dog incontinenceMany owners become frustrated when their previously housetrained older dog suddenly starts to urinate inside.

They mistakenly punish or, in worse cases, put their dog to sleep without realizing the cause might be urinary incontinence that can be successfully managed with drugs or surgery.

Experts believe about two million female dogs in the United States suffer from the condition in which dogs unknowingly release urine, usually while sleeping or resting.

Julie Byron, a veterinarian at the University Of Illinois College Of Veterinary Medicine, says incontinence is commonly found in spayed females over 40 pounds, although neutered males can also experience the problem.

In spayed females, she notes that incontinence usually develops before the age of five. But often times it’s not evident until later in life when other diseases occur, like kidney failure, that make dogs drink more water.

The exact cause of urinary incontinence remains unknown. However, there are drugs that may stop the leaking, including Propalin, which works by strengthening bladder muscles.

If your otherwise healthy dog still drips urine while on medication, Byron suggests the following ways to manage the problem:

Dog Incontinence Tips

– Frequently take your dog outside to eliminate or install a pet door.

– While at work, put your dog in the bathroom or kitchen instead of a crate, so she’s not forced to sit in a urine puddle all day. (Since urine contains ammonia it can cause a chemical-like burn on your dog’s skin.)

– Don’t give your dog water an hour before bedtime, and take her outside to eliminate right before you go to sleep.

“If your dog doesn’t respond to medication, it’s not over,” said Byron, who specializes in urinary track diseases. “You don’t have to put your dog to sleep. There are still things we can do for your dog.”

An outpatient surgical procedure has proven successful in which small beads of collagen are injected into the urethral tissue.

Of senior dogs that undergo the surgery, Byron said 65 percent no longer leak afterwards.

But it’s not a permanent fix.

“We do tell people their dog may have to come back to have (the procedure) redone in a year or two years,” said Byron. “But it’s usually easier and more effective the second time.”