Incontinence is one of the main reasons people surrender dogs to animal shelters or rescues. Unfortunately, many people do this simply for behavior-related issues that cause a puppy or dog to urinate excessively. Incontinence can be a debilitating medical issue for many dogs. But is incontinence a reason to put down a dog?
Medical or stress-related canine incontinence does not immediately require or suggest euthanasia. Veterinarians have a range of medications, training exercises, and surgeries that can help remedy canine incontinence caused by a range of possible medical issues.
Are you currently trying to address your dog’s incontinence? Although incontinence is a burden for you and your dog, many options are available to help correct the issue. Read on to learn more about canine incontinence and the pros and cons of euthanasia related to incontinence.
Before you scroll down to a more in-depth answer to the question, “Is Incontinence a Reason To Put Down a Dog?” you can check out these other dog-related questions answered by our team at We Love Doodles: When To Put Down a Dog With Seizures? and When to Put a Dog Down Due To Dementia?.
What Causes Canine Incontinence?
The following scenarios can easily explain canine incontinence: an old dog peeing in the house, having to start putting down extra newspaper on the floor, and constant urination on the carpet from puppies. Canine incontinence is actually a universal issue and part of what comes with owning a dog.
Canine incontinence may occur due to a wide range of factors, both inherited and medical. It’s rarely linked to behavioral concerns. But what is incontinence? If you have a dog that constantly urinates without alerting you that it needs to go outside, this is not incontinence.
Incontinence is a medical condition that causes a dog to urinate excessively without warning. The condition does not come from a lack of proper training or misbehavior. More often than not, dogs with incontinence urinate wherever they are, lying or walking, with no control over the process.
Let’s take a look at some of the primary causes of canine incontinence.
Anatomical Birth Defects or Trauma
Unfortunately, some dogs can be born with certain anatomical defects that may cause incontinence.
One of the primary birth defects in dogs is spinal deformities. Veterinarians can easily diagnose a spinal deformity with x-rays. They may even attempt corrective procedures.
A spinal deformity can lead to incontinence because it causes a dog’s posture to align unevenly. This causes constant pressure on the bladder, which may lead to urinary discharge without your dog knowing.
Another major birth defect results from the passage of time or physical trauma to a dog’s pelvic region is a weakened bladder sphincter. This condition is also commonly referred to as a “weak bladder.”
A weak bladder sphincter causes a dog to urinate randomly due to damaged receptors in the sphincter. Once the receptors are damaged, the bladder is unable to send accurate signals to a dog’s brain to alert them that they need to urinate. Urination seeps out of a dog’s bladder in small and sometimes large amounts.
Many people mistake a weak bladder as a sign of defiance or laziness. This is not the case at all. Dogs with weak bladders do not receive signals that alert them to walk to the door or get your attention to let you know they need to go outside and relieve themselves.
Ectopic ureters are the most common birth defect that directly causes incontinence in dogs. These occur when the ureter tube, which connects the kidney to the bladder, is deformed during the embryo stage of a dog’s development.
This condition arises more in female dogs but can affect males as well. Typically, the ureter is slightly deformed on the end of the tube where it connects the kidney to the bladder. The condition can be corrected through surgery.
Digestive and Urinary Tract Issues
Fecal Incontinence in Dogs
Canine incontinence may also include canine fecal incontinence. Abnormalities in the digestive tract or the anal sphincter can cause the same types of problems seen with urinary incontinence.
Fecal incontinence is not as common as urinary incontinence in dogs. It typically occurs when the muscles and receptors in a dog’s anal sacs are disrupted or weakened. Dogs can pass stool while sleeping if they develop fecal incontinence.
Urinary Tract Infections
Another issue that can lead to incontinence is urinary tract infections (UTIs).
As a dog ages, the prevalence of UTIs increases. This infection is almost always caused by bacteria that have found their way into a dog’s bladder. Female dogs, especially senior female dogs, are at higher risk for developing UTIs. Incontinence is one of the primary side effects of a UTI, along with urine in the blood.
Thankfully, veterinarians can easily treat a UTI in dogs. After conducting a urinalysis to confirm the existence of a UTI, your vet will typically prescribe your dog a course of antibiotics. The medication will destroy the bacteria. It’s important to ensure your dog takes every single pill prescribed.
Like kidney stones, there are also stones that can accumulate in a dog’s bladder. Bladder stones throw off the entire balance of the urinary tract. If a bladder stone lodges in the urethra, it can cause immense pain for a dog.
Symptoms of bladder stones in dogs include blood in the urine (also a UTI symptom), as well as increased straining to urinate with no success. Veterinarians can treat the condition in one of three ways:
- Surgery. If the bladder stones are large, your dog will need surgery to remove them.
- Urohydropropulsion. This procedure eliminates smaller stones by placing a tube into the urethra and flushing the stones out.
- Specialized diet. You can feed your dog a special diet if it has bladder stones. Specialized meals are typically available only from veterinarians through a prescription.
Kidney failure is a common cause of urinary incontinence in dogs. Many different factors may cause kidney failure: excessive sodium in a dog’s diet, drinking contaminated water (such as water that rodents have drank from), diabetes, severe dehydration, or UTIs that do not receive proper medical treatment.
As the kidneys fail, urination becomes more and more infrequent. Your dog will find it difficult to urinate when It needs to. Urination while sleeping is also common when a dog is experiencing kidney failure.
Diabetes in dogs can directly affect the kidneys, which in turn affects the urinary tract system. As insulin levels constantly increase, the kidneys have to work overtime to expel the extra sugars in a dog’s system. This causes the bladder to function uncontrollably.
Muscle and bone weakness, as well as dementia or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CCDS), can all lead to incontinence in senior dogs.
Stress on its own will not typically cause incontinence in dogs. But if a dog lives in an environment that brings about consistent stress and anxiety, this can lead to incontinence.
Is Euthanizing a Dog for Incontinence Humane?
Putting a dog down because of incontinence alone is inhumane. If your dog’s incontinence is caused by a treatable condition, you should not be seeking to euthanize it. Furthermore, you are unlikely to find a veterinarian willing to euthanize a dog simply because it has incontinence. Numerous medical treatments exist that can cure or, at the very least, control incontinence.
Canine incontinence does not always affect elderly dogs. If a birth defect causes the incontinence, a veterinarian can perform surgeries or prescribe medications to fix the problem.
Neither urinary nor fecal incontinence is classified as a life-threatening condition in dogs. Understandably, this condition causes stress to us, but there is no reason to have a dog euthanized for something it cannot control.
If your dog is experiencing incontinence, your veterinarian can do a complete diagnostic physical to get to the root of the problem. It could be that your dog has a birth defect or one of the other conditions mentioned above.
While treating your dog, you can help limit the incontinence by wrapping your pup in an incontinence diaper or setting their bed on floors that do not have rugs or carpets. Avoid allowing your dog to sleep on the sofa or in bed with you until the problem is corrected.
Are Uncontrollable Bowel Movements Part of Incontinence?
As mentioned, fecal incontinence can afflict dogs similarly to urinary incontinence.
If your dog is excessively experiencing bowel movements, the first thing to inspect is its diet. Suddenly introducing new foods to a dog can cause excessive diarrhea, which may lead to incontinence.
Like urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence is usually outside a dog’s control. It may pass stool while walking or even sleeping.
Fecal incontinence may be caused by various factors, including an abnormality of the anal sphincter, a rectal disease, or damaged nerve receptors in the digestive tract leading to the rectum.
A deformed anal sphincter is one of the most common causes of fecal incontinence. This occurs when the sphincter cannot close fully, allowing feces to leak out before the proper signals are transmitted to your dog’s brain to defecate.
Euthanizing your dog due to fecal incontinence is also not a viable option to consider. Like urinary incontinence, a range of surgical and medical interventions are available to correct fecal incontinence.
Can Anything Be Done To Cure Incontinence?
If your dog’s incontinence is caused by any of the conditions mentioned above, many surgical and medical interventions can correct the problem.
Veterinarians will perform surgical treatments to correct the muscle or nerve abnormalities causing the incontinence. For some types of incontinence, your vet may prescribe medications to destroy bacteria or control diseases such as diabetes or kidney disease.
There are even special diets veterinarians can provide to address abnormalities in a dog’s system that may lead to incontinence.
Incontinence Is certainly curable. Even in more complex cases, you can manage it effectively to bring both you and your dog peace of mind.
Frequently Asked Questions
Incontinence alone is not a reason to euthanize your dog. Always consult a veterinarian about putting a dog down. Typical signs that your dog is dying include a lack of energy, disinterest in its favorite things, labored breathing, and an inability to move or walk.
Incontinence is more prominent in dogs as they get older. To deal with incontinence in an older dog, take it for more walks, line its bed with a waterproof cover, encourage it to use the bathroom after meals, and place its bed in an area with no rugs or carpets.
Urinary incontinence in a dog is typically not an emergency. Usually, it is linked to old age or a genetic condition. However, if your dog’s incontinence is accompanied by whimpering during urination, tiredness, bloody urine, or bloat, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Is Incontinence a Reason To Put Down a Dog? – The Answer is No
So, is incontinence a reason to put down a dog?
Incontinence alone is not a strong enough reason to consider euthanizing a dog. There are far too many medical interventions and procedures that can alleviate your dog’s symptoms.
If your dog is currently experiencing urinary or fecal incontinence, consult your veterinarian to address the problem. You can also consider making your dog a well-padded bed and limiting their water and food intake before bedtime.
If you find this guide, “Is Incontinence a Reason To Put Down a Dog?” helpful, you can check out these other dog-related questions from our team at We Love Doodles:
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- Why Does My Dog Pee on Other Dogs?
- My dog’s urine has a strong odor. What does this mean?
You can learn more about pet euthanasia by watching “How do I know When it’s Time to Euthanize my Pet.wmv” down below:
Garrett loves animals and is a huge advocate for all Doodle dog breeds. He owns his own Goldendoodle named Kona. In addition, he volunteers at the Humane Society of Silicon Valley, where he fosters dogs and helps animals. Garrett enjoys writing about Doodles and believes that dogs can teach humans more about how to live than humans can teach a dog.
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