Urine leakage is unintentional and is different than voluntary urination or even just urinating when excited, nervous, or fearful. Some dog breeds are more susceptible than others to have urine leakage issues. It occurs in older dogs or it is a sign that your dog may have a problem that requires veterinary attention and should not be ignored. It's important to recognize the signs of urine leakage and when to seek medical help if it continues.
Causes of Leaking Urine in Dogs
Urine leakage is also referred to as urinary incontinence because your dog has no control over the urine that is leaking out of it. There are a few reasons why a dog may have urinary incontinence.
- Hormone depletion - Estrogen depletion in spayed females and less commonly testosterone depletion in neutered males, can result in urinary incontinence.
- Urinary tract infection - UTIs can cause irritation and inflammation and result in urine dribbling or incontinence.
- Bladder stones - Uroliths or bladder stones can cause urinary issues including incontinence.
- Weak bladder muscles - Sometimes giving birth and other things can cause bladder muscles to weaken and cause urine leakage.
- Congenital defects - Ectopic ureters and other malformations can result in urinary incontinence.
- Nerve damage - If the spinal cord or nerves that affect bladder control are damaged then urinary incontinence can result.
- Prostate disease - Male dogs with prostate disease may develop urinary leakage.
- Medication side effects - Various medications may cause your dog to leak urine.
- Other diseases - Other issues and diseases may also result in urinary leakage or incontinence.
Diagnosing the Cause of Leaking Urine in Dogs
If you suspect your dog is leaking urine you'll want to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian may ask you to collect a clean, free-catch urine sample from your dog while you are at home otherwise they will collect a sample at the clinic. A full physical examination alongside a medical history will be obtained in order to determine the potential causes of your dog's urinary leakage. Sometimes a needle is inserted into your dog's bladder during a quick procedure called a cystocentesis in order to obtain a sterile urine sample otherwise they may take your dog outside for a quick walk in order to catch some urine themselves if you didn't bring a sample. A urinalysis will be performed with the urine to look for signs of infection or crystals in the urine and X-rays of the bladder may also be recommended. Depending on what is found on the physical examination and with these tests, your veterinarian may be able to make a diagnosis.
Treatment of Leaking Urine in Dogs
Depending on the cause of the urinary leakage, treatment will vary. Antibiotics or other medications are commonly used for urinary tract infections, hormone depletion, and other diseases, surgery and dietary changes may be needed for bladder stones, and acupuncture, discontinuation of medications if they are causing side effects, or other treatments for underlying diseases may be necessary to treat the various causes of urinary leakage.
How to Prevent Leaking Urine in Dogs
Some reasons for urinary leakage are not able to be prevented but there are things you can do to lessen the chances of your dog having issues. If you have a female dog, discuss when the best time to spay your specific dog may be with your veterinarian. Some research shows that spaying earlier in life may increase the chances of a dog developing urinary incontinence so your veterinarian may recommend waiting. Additionally, you can also help prevent urinary leakage by keeping your dog's urinary opening clean. This can be done by wiping your dog's genitals after it urinates and making sure where your dog is laying down is clean.
Dogs At Risk for Developing Urinary Leakage
Certain breeds of dogs are more likely to develop urinary leakage than others. These include German shepherds, rottweilers, English springer spaniels, Doberman pinschers, Weimaraners, old English sheepdogs, dalmatians, bearded collies, boxers, and collies. Additionally, dogs that have given birth, are obese, have urinary tract infections or bladder stones, back trauma, or have had surgery that may have negatively affected the nerves and muscles of their bladder may develop urinary leakage.
Stöcklin-Gautschi NM, Hässig M, Reichler IM, Hubler M, Arnold S. The relationship of urinary incontinence to early spaying in bitches. J Reprod Fertil Suppl. 2001;57:233-236.