Pet Health with Helen Woodward Animal Center: Urinary tract infections vs. Incontinence

(KUSI) – Helen Woodward Animal Center Veternarian Dr. Patricia Carter stopped by Good morning San Diego to talk about the difference between Urinary tract infections vs. Incontinence, both which can cause leaking of urine.

Many times what presents as incontinence is actually a bladder infection or vaginitis in females irritating the urinary sphincter and causing leakage of urine when the dog is relaxed. Conversely having incontinence can predispose a dog to a higher incidence of UTI’s

Urinary incontinence is defined as the “lack of voluntary control over the passage of urine.” Involuntary means this is occurring without any awareness on the part of the pet. A pet who is well housetrained may realize after the urine has leaked out that they have make a mistake but they are unaware while it is passing. The classic case of incontinence is in an older spayed female dog that has a wet spot present on the surface where she has been sleeping or resting.
Urinary tract infections are from bacteria getting into the bladder and setting up an infection. When this first happens you may see the dog squatting more frequently to urinate, strain as though urinating but only a few drops are coming out then they take a few steps and squat again and again. After a few days though the discomfort that a dog is feeling may recede and they don’t show many outward signs. If this is the case when the dog is sleeping the urinary sphincter is sensitive and you may see leaking or incontinence.

Diagnosis and Treatment:
When a dog is presented to the veterinarian for the first time with a history of leaking urine while resting or sleeping or if a dog who is currently on incontinence medicine suddenly starts having leakage problems a urine sample will be obtained to culture for any infection. If an infection is not treated early on there can be problems such as bladder stones forming or pyelonephritis and kidney damage that could result. Since bladder stones are a concern with an infection that has been around for a while most veterinarians will also recommend an x-ray of the bladder and/or check the bladder with an ultrasound.

If the culture is negative and the urinalysis is normal then a female who is incontinent can be started on medication to increase the tone of the urethral sphincter. One thing to be aware, many dogs after being on the medication for a time may when the medicine is discontinued not leak any more at first. However this is temporary and the incontinence almost always returns and can sometimes be more difficult to bring back into control so it is important that you discuss with your veterinarian the pros and cons to stopping any medication for incontinence before you do so. Additionally if there is an infection diagnosed with a urine culture you want to finish out the full course of antibiotics prescribed and do any follow up procedures recommended to ensure that your pet’s bladder is infection free.

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