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What to Do When Your Dog Is Incontinent

Bladder incontinence in dogs can have many causes -- a leading one, back problems, is often overlooked. Here's what you need to know.

 |  Mar 14th 2014  |   1 Contribution


One of the most challenging parts of adopting and falling in love with dogs is to see them age. When you adopt a puppy, the senior dog years seem to be so distant, but we soon realize that living with dogs makes time fly so fast.

It seems like yesterday when I met my dog, Skai, and I’m having a hard time believing that he just celebrated his 12th birthday. As days, weeks and years fly by, his presence is becoming even more special. I try not to think about it, but if I am honest, every day I’m acutely aware of time speeding up. Let's face it, no matter how healthy our dogs are, we dread the fact that one day, we will need to say goodbye.

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With my beloved senior dog, Skai.

The special bond we create with our dogs allows us to experience pure unconditional love and we all know that this term is not a cliche. When it comes to dogs, unconditional love is real.

True love happens when our dog has an accident in the middle of the night and we get up, clean up the mess with no resentment and feel sorry for our poor dog. Accidents become more frequent as our dogs age, and urinary bladder incontinence happens frequently in older dogs. A leaky bladder can be messy, but first of all, dogs get also very embarrassed when they have accidents. 

I would like to dedicate this article to all those lovely dogs who can’t control their bladders and those owners who are patient but would love to find a natural solution to incontinence.

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Your dog might not need a diaper. Dog scolded after accident by Shutterstock

Don't assume you know the cause of urinary incontinence

The conventional understanding of urinary incontinence is that it’s caused by low estrogen levels, especially in dogs who are spayed. While it’s true that most female dogs respond to medication containing estrogen hormones, the whole theory falls short in male dogs.

During my years in practice, I’ve carefully observed the patterns in patients with urinary incontinence. I’ve discovered that most cases are connected to lumbar spine injuries an/or physical overexertion.

The very first dog I treated was Caz, a lovely female Rhodesian Ridgeback who was given up by her previous owner after she fell off a truck canopy and was dragged. It was a miracle that she survived. Her new guardian, Pat, brought Caz to me because she suffered from urinary incontinence that didn’t respond to estrogen treatment.

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If your dog can't control her bladder, consider taking her on shorter walks rather than runs. Woman walks dog on beach by Shutterstock

I treated Caz for several weeks with no success and finally decided to take her home for observation. Surprisingly, she showed absolutely no signs of incontinence while she stayed with me. 

The incontinence was clearly connected to Caz’s ball chasing on walks with Pat. After a few weeks of gentle endurance exercise, homeopathic treatment with Incontia, physiotherapy, and no ball chasing, the problem was solved for good. We used no estrogen in the course of treatment.

This was in 2002, and to date, I’ve treated many dogs with urinary tract incontinence since. To this day I’ve seen only two dogs who needed estrogen treatment. 

How back injuries cause incontinence

If the connection of lumbar spine injury and over-exercise is a complete surprise to you, here is an explanation. From what I’ve seen, urinary incontinence appears to be caused by weakness and lack of control of the bladder sphincter. The bladder sphincter receives its nerve supply from the lumbar area and is controlled voluntarily, the same way, for example, that legs are. When the lumbar muscles or spine become injured or overexerted, the muscle fibers become tight and the nerves supplying the bladder sphincter become pinched or impinged, resulting in the lack of sphincter control and leaky bladder.

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Chihuahua in toilet paper by Shutterstock

Why is urinary incontinence worse after spaying? Well, this might surprise you as well. A dog undergoing surgery is often stretched on a table that lacks soft padding. This puts excessive stress on the lumbar sacral region, which can lead to lumbar injuries and consequently urinary incontinence.

Before you assume your dog is incontinent, it’s important to rule out other causes of urine leaking, such as urinary tract infection, a polyp or a growth around the bladder sphincter or the bladder, congenital bladder abnormalities, or submissive urination or increased urine production during corticosteroid administration.

A simple approach that works

Over the years, I’ve treated many dogs for incontinence and eventually developed Incontia, an all-natural treatment protocol for urinary bladder incontinence, which includes a detailed treatment description and homeopathic remedy. 

Here are some things you can do to help with urinary incontinence.

  1. Ideally stop or limit sprinting and chasing after balls or swimming for extended periods of time (15 or more minutes). Walking, jogging and hiking are great alternatives.
  2. See an experienced chiropractor, massage therapist, physical therapist, osteopath or acupuncturist.
  3. Use homeopathy for treatment.
  4. Mineral, vitamin, and amino acid deficiencies can have a significant effect on the function of the bladder, nerves and muscles. I usually suggest nutritious greens and high quality omega oils.
  5. Ideally, feed wholesome foods such as a fresh raw or cooked diet. Most kibble fed dogs are less healthy on average, especially when they get to be middle-aged and older. If you are absolutely opposed to raw or cooked wholesome food, a dehydrated food brand may be a good compromise.
  6. Be diligent and patient. The speed of recovery largely depends on the severity of the back injuries and also how willing you and your dog are to go to a more healthy lifestyle. Just remember that your dog will get used to the new routine as long as you feel good about it.

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Lots of dogs without homes need food or other goods. Dog dreams by Shutterstock

Wishing you and your dog many happy and healthy senior years.

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About the author: Peter Dobias is a holistic veterinarian who works to combine his knowledge of conventional veterinary medicine with natural nutrition, herbology, homeopathy, and spinal alignment techniques such as physiotherapy, chiropractic and osteopathy. He lives in Vancouver with his dog, Skai. Keep up to date with his work by following him on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTubeNote that the information provided in this article is for education and information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat a disease or replace the care of a veterinarian. 

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