Please note this article addresses involuntary passage of urine only, and isn't intended to cover other urination-related problems like too-frequent urination or behavioral-related problems like submissive urination.
Involuntary Passage of Urine
Involuntary passage of urine normally occurs while your pet is asleep or resting. When she stands up, you notice urine leakage. It can be just a small wet spot or a good-sized puddle, depending on how much urine is being unintentionally passed.
It's important to understand your pet isn't intentionally leaking urine. She has no control over what's happening. This is not a behavioral problem, it's a medical problem -- so trying to correct or punish your pet is a bad idea on multiple levels.
In fact, many pets become very distressed to realize they are passing urine in places other than a designated potty spot. A housebroken dog or any kitty accustomed to using a litter box will be confused and even ashamed to know they are leaving urine in inappropriate spots.
Causes of Urinary Incontinence
There are a lot of causes for involuntary passage of urine, especially in dogs:
• Central nervous system trauma. If your pet's brain or spinal cord isn't signaling correctly to the bladder, this miscommunication can cause urine dribbling.
• Damage to the pudendal nerve. If the pudendal nerve, which works the neck of your pet's bladder, is impinged, the bladder neck can remain slightly open, allowing urine leakage.
• Disease of the bladder, kidneys or adrenals, Cushing's disease, hypothyroidism and diabetes can all cause dribbling of urine.
• Bladder stones. A dog with a bladder stone will often strain while trying to urinate. If you've noticed this behavior with your pet, you need to consider the possibility of bladder stones.
• Birth defects. Birth defects -- structural abnormalities existing from birth -- can cause incontinence. If your puppy has been difficult or impossible to housetrain, there could be a birth defect present. Some dog breeds have more of these types of from-birth plumbing problems than others.
• Urethral obstruction. Obstruction of the urethra can also cause involuntary passage of urine. A tumor can obstruct urine flow and cause dribbling. So can urethral stones.
• Age-related urinary incontinence. Older pets can develop weak pelvic floors or poor bladder tone which can result in urine dribbling. If your dog has signs of canine senility or dementia, he can also simply forget to signal you when he needs to potty outside. His bladder can overfill, and there can be leakage.
• Feline leukemia. For reasons not well understood, some kitties positive for feline leukemia have urine leakage. If your cat starts dribbling urine, it is more than likely a medical issue requiring veterinary care.
Hormone-Induced Urinary Incontinence
Hands down, the most common reason for involuntary urine leakage, especially in dogs, is hormone-induced urinary incontinence.
After a pet is spayed or neutered, the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone, which are necessary to help close the external urethral sphincter, are no longer available. This often results in urine dribbling.
Hormone-induced urinary incontinence is extremely common in spayed female dogs, and somewhat less common in neutered males. These are typically healthy, vibrant pets that just happen to dribble urine anywhere from multiple times a day to just once or twice a year.
Treatment for Urinary Incontinence
The cause of your pet's urinary incontinence will dictate what treatment she receives.
If there's an underlying disease process or structural abnormality causing the problem, and it can be corrected through medical management and/or surgery, that's obviously the way to go.
If your pet is diagnosed with hormone-induced urinary incontinence, I strongly recommend you consider treating the problem naturally.
I successfully treat cases of hormone-induced urinary incontinence with glandular therapy, as well as natural, biologically appropriate (non-synthetic) hormone replacement therapy and a few excellent herbal remedies.
I also use acupuncture to improve function of the pudendal nerve and control or stimulate sufficient closure of the external urethral sphincter. Chiropractic care can also keep the CNS working properly, aiding in normal bladder and neurologic function.
I urge you to start with natural remedies, because some of the traditional drugs used to treat urinary incontinence are potentially toxic with side effects that can create more problems than they solve.
As always, I recommend you have a holistic vet on your pet's treatment team.
Dogs with incontinence that can't be completely resolved can be fitted with dog bloomers or panties with absorbent pads -- you can even use human disposable diapers and cut a hole for the tail. Just remember that urine is caustic and should not remain on your pet's skin for long periods, so if you use diapers, be sure to change them frequently or remove them during times when your pet isn't apt to be incontinent.
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Dr. Karen Becker is a proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian. You can visit her site at: MercolaHealthyPets.com.
Her goal is to help you create wellness in order to prevent illness in the lives of your pets. This proactive approach seeks to save you and your pet from unnecessary stress and suffering by identifying and removing health obstacles even before disease occurs. Unfortunately, most veterinarians in the United States are trained to be reactive. They wait for symptoms to occur, and often treat those symptoms without addressing the root cause.
By reading Dr. Becker's information, you'll learn how to make impactful, consistent lifestyle choices to improve your pet's quality of life.