About female dog incontinence

Written by courtney gale
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About female dog incontinence
A yellow Labrador, one of the breeds most prone to incontinence. (Labrador image by lioil from Fotolia.com)

Incontinence in dogs is quite frequent, despite the long hours house training them as puppies. It is more frequent in females, 1 in 5 according to an article posted on Dog Aware, and even more so in females that have been spayed. Incontinence can occur for a number of reasons and can be treated in a variety of ways.

Physical Defects

Ectopic Ureters

This is a birth defect in young bitches where the 2 ureters are misaligned. They bypass the bladder and carry the urine directly from the kidneys to the urethra or vagina, causing a puppy to leak urine. This is most common in Siberian Huskies, but it can also occur in other breeds such as Labrador Retrievers and Collies. Ectopic ureters can be diagnosed using a dye study of the bladder to observe how the dye is passed.

Vulvovaginal Stenosis

This is yet another disorder in which the vagina narrows near the urethral opening, causing urine to build up and pool in the vagina.

Hormonal Defects

Spay Incontinence

This is also known as hormone-responsive incontinence. It occurs in bitches that have had their ovaries removed to prevent breeding. This can begin well after a female is spayed and is considered the number one cause of incontinence in dogs.

With spay incontinence, a dog will leak urine while sleeping, since the sphincter muscle is at rest. However, when conscious, she will urinate normally. A study published in DVM Magazine in 2006 showed that spaying before the first heat in large breeds of dogs dropped the rate of incontinence by slightly more than half (18 per cent to 9.7 per cent), but at the same time severity did increase.

Age-Related Defects

Body Weakening

Weakening of the body is a common age-related fact. The sphincter muscle which holds urine in the bladder may become inefficient and the dog will become incontinent.


A disease that causes a dog to produce more urine than normal, polyuria, is a common development in senior dogs. When the female has not been spayed, polyuria frequently accompanies pyometra, a condition where bacterial fluids collect in the uterus and mutate into an abscess. These usually develop 2 to 3 weeks after a heat cycle.

When a weakened body joins with a urinary disease and a full bladder, the outcome is incontinence.


As female incontinence usually occurs in conjunction with a urinary infection, it will be treated with antibiotics. Once that comorbidity has been eliminated, the main problem will be attended to.

A female dog will need oestrogen supplements if the incontinence is hormone based. Since spayed females no longer produce oestrogen hormones, tightening of the bladder muscles is needed. Diethylstilbestrol will be prescribed in this case.

Phenylpropanolamine is also a commonly prescribed drug for incontinence in females. It is non-hormonal and helps by stimulating the urethral muscle and toning the sphincter muscle.


In the case of ectopic ureters, once the problem has been discovered, the ureters can be surgically moved to the proper location or, in other instances, the infection that accompanies will have damaged the kidneys enough to call for the amputation of one of the infected kidneys.

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