Causes of Incontinence in Pets

Just like people, pets can become incontinent, meaning that they are unable to hold their bladders or bowels for normal periods of time. Incontinence can range in severity from small leaks to unintentional voiding of huge amounts of urine and it can be caused by many different underlying causes. Read on to find out about the causes of incontinence in dogs and cats and how to deal with them.

Birth Defects

Some breeds of dogs are more prone to incontinence problems than others due to birth defects and abnormalities. Miniature poodles, labs, collies, corgis, wire-haired terriers, Siberian huskies, and West Highland terriers are all more prone to developing ectopic uterers than other breeds, for example. This condition can be surgically corrected in some cases, but a surgical intervention will only resolve the incontinence problem if the pet does not have other urinary system birth defects.

Bladder Infections

Bladder infections don’t cause true incontinence in that affected animals know that they are urinating. The result is the same, though, as the strong urge to empty the bladder that accompanies bladder infections can cause both frequent urination and urination in abnormal locations. Take any pet experiencing these symptoms to the vet to rule out a bladder infection, which can typically be treated using antibiotics, before assuming that the animal is truly incontinent.

Hormone-Responsive Incontinence

Spayed female cats and both spayed and neutered dogs of both sexes can experience hormone-responsive incontinence, which causes affected pets to leak urine while resting. They can still pass urine normally and the condition doesn’t cause additional health problems. Pet owners can purchase diapers or belly bands to minimize the negative impacts of this minor form of incontinence.

Spinal and Neurological Disorders

Both dogs and cats can develop spinal cord diseases and neurological disorders that affect their abilities to urinate. In some cases, they will dribble urine. In others, they will be unable to pass urine. Animals suffering from these serious conditions will also show other symptoms of nervous system disease or neurological dysfunction.

Old Age

Pets can become incontinent as they age. Experts believe that this symptom occurs as a result of the weakening of the muscles used to hold urine in the bladder. There are also many age-related diseases that can cause excessive urine production in dogs and cats. If animals suffering from age-related polyuria often have full bladders, their bladders will push against their weakened sphincters to cause incontinence.

In some cases, older animals may also develop senility, causing them to lose awareness of their bodily functions and fail to even notice that they are dribbling urine. Take senior pets outside to urinate more frequently to ensure that their bladders don’t get too full and buy pet diapers or belly bands to prevent skin problems and damage to the home.

The Bottom Line

There are many underlying conditions that can cause animals to become incontinent. Concerned pet owners should always start by taking their dogs or cats to the vet. Depending on the diagnosis, they may be able to pursue surgical or medical interventions and if all else fails, they can always purchase products designed to reduce the impact of urinary incontinence in pets.

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