Molly (not her real name) ended up in a shelter because she was peeing in the house. Apparently she’d been incontinent for quite awhile, but Molly was never brought to a vet to determine the cause of the problem. Most shelters don’t have the financial resources to pay for extensive vet exams or surgery, so Old Dog Haven was asked to intervene and Molly was immediately examined by one of our vets. Two bladder stones (one quite large) were discovered. The bladder stones were causing bloody urine and a significant degree of discomfort for Molly. Thanks to Old Dog Haven Molly immediately received the surgery she needed to remove the bladder stones and she is recovering nicely in one of our foster homes.

Like Molly, many senior dogs find themselves in shelters because of incontinence. Sometimes the person surrendering the dog is honest about the issue, but more often than not the shelter isn’t told and once the dog is an actual shelter resident, determining incontinence is difficult because dog behavior often changes quite drastically in a shelter.

I mention Molly because I’d like to offer a few thoughts about the issue of incontinence in a home situation. Does your senior dog pee in the house? There are many articles available online that give detailed information that you might find helpful, but I think basically there are three main reasons for incontinence in senior dogs:

1)  Physical Issues
Perhaps something is going on in your dog’s body that is causing the incontinence. Arthritis in the spine? Neurological issues? Hormonal imbalance? Urinary infections? Bladder stones? Kidney disease? Diabetes? You need to have a vet examine your dog to determine the cause of the incontinence. Should your vet rule out any underlying disease or illness as being the cause of your dog’s incontinence, he or she may decide to put your dog on medication. Many incontinence drugs that are given will help improve the tone of the muscles that hold urine in the bladder. Your vet will tell you which of these are most appropriate for your dog.

2) Emotional Issues
Stress is an often over-looked cause of incontinence because it isn’t a physical problem, but it certainly shouldn’t be ruled out in terms of a factor contributing to incontinence. Dogs process everything emotionally and if they feel stressed, their bodies can’t help but react to how they feel.  Here you need to ask yourself what’s going on in your home that would be causing your dog to feel stressed. Are you spending less time with your dog? Has there been a change in family dynamics? How about a recent move? Or, perhaps there’s a new baby in the house? Have you been ill and your dog is worried about you? Is there a new dog in the house? You get the idea. Once you figure out the cause of your dog’s stress, you’ll have a better idea about how to deal with the issue.

3) Mental Issues
It’s not unusual for a dog suffering from dementia to become incontinent. Confusion, impaired thinking, and general lack of awareness contribute to a dog’s inability to control his or her bodily functions.

I could talk in depth about each one of the reasons I’ve mentioned, but all I want to do here is to ask you to address the issue as it might apply to you.

First and most importantly, please take your dog to the vet to find out whether the cause is physical. If your vet finds a physical reason for the incontinence, a course of treatment will be prescribed and hopefully you will see good results.

If the cause is emotional, your job here will be to determine what’s causing the stress contributing to the incontinence and work to eliminate the stress.

If you’re dealing with dementia, the problem of incontinence is liable to be chronic and perhaps not treatable, so you might want to look at the various products (pee pads, diapers, belly bands, etc.) available to help with the problem. If you’re an ODH foster or volunteer and you use Facebook, you might want to go to the ODH Fosters and Volunteers page and explain what’s going on with your dog and ask other people what they’ve tried and found successful.

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