For old dogs who have age-related physical changes that cause urinary leakage, medications with hormone replacement therapy and alpha agonists can help. These include:
- Phenylpropanolamine hydrochloride (Proin), a commonly prescribed alpha agonist that strengthens urinary sphincter muscles.
- Diethylstilbsterol (DES), one of the early synthetic estrogens prescribed for spay incontinence, and Estriol, a newer popular estrogen choice (brand name Incurin).
It may take a little experimentation or a combination of therapies to help your dog gain control over urinary leakage and/or loss of nerve and muscle control over urination. Female dogs, especially spayed dogs, may respond best to a low dose of estrogen. Incurin is a short-acting estrogen that is extremely safe.
Female Dog Incontinence
Oklahoma State University estimates that 5% to 20% of spayed dogs develop urinary sphincter mechanism incompetence (USMI) and says that the larger the dog, the more likely it is to happen. (See “The Best Age to Spay Your Dog” for more information on the connection between USMI and spaying.)
A recent study looked at injecting muscle stem cells into the urinary sphincter muscles in an attempt to regenerate healthy tissue. While the study only had 15 female dogs in it, 14 of them showed dramatic improvement.
Complementary Medicine Options
Acupuncture may improve incontinence for some dogs, and many people do try different herbal compounds, such as corn silk or palmetto. Organic soy supplements somewhat mimic estrogen in activity, but most find the results to be weak at best.
Tips on Dealing with Old Dog Incontinence
The most important thing to do is to get a diagnosis and treat any underlying medical conditions. For middle-aged dogs, barring congenital defects such as ectopic ureters, the most common cause is a bladder infection. That can be ruled out with a urinalysis. A urinalysis, with a complete blood panel, would catch health problems like diabetes and kidney failure.
You can help your older incontinent dog with management. Try to get her outside frequently or provide “pee pads” or a litterbox. Put waterproof, washable pads over her bedding and in spots where she likes to rest.
Most dogs will accept wearing a doggy diaper – just be sure to clean and dry that area daily to prevent urine scald and skin irritation. Change the diaper frequently.