NMVMA listserve Veterinary Behavior Tip #13
Jeff Nichol, DVM – Veterinary Behavior Medicine
Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Centers
Albuquerque and Santa Fe Urinary Incontinence & Soiling
I’m currently engaged in gathering information from owners of dogs afflicted with urethral sphincter hypotonus. Often called spay incontinence, it’s a problem all general practitioners encounter. These cases present a splendid opportunity to impress our clients with our diagnostic acumen and treatment skills. They are delighted when all dog urine stays outside where it belongs.
It turns out that about 20% of spayed dogs suffer from nocturnal urinary incontinence and that urine soiling as a category accounts for 18.5% of dogs being relinquished to shelters. Whether for physical or behavioral causes this is an almost entirely preventable loss of life and companionship.
While listening to dog owners I found it especially sobering that some were actually punishing dogs who leak while resting or sleeping. They don’t do this to be mean-spirited; they lack an awareness of what incontinence looks like. Pet owners are also woefully ignorant of the basics of current learning theory. They would be more effective teachers if they understood the concepts.
During the course of wellness exams veterinarians ask important questions regarding appetite, activity, water consumption, and respiratory signs. I suggest also querying owners of spayed female dogs about possible bed wetting. Considering that some of them believe that they have failed as dog trainers they may never mention to it us unless asked. Proactive history taking can save lives and avoid frustration for clients and emotional pain for confused but well-meaning dogs.
There are dog owners who just need advice on effective and humane house training. You are welcome to contact me for a user-friendly structure to share with your clients.
All the best,
Jeff Nichol, DVM