Q: Our Zoie, a 12-year-old mixed-breed female, has lost her bladder functions at night. For the last two months, I have had to change her bedding each morning. Diapers do not stay on her.
All of Zoie’s blood tests are negative, her X-rays are fine as are other tests she has had done. Her appetite has changed from dog food and some people food to cooked ground beef or chicken with rice. She is picky on the biscuits we offer her and drinks 4-6 cups of water a day.
Zoie has arthritis and it is hard for her to jump into a vehicle although she manages stairs fairly well. She dribbles urine during the day. Still enjoys running in a fenced-in yard.
Zoie usually gives a signal when she needs to go outside during the day. Her last outside time is about 11 p.m. and she goes back outside at 5:30 a.m.
Is there anything you can suggest to help our Zoie?
— F.H., Akron
A: I am so glad you wrote in about Zoie. It sounds as though she may have a condition called urinary sphincter incompetence. In this case, the urethral sphincter loses tone, which allows urine to dribble out even when the dog is housebroken and “holding it.” Initially, you generally see it when a dog is sleeping and relaxed. In Zoie’s case, her arthritis may cause her to struggle a bit getting up and down, which can lead to more leaking of urine.
It is a fairly common condition in older female dogs, and in my experience has been overrepresented by certain breeds such as Dobermans, collies and Labradors. It is not unheard of for a dog to develop it as young as 1 year of age, however, and can happen in all breeds. Male dogs can also develop it, but it is less common.
Now on to the good news … there are multiple simple and inexpensive treatments to help solve this problem. Your veterinarian can prescribe medication suited to Zoie that will help increase the tone in her sphincter and stop the leaking. It will be important to rule out all other causes for why she might be leaking, and would be an excellent idea to bring a urine sample along to the appointment to check for a urinary tract infection.
Thank you for writing in with this question. In my time in practice, I have met many people who struggled for years with this problem not realizing there was a treatment available. It is my great hope that your concern for Zoie leads to many pets and their people living futures with less laundry and drier beds.
— Meg Geldhof, DVM, medical director
One of a Kind Pet Rescue
Please send questions about your pet to Kathy Antoniotti at the Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640; or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your full name and address and a daytime phone number where you can be reached. I will forward your questions to the expert I think is best suited to answer your particular problem. Phoned-in messages will not be taken.