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Urinary incontinence in dogs: pathophysiology and medical management

02 October 2015
15 mins read
Volume 6 · Issue 8


Urinary incontinence is a disorder of micturition characterised by the inappropriate leakage of urine. Increasing attention has been brought to this disorder over the past 30 years as dogs have been increasingly living indoors with their owners. Several diagnostic tests and treatment options are available nowadays. This review focuses on the pathophysiology, investigations and medical management of urinary incontinence.

Disorders of urination are frequently recognised in small animal practice. In particular, urinary incontinence is common in dogs, with a reported prevalence between 5 and 20% in spayed females (Arnold et al, 1989; Forsee et al, 2013). Inappropriate urination is often distressing to owners, especially if their dog is living indoors. Indeed, between 10 and 20% of owners of incontinent dogs reported disharmony within the household, as well as feelings of pity, anger, disappointment or frustration (de Bleser et al, 2011).

In order to treat urinary incontinence effectively, the underlying cause must be identified. This requires a logical and systematic approach. This review focuses on the pathophysiology, investigation and medical management of urinary incontinence in dogs.

The bladder can be divided into the apex (apex vesicae), body (corpus vesicae), and neck (cervix vesicae). The trigone of the bladder (trigonum vesicae) is a triangular area on the dorsal aspect of the bladder neck. The ureters enter at the level of the base of the trigone, and the urethra is located at the apex. The smooth muscle of the bladder is arranged in bundles with different orientations (i.e. spiral, longitudinal and circular). The circular bundle is called the detrusor muscle. The fibres within the detrusor muscle are intimately fused; therefore, stimulation results in complete emptying of the bladder. Smooth muscle bundles extend through the proximal part of the urethra, where they form the internal urethral sphincter (IUS). Further along the urethra, skeletal muscle forms the external urethral sphincter (EUS) (Evans and de Lahunta, 2013).

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