Urinary incontinence in pets: causes and treatments

Urinary incontinence in dogs is a very frustrating, yet common, problem seen especially in adult and senior male dogs and cats. There are many possible causes for urinary incontinence that need to be ruled out by veterinarians, including infection, urinary tract stones, anatomic defects, polyps and tumors, depending on the age, sex and breed of the pet. In most cases, at least a basic exam and urine analysis with sediment evaluation is recommended as a starting point, before treatment is instituted. If a specific cause for the incontinence is found, than the incontinence should improve, once the underlying cause is treated.

By far, the biggest cause of incontinence in adult dogs is the removal of the sex hormones at the time of surgical neutering and spaying, which may lead to a decrease in muscle tone around the urethra resulting in leakage of urine. Symptoms of urine incontinence will involve such involuntary leaking of urine, most commonly at rest or during sleep. If there are no other underlying causes of urinary incontinence, many pets will require symptomatic medical management of the urine incontinence on a long-term basis, in order to avoid increasingly frequent urine leaking.

Probably the most common prescribed veterinary drug for urinary incontinence is phenylproponolamine, which typically comes under the trade name of Proin.  While this drug is highly effective in many cases, it is not without its risk of side effects including restlessness, agitation, and hypertension, as well as increasing risk of cardiovascular accidents or heart issues in susceptible pets. Because of this, many veterinarians have prescribed low doses of sex hormones including diethylstilbestrol in female dogs, or possibly low dose testosterone in male dogs.

While many veterinarians are taught of the risks of using sex hormone therapy in veterinary school, I have not seen many problems with the judicious use of low-dose hormone therapy for treating incontinence.  Finally there are many holistic veterinary products on the market, including a combination homeopathic remedy from HomeoPet, which may help in some cases.