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When Your Dog Pees in the House, the Problem Might be Medical, Not Behavioral

[Thank you Henry Schein Animal Health for allowing us to share your blog post with our readers.]

Urinary incontinence is a condition found to affect dogs of all ages, breeds, or gender. Most commonly observed in spayed females that are middle-aged and older, incontinence can cause health problems that require veterinary attention.


The first signs of urinary incontinence may include:

  • Dribbling or leaking urine
  • Licking of the vulva or penis area
  • Wet spots on the dog’s bedding
  • Ammonia-like smell on the dog’s bedding.

The initial signs of incontinence are sometimes overlooked. Pet owners may not grasp what has happened, or may incorrectly assume the pet had not been let out in time. However, incontinence won’t just go away. As the condition progresses, pet owners who may not have been aware of the issue in the beginning will soon recognize that their pet does indeed have a problem. It is important to know that the symptoms indicate a need to bring your pet in for an examination.

Causes of Urinary Incontinence

  • Age
    • When incontinence symptoms are observed only occasionally, such as when the animal has been sleeping, the cause may be related to the animal’s age and attributed to:
    • Weakened muscle tone of the urethral sphincter
    • Lowered estrogen levels or hormonal imbalance
    • Illness
      • Certain diseases cause excessive water consumption which increases the animal’s production of urine as well as their need to urinate, and include:
    • Diabetes
    • Kidney disease
    • Cushing’s disease
    • Underlying conditions
      • Examples:
    • Bladder or urinary tract infections
    • Urinary stones
    • Spinal injury
    • Spine degeneration
    • Prostate disorders
    • Protruding intervertebral disc
    • Congenital abnormalities
    • Stress
      • When a dog shows signs of a loss of bladder control when in scary or tense situations, it may be stress incontinence. Found to occur more often in younger animals, most pets will outgrow the condition.


Without knowing the exact cause, incontinence may be difficult to treat. You should be prepared to provide your veterinarian with the answers to such questions as the following:

  • When did the symptoms first appear?
  • Do the symptoms occur all the time or just on occasion?
  • Does the animal dribble as it walks? Or on where it sits and sleeps?
  • Does it seem to occur only when relaxed or when excited?
  • Is there anything unusual about the urine? Strange color or odor?
  • Does the animal seem to have difficulty urinating? Does it posture as usual?
  • Has the dog been drinking more water than usual?
  • Has the dog always signaled its need to go outside?
  • Has the animal’s need to go outside changed in frequency or in urgency?
  • Does the animal want to go outside?
  • Are there any other unfamiliar signs?

Client Tips for Living with Incontinent Dogs

Living with an incontinent dog will require extra effort by the owner. The following tips may be helpful.

Tip #1. Monitor your pet’s condition closely, watch for any changes that may signal the start of a disease, such as:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased frequency in urinating needs

Tip #2. Provide proper hygiene. When keeping your dog clean, watch for developing signs of:

  • Urine scalding
  • Skin infections

Tip #3. Living area cleanliness is absolutely necessary for the health and comfort of the pet.

  • Place waterproof pads under the dog’s bedding to absorb urine
  • Layer clean blankets, towels or sheets on the animal’s sleeping spot, changing frequently
  • To protect furniture and carpets, use doggie diapers

Tip #4. Increase the number of walks per day, make sure to the get your dog outside quickly as soon as it wakes from sleeping.

Tip #5. Under no circumstances should the pet’s access to its water bowl be removed or limited.

Tip #6. If  your dog experiences stress incontinence, apply behavioral modification techniques such as the following:

  • Avoid bending over the animal
  • Do not make direct eye contact
  • Keep stressful interactions brief and to a minimum
  • If possible, work with a canine behaviorist

Incontinence can be a symptom of an easily treatable condition or of a serious illness. It’s important that pet owners not only know the signs to watch for, but also realize the importance of consulting with their veterinarian to confirm the diagnosis and determine the cause.




What’s a “Pyo” and Why Should I Be Concerned


“Pyo” is how some veterinary staff refer to a pyometra, an infection of the female’s uterus.  Today, I tentatively diagnosed two of these infections – both older female dogs that had not been spayed.  The diagnosis is said to be tentative because prior to surgery, you can only observe the preponderance of symptoms (with test results that are consistent with but not diagnostic of infection) and conclude that it’s most likely a pyometra.

What are the symptoms?  Not every pet will display the same symptoms, and the symptoms are general enough that they could be signs of other illnesses and diseases as well.  Many dogs will be brought in because the owners see a vaginal discharge, but there does not have to be a discharge present in every dog that has an infected uterus.  Most dogs will be lethargic with decreased appetites, some will have vomiting and diarrhea, and others will also have excess urination and/or thirst.  (Note that the discussion is focusing more on dogs, since we rarely see female cats with a diagnosis of pyometra.)

What do we do when we suspect pyometra as one of the possible diagnoses?  At West Kendall Animal Hospital, we’ll perform a basic work-up: a CBC (complete blood count), blood chemistries and Xray, and sometimes a urinalysis.  While a normal CBC does not rule-out a pyometra, many times we’ll see an abnormal white blood count.  Blood chemistries usually show elevated kidney and possibly elevated liver enzymes.  On Xray, we’ll possibly see an enlarged uterus.

So how do we treat a pyometra?  While only rarely can there be a medical (i.e., non-surgical) solution for pets that are “reproductively valuable,” surgery is almost always the preferred treatment.  For most dogs the surgical procedure is a spay (ovariohysterectomy, or removal of the female reproductive organs).

How can I prevent my dog from having this problem?  Spaying your dog at a young age (I recommend between 6 and 12 months) is the best way to avoid an infected uterus in the future.  Spaying at this age will also help protect your dog from breast cancer later in life.  There are very few good reasons to not spay your dog.  Your dog does not need the experience of having a litter of puppies to be a happy, loving family member.  Some people worry that their dog will become fat and lazy after being spayed, but that does not have to happen with a healthy life style that includes an appropriate diet as well as exercise. Are you concerned about your pet undergoing anesthesia?  Yes, spaying your dog is a surgical procedure that, like all surgical procedures, has an element of risk.  At West Kendall Animal Hospital we manage the risk by careful monitoring during surgery as well as in recovery.  Is cost a concern, too?  There are free spay (and neuter) clinics that are offered by Miami Dade Animal Services for healthy pets.

It’s nearing the end of our day.  One of the two dogs is scheduled for surgery tomorrow; the other owner is not pursuing either additional diagnostics or treatment at this time.  I’m very optimistic about the outcome for the dog that’s scheduled for surgery, and I’m very concerned about the other one.  But tomorrow is another day, and maybe we’ll be able to persuade the more-reluctant pet owner to provide some follow-up.  That’s all we can do…






Oh no, my dog bit a toad!

If you live in South Florida, you’re already familiar with so many of our creepy-crawly critters: palmetto bugs, lizards, stinging red ants, mosquitoes (even before we worried about Zika), and – of course, fleas and ticks.  But the largest, ugliest, most worrisome of them all for pet lovers is the Bufo Marinus, or Giant toad.  If your pet tries to bite one, they risk being poisoned by the highly toxic substances that these toads secrete from a gland in the back of their head.

According to the University of Florida Wildlife Extension, these ugly creatures breed year-round, anywhere there’s a lake, river, creek or standing water.  And with the recent rain that we’ve been having, West Kendall Animal Hospital has been seeing a larger number of toad poisonings than usual.

So what should a pet owner do to protect their pet?  First, do what you can to eliminate these toads in your yard by removing pet food and standing water.  Second, supervise your pet when they go out in your yard.  Third, know the basic first aid to administer if you suspect your pet might have bitten (or even mouthed) a toad – immediately rinse your pet’s mouth with water, carefully rubbing the teeth and gums to remove the sticky toxins.  Observe your pet for signs of toxicity including excessive salivation, twitching eyes, staggering, redness to the gums, vomiting, irregular heart rate (either too fast or too slow), and even seizures.  If your pet is showing any of these symptoms, your pet will need immediate veterinary care.

Many pets with toad poisonings will survive with treatment, but toad poisonings can be deadly.  And don’t believe that your dog or cat will learn from the experience and never try it again!




Veterinarians are cooler than physicians

We should celebrate how multi-species knowledge, multidisciplinary work and amazing levels of client service help us outperform other medical professionals.

Source: Veterinarians are cooler than physicians

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