Urinary Incontinence: Where Are All the Puddles Coming From?

(Photo by Brina Blum)

A Note From Dr. John:

All of the sudden, your spayed (and house-broken) female dog starts leaving puddles of urine on her dog bed… but why?  She hasn’t had an accident in the house since she was a puppy!  She seems to be acting normally otherwise- good appetite, normal energy, no changes to her daily routine.  Chances are, your dog is not doing this on purpose.  It sounds like a case of urinary incontinence.

What is urinary incontinence?
The the vast majority of cases, incontinence is used to refer to the inability to retain urine normally, leading to urine leakage.  Less commonly, incontinence refers to the inability to empty the bladder.  This leads to an excessively large bladder, which ultimately overflows, also resulting in urine leakage.

What causes incontinence?
The most common cause of urinary incontinence is an estrogen deficiency.  This is almost exclusively due to a female dog having been spayed.  Without an intact reproductive tract, female dogs do not produce estrogen, which naturally strengthens the collagen in the urethra.  Without this hormone present, urine leakage can occur.  This is a benign process, meaning that is should not cause other health issues as long as you can keep your dog, her dog bed, and your house clean.

How is it diagnosed?
Urinary incontinence is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning you rule out all other diseases in order to get an answer.  At the very least, your veterinarian will recommend blood work, x-rays, and a urinalysis to make sure that other common issues, (such as urinary tract infection, urinary stones, and diabetes), are not present.

How is it treated?

  • Proin- This is the most commonly prescribed medication for urinary incontinence. Proin is a prescription mediation that is administered once or twice daily.  
  • Diethylstilbestrol (DES)- Another option is to use a synthetic estrogen, such as Diethylstilbestrol (DES).  DES is typically administered once weekly. 
  • Incurin- This is a newer product.  Like DES, Incurin is synthetic estrogen that is typically administered once weekly.

In cases that do not respond to one therapy alone, a combination of Proin and synthetic estrogen may be used.

Take home message.
Although spaying can lead to urinary incontinence in some female dogs, it is still highly recommended that you spay your pets.  Urinary incontinence is relatively rare and can be controlled with safe and inexpensive medications.  

Our information is not intended to replace the advice of your veterinarian.  Do not use this information for diagnostic purposes. Always take your pet to your veterinarian to obtain a diagnosis and course of treatment.