when you gotta go: incontinence in pets

Posted by Dr. Jules Benson on Dec 07 2010


When I see older pets for wellness visits, I find it’s a great opportunity to talk about what problems we might expect in the coming years and how to be best prepared. One of the problems I bring up, and one that owners often don’t consider, is incontinence.

Different from a breakdown in housetraining, incontinence is defined as involuntary urinary leakage, and the most common place to see “accidents” is on the floor or bed where they’ve been lying. It most commonly starts with small spots but can progress to puddles. If your pet is consciously urinating around the house, it’s not simple incontinence, unfortunately!

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So, why do older pets become incontinent? Sometimes it is caused by an underlying medical condition, such as a urinary tract infection or a neurological condition. These possibilities can be eliminated with simple urine or blood tests. However, a fairly high proportion of spayed female dogs (some sources estimate up to 20%) develop what is described as urethral sphincter mechanism incompetence (or USMI). This means that the muscles that help to keep the bladder closed aren’t working properly, causing urine to leak out.

The good news? USMI is usually responsive to relatively safe and inexpensive medical therapy. While some cases can require treatment with hormones or even surgery, the vast majority of cases respond well to a medication called phenylpropanolamine. The better news? Whatever the treatment needed, be it hormones, surgery or medication, Petplan pet insurance can help cover the cost, especially if it becomes a chronic issue, for the entire life of your pet.

So, don’t let your aging pet be embarrassed by bedwetting. Consult with your veterinarian at the first sign that the floodgates may not be holding!

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