s control. Don’t punish your dog for making accidents. It is not your dog’s fault that it is going through aging.
Holistic Remedies for Treating Older Dog Incontinence
You can use natural remedies to alleviate your older dog’s incontinence problems.
Dog incontinence is more common in older female dogs, so your vet may tell you that your dog requires more estrogen. The good news is you can use plant estrogen — similar to estrogen — to treat your older incontinent dog.
You can give 1 tablespoon per 40lb of body weight of ground flax twice daily to your dog to treat urinary incontinence. Use a coffee grinder to prepare the flax seeds before giving them to your dog. Try feeding your dog with flaxseed for full 30 days to see if it is helping your dog or not.e
Flax is an excellent source of fatty acids that keep your dog’s coat shiny. The seeds also provide nutritious fibers. You can also find alpha-linolenic acid in flaxseed that is beneficial for boosting your dog’s immune system.
Soy is another plant that can benefit dogs with urinary incontinence. Give your dog 1 capsule of soy isoflavones/50 lb of body weight daily. Try using Genistein, which is a product commonly used for incontinence.
Another option you can give to your incontinent dog is Solaray Phytoestrogen. The appropriate dose would be about 1 capsule/30 lb of body weight. You should give it to your dog once a day for 30 days to see if it’s any help to your dog with incontinence.
It’s common for older dogs to injure their backs, so if your dog has a back injury causing incontinence, you may want to try some basic release techniques on your dog. The release technique involves you holding your dog’s tail while putting your thumb or finger right where the tail indents in, between the vertebrates, and putting moderate pressure on it, and holding for 30- 60 seconds. If you are not sure how to do it, ask your veterinarian to show you how it is done.
You could also try acupressure on your dog. This approach focuses on the flow of energy. You can put pressure to affect your dog’s body’s specific points that will affect its flow of energy.
In the case of diseases such as incontinence, a dog’s energy flow is out of balance. Therefore, you want to get your dog’s energy flow back in balance by targeting specific pressure points. Pressure points to target to treat dogs with incontinence are the KI 3 point (kidney point), GV 20 point, and the area between the dog’s eyes.
When targeting the kidney point, put your thumb on the area between your dog’s Achilles tendon and the tibia. Put pressure but not too hard on the spot for 30-60 seconds. The GV 20 point is located at the top of the dog’s forehead, where a slight dent is present, where you can put moderate pressure for 30-60 seconds twice a day.
The area between your dog’s eyes is also a pressure point. You want to put moderate pressure on that point for 30-60 seconds. By putting moderate pressure on the three points mentioned every day, you can help alleviate your dog’s incontinence.
To watch how to apply pressure on energy points on your dog, here’s a video by Dr. Jones to guide you:
Older dogs, especially older female dogs, may experience urinary incontinence sometime in their senior years. Urinary incontinence is usually linked to aging, but different other factors can also cause it. When your dog is experiencing urinary incontinence, the best thing to do is give it extra love, care, and support.
It would be best if you did not scold your dog for having an accident because they did not do it on purpose. Take your dog to the vet for a proper medical check-up. Remember that there are solutions to help you manage your dog’s incontinence.