Urine leaking in older dogs

It’s a delicate matter, and one that owners are sometimes reluctant to bring up at health checks.  And that’s a pity because urine leaking in older dogs is often something that can be ‘fixed’ very easily.  Because for us humans this isn’t something that can be ‘fixed’ simply there’s the assumption that it must be the case for our older pets. That’s not unreasonable, but it misses the point that dogs are four-legged and we are two-legged.  The act of standing up on to two legs has brought us a heap of problems in this particular department that dogs don’t have to contend with – a shame we didn’t stay on four legs then!

Why does my dog leak now its older ?

For a variety of reasons as dogs get older there can be a slight shift of the bladder from its normal position in the back part of the abdomen to a point further back again.  This simple slide means that the bladder pressure becomes uneven.  Under normal conditions when an older dog is awake there doesn’t seem to be a problem, but when resting, asleep at night or dozing in front of the TV, urine leakage occurs.  And the reason why it’s then that the problem happens ? Well, a “weaker” part of the nervous system takes over when we’re asleep to enable our functions to ‘tick-over’.  Unfortunately, being weaker it simply can’t cope with the now uneven bladder pressure and leakage follows.  In some older dogs this urine leakage can also arise when they run around vigorously or when they simply bark or cough.

Some dogs are so fastidious that they try and lick-up the puddle of urine, almost by way of apology.  For others, especially long-haired dogs, there may be a tell-tale staining of the hair around the back end and a musty odour to their coat, or there may be an excessive amount of grooming around the area.  Continued, unchecked, urine leakage over time can lead to infection and irritation around the tail and down the back legs.  For overweight, older dogs this urinary leakage can be as a consequence of the extra weight they are carrying.

How can we ‘fix” it?

For the vast majority of dogs a daily dropper of a solution on the food, or a pill, is all that is required.  Both act to tighten up the muscles around the bladder sphincter.  If successful, within days the urine leakage simply stops.  If there has been leakage for some time there may be the minor nuisance of a secondary infection that needs dealing with as well, but that is usually a one-off treatment.  The really important thing is to address the problem as early as possible and not just put up with this distressing condition.  It’s natural to be concerned, especially as it might appear at first to be an intractable problem.  Often though, it’s not!

© copywrite Dai Gittins MRCVS.