Senior dogs can require some extra attention because just like humans, their physical needs often increase as they age. A common problem that occurs is poor bladder control in dogs who have been house-trained, otherwise known as urinary incontinence.
Incontinence is stressful for everybody involved. Pet-owners have to be on continuous clean-up duty, unsure of where the next accident may occur. This may lead you to confine the dog to only certain areas of the home. The dog is also stressed out, knowing that she has broken a rule she has previously followed very well. She may be upset or anxious, and will probably attempt to clean up some of the area.
Many things can cause incontinence. There might be a urinary tract infection (UTI), or it might be an issue related to musculoskeletal disease, caused by aging. Spayed females can be more prone to incontinence due to a lack of estrogen in their systems. And certain breeds have a higher likelihood of developing incontinence as well. These are all things to consider.
The following symptoms are signs of incontinence:
- Drinking excessive amounts of water
- Halting urine
- Dribbling urine while walking
- Leakage while sleeping
- Blood in the urine
If these symptoms occur for more than a day then you need to take your dog to a veterinarian. Also, it is important not to punish your dog for this. She knows that she has broken a rule, yet she cannot prevent it. Punishment will only further activate any anxiety she already feels.
Your vet should prescribe medication to ease the incontinence. If there is blood in the urine then the cause may have been a UTI, in which case there will be medication to clear that up. The incontinence will most likely be temporary.
There are other causes of incontinence. Arthritis can prevent a dog from properly squatting outside and emptying the bladder completely. If walking is painful for your dog, or if getting up from the down position requires a lot of effort, then this could very likely be part of the problem. Pay attention to how your dog’s movement is changing. Are the front or back legs getting weaker? She may have had joint problems for a while, but these can get worse over time. Whatever the problem was six months ago might have evolved into something more painful, requiring different medication.
Another issue in senior dogs is anxiety brought on by canine dementia, or canine cognitive dysfunction. In addition to symptoms of lower aggression threshold, pacing, and/or continuous barking, there can be anxiety-related urination. This can occur at any time, although there may not be an actual issue with the bladder. In this case, the dog may urinate indoors, and in the same spot regularly. Since this dog has been house-trained and the dog knows that this behavior is not allowed, she will find a “secret” pee place. If this is what is happening, definitely see a vet about getting anti-anxiety medication for the dog, and protect your floor by placing towels and rags in the frequented pee-spot.
You can also protect the dog’s bed and sleeping area with a protective cover using DogSheetz, a waterproof barrier that fits round or rectangle dog beds. This will keep the pad area protected from getting soaked. It is also easily removed to wash in the machine.
It is our duty to care for our dogs until the end. The extra time required may seem like an inconvenience but it will save your sanity and your dog’s. It is never easy watching our furry-friends age rapidly, but if we are there for them and take extra-steps, their final years can be much more comfortable.