Could my dog be incontinent?
Did you know that some female dogs can become incontinent as they age? The condition is known as urethral sphincter mechanism incompetence (USMI), and this is just a fancy medical term used to describe a weak control of the muscles that control the lower urinary tract.
Watch out for:
Dribbling of urine or wet patches on the hair around legs
Wet bedding or puddles on the floor after lying down
Signs of discomfort or behavioural changes
Unexplained urinary tract infections
Scalding of the skin around the vulva
Excessive licking of the genital area
What causes incontinence in female dogs?
USMI is a cause of urinary incontinence in adult female dogs. Dogs that have been speyed (desexed) may be more susceptible to the condition due to a lack of circulating oestrogen. The reduced oestrogen levels result in reduced stimulation of the sphincter muscle that surrounds the urethra (the structure that takes urine from the bladder to outside the body). Other risk factors include obesity, size and breed of the dog, and bladder position. These effects may all contribute to involuntary leakage of urine, also known as incontinence.
It is important to note that the risk of USMI is not a valid reason to avoid desexing your dog. Female dogs that have not speyed are at a much higher risk of other more life-threatening conditions such as pyometra. The age at which we desex your pet may have an impact on USMI, and we can discuss the most appropriate time for desexing your female dog with you.
The good news is that there is a medication available to help treat USMI that is both safe and effective.
If you think your pet may be showing signs of incontinence, we must examine your pet and rule out other diseases. A thorough medical workup usually involves a urine test, blood test and sometimes further imaging of the urinary tract.
You should always ask us for advice if you are worried about your pet.