So you have an old dog. How you treat your old dog’s incontinence problems would depend on what is causing the issue in the first place.
Do you do out and get the best large pee pad available? Or do you consider your options and investigate some more?
Sometimes urinary incontinence is the whole problem, at other times it’s just a symptom of another underlying health issue.
There are lots of effective remedies for your old dog leaky plumbing issues, from medications and supplements to surgery.
The key to success is to make sure that you’re trying to ‘cure’ the right problem!
Treating Hormone-Induced Incontinence
Estrogen-deficiency – this type of senior dog incontinence can affect elderly ‘intact’ females, but it’s much more common in those who have been spayed.
Sometimes this is referred to as spay-related incontinence.
There are sometimes some short-term bladder issues after the spay surgery itself. Despite this, the impact of the dropping hormone levels doesn’t show up until your dog is somewhere between three and five years old.
The low estrogen levels cause the sphincter muscles (which keep the ‘neck’ of the bladder closed.
Sort of like an elastic band around the neck of an inflated balloon) to become weak and any pressure in the bladder is enough to cause urine to leak out, or even flood out.
Many times, this type of old dog incontinence is fairly straightforward to treat and there are two options…. drug/medication treatment or surgery.
Medications & Hormone Supplementation
The medications are usually the first choice unless there’s another underlying problem, or it’s extremely severe.
Although hormone-related incontinence is usually seen in female dogs, males can suffer too.
When that happens, testosterone supplementation may help.
Estrogen supplements (either natural or synthetic) can be used. These stimulate the nerves in the sphincter, encouraging them to tighten up, which reduces or eliminates the ‘leak’.
The drug (actually a decongestant) called Phenylpropanolamine (aka PPA) has the same effect, it’s found in both Propalin and Proin, which are prescription medications that your veterinarian can prescribe.
Both drug therapy and estrogen supplementation are very effective in many dogs. Estrogen supplementation has about a 50% – 60% success rate, and PPA’s figure is around 80% – 90%.
Sometimes your vet will use a combination of the two options if Fifi isn’t responding well enough to just one. This is often very effective.
Female Dog Incontinence…… Possible serious side effects….
In 2011 a new hormone replacement drug was launched onto the market and is used to treat incontinence in female dogs. It contains a natural estrogen hormone called Estriadol.
Although it can have generally mild side-effects (including appetite loss, swelling of the vulva and increased thirst), there are some reports of owners noticing significant behavioural changes in their dogs when on this medication.
Excessive friendliness and overly affectionate behaviour (to the point of being highly irritating to other dogs), or increased (and often uncharacteristic) aggression are both noted.
If your senior dog is prescribed a drug to use and you notice behaviour changes, discuss them with your veterinarian as a change of medication might be needed.
All options are long-term propositions and your dog will most likely need to continue to take the medications for the rest of her life.
Luckily side-effects are rare and usually minor, and once your vet gets the problem under control he will reduce the dose he prescribes until he finds the lowest effective dosage.
Surgical Options For Spay Incontinence
There are a few surgical options for treating this type of incontinence.
They include implanting a ‘urethral occluder’ – which is a kind of ‘cuff’ that is fitted around the urethra (the tube which carries urine from the bladder). It can be adjusted to keep the opening tighter.
Another choice that is sometimes used is to inject collagen around the sphincter muscles to ‘bulk them up’ and improve function.
Finally, there are surgeries which can ‘tack’ the bladder into a more functional position and improve the placement of the neck.
Colposuspension is the most common procedure.
These surgeries are varied, and a little complicated, and sometimes it takes a combination of several different treatments to get the best results.
Also, these aren’t necessarily going to fix the problem permanently.
So your best bet is to discuss surgical options fully with your vet if the other options haven’t been successful.
* Some of these operations can be performed on both male and female dogs, some not.
Spinal & Neurological Incontinence
For incontinence in older dogs that are being caused by an underlying health problem, the only thing to do is to fix that!
So, if your dog has bladder issues caused by spinal, vertebrae or neurological issues, those are what you need to address.
Sometimes medications can reduce the inflammation and swelling which is compressing the nerves, other times surgery is needed.
If your old dog is showing any signs of weakness or lameness in his rear end and has leaky plumbing, then your vet will want to investigate and test for this type of issue.
Treating Dog Urinary Tract Infections
Your veterinarian will diagnose a UTI by taking, and testing, a urine sample from your dog.
Antibiotics will usually kill off the bacteria pretty quickly and have your dog feeling better fast – that’s always good news!
If the infection is what caused the incontinence, then once it’s cleared up, the problem hopefully won’t reoccur.
BUT if the infection was the result of another health issue then your vet will want to run more tests so that he/she can treat both problems properly.
Never leave a UTI untreated because bacteria can travel from the bladder to the kidneys very easily and cause a lot more trouble there.
Treating Underlying Illnesses & Diseases
Your old dog is at risk for a lot of different health issues and many of these can cause incontinence which ranges from mild to severe.
The key to getting this under control is to figure out exactly what it is that’s causing the problem, so you’ll need to be looking at any other symptoms your dog is showing.
These could include:
- Changes in appetite
- Weigh changes (up or down)
- Excessive thirst
- Tummy upsets (such as diarrhoea or vomiting)
- Signs of pain or stress (panting, pacing, whining etc.)
- Disorientation, weakness or collapse, muscle spasms
- Behavioural changes or confusion (a possible sign of Canine Dysfunction Syndrome)
Most veterinarians will use these above symptoms, as well as any other tests needed to find out what’s behind your old dog incontinence issues.
THEN, the right treatment program can get put in place and hopefully, that will cure both the incontinence and the underlying health issue.