Urinary incontinence is a condition where your dog is unable to hold his urine. Incontinence in senior dogs is a fairly common problem that starts when a dog enters middle age and normally stays with the pooch after that. There is also fecal incontinence observed in dogs, but it's much more rare.
While some senior dogs lose their ability to hold it in only occasionally, others will have pee accidents all the time. Dogs that develop the urinary incontinence condition will often feel stressed and anxious, which only further complicates yours and your pet's life. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help your senior dog.
Determine the Underlying Cause
As soon as you notice incontinence in your senior dog, take him to the vet. There may be several reasons why your geriatric pet is having this problem. Some of the underlying causes can be treated all the way through while others can be somewhat managed.
Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections (UTI) are fairly common in senior dogs, and are fairly treatable in most cases. UTI will make your pet feel like he needs to go urgently and more often. It is also possible for incontinence to lead to UTI, in which case treating the infection will not help with incontinence. In regular cases, appropriate medication is all that is needed.
Anxiety can sometimes cause incontinence in senior dogs, but it can also be caused by incontinence, making it difficult to understand which one was the initiator. If the anxiety is the primary reason, your vet will help you treat your dog specifically for this. In some cases, dog anxiety aids and medication can be prescribed, but the best way to treat anxiety is to provide a safe and calm environment for your Fido.
Fluctuating Hormone Levels
Hormone levels change as your pet ages. Senior dogs that don’t produce enough testosterone or estrogen can lose control of their bladders. Studies have found that it's far more common if the dog is spayed or neutered, but it is not necessary the case all the time. These issues are treated with hormone replacement therapies or medications in veterinary clinics.
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) is a name for declining mental abilities of dogs that comes with old age. It's similar to dementia or Alzheimer’s in humans. CCD can make dogs forget to go outside or even make them unaware of urinating at all, which is why some can be surprised when they see urine around them or in their beds. Unfortunately, CCD can’t be cured and the only thing you can do is try to notice CCD in senior dog, and to make your dog as comfortable as you can. There are some new studies that claim to have developed devices for helping with CCD in senior dogs, but they're not available yet.
Other Diseases and Illnesses
Some other conditions that can cause incontinence in senior dogs include diabetes, liver or kidney disease, cancers or polyps in the urinary tract and bladder stones.
Incontinence can also be due to many other factors related to old age, such as the decline of the dog's muscles and nerves. This can be managed through medication or surgery but ultimately it can also be a problem that has to be dealt with on a daily basis for the rest of your pet's life.
Managing Incontinence in Senior Dogs
Around 90% of incontinence in dogs cases can be treated or managed with medications. However, if the treatment is not successful after several attempts, then you'll simply need to accommodate your pet and his condition, and make your dog comfortable.
Install a Doggie Door
Dogs with incontinence usually have to go to the bathroom often and they might have accidents because they can’t hold it for a long time. Installing a dog door can be helpful because it can provide your pooch with a non-stop access to the bathroom.
If you are not in a position to install doggie doors, then you have to be extra vigilant when your dog shows signs of needing to go. An alternative option may be installing a dog doorbell and teach your pooch how to get your attention quickly.
Move Your Dog’s Bed Closer to the Door
This can be very helpful for senior dogs with incontinence that are aware of the need to go but can’t make it outside in time. When you do this make sure that your pet's dog bed is not moved to a cold area or to a place where he will feel isolated or excluded. Having a dog door installed next to his bed can make things much easier for your senior pet.
Protect His Bed from Fluids
If your senior dog he has accidents much too often, you'll need to protect the bed. One solution is a plastic cover you can put on your dog’s mattress. Put a soft towel or a doggy blanket over the mattress and the plastic cover to make your dog more comfortable. If an accident happens, just wash the blanket or towel and hose off the plastic cover.
Another option is to choose a dog bed made particularly for this purpose, like elevated mesh beds. They keep your dog raised from the ground and if he has an accident, all the fluid will go down to the floor. You can just clean the floor and wash the bed clean after. Some of the best orthopedic beds for dogs (designed for senior pets) are made with materials that will not soak in the urine and are also very easy to clean.
There are many products made for dogs with incontinence that can make life easier for you and your Fido. Dog incontinence diapers are one of the best solutions for this problem. They are much like human diapers except for the tail hole, and they are good for fecal incontinence as well.
Belly bands like this one are very similar to diapers, but they are designed specifically for male dogs. They feature an absorbent band wrapped around the belly of the dog that can soak any urine and prevent it from leaking on the floor. This dog diaper is not good for female dogs or dogs with fecal incontinence since they don’t have any crotch coverage.
The famous puppy pee pads are absorbent papers that are very similar to disposable tablecloths. They provide a place where your pooch can go inside the house and they are often used for puppies who are not yet house-broken. They can be used with pee pad holders to make the cleaning job much easier. Alternatively, you can also opt for dog litter boxes made of real or artificial grass since many dogs prefer them to regular pee pads.
Give Your Dog Adequate Exercise
It's been observed that incontinence in senior dogs often happens with pets who lack exercise and playtime, which is common for an aging animal. If your dog doesn’t get enough exercise on a regular basis, you can try increasing it. Take him for a walk more often, which can sometimes help and decrease the number of accidents.
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