Use of Hormones for Incontinence in Dogs
Symptoms and Diagnosis
- Dogs can have incontinence issues for a variety of reasons. Some dogs have these problems due to birth defects, age, infections, or blockages of the urethra. Your dog may have trouble holding his urine, or may have continued leakage after he urinates. It is important to have your veterinarian give your dog a checkup if he is having any problems with urinating.
The vet can test your dog's blood and urine, and look at your dog's medical history in order to determine if it is incontinence or another issue. The vet can also help you determine the cause of the incontinence, which will be important for you to know before you choose a treatment.
Spaying and Neutering
- Spaying and neutering are major causes of incontinence. When dogs have their reproductive organs removed, they lose a good deal of their hormones---estrogen or testosterone---all at once. While the dog will still create these hormones after being fixed, the amount of hormones will be greatly reduced.
Estrogen and testosterone play a role in helping keep the bladder toned. If the bladder sphincter becomes too relaxed, urine will leak. For most dogs, the hormones produced after a spay or neuter are sufficient; however, this is not the case for all dogs, and medication may be required. Incontinence is much more common in female dogs, and 1 in 5 spayed females will suffer from incontinence issues.
- The use of hormones is a common form of treatment if the incontinence is caused by a hormonal deficiency. If that is not the case, a non-hormonal stimulant drug, called phenylpropanolamine, is often used.
Work closely with your vet to see if hormone replacement is a good option for your dog. There are estrogen hormones and hormone substitutes available. These are only given to female dogs. (Testosterone therapy is fairly rare and expensive, and most incontinence cases in males can be treated with non-hormonal drugs.) Most likely your dog will be given a more frequent dose right away, such as a daily treatment, and then you will be able to reduce the frequency to a few times a week. You may even end up with just a weekly dosage for maintenance.
Unfortunately, most dogs that need hormone replacements to treat their incontinence will need to continue hormone treatment for the rest of their lives. However, it is an effective form of treatment, and in small doses is almost free of side effects.