In a healthy dog that does not have bladder issues, urine voiding is controlled by a muscular band of tissue that is located at the bladder base. This band works like a valve that is controlled consciously by the dog to hold in urine when needed and release urine when needed.
When house trained a dog is taught how to properly and voluntarily control their bladder for timely voiding. Hormones also play a large role in how well a dog is able to control their bladder.
The hormone estrogen in female dogs is highly important as it has a huge effect on the strength of the muscles that allow urine to escape the bladder. In male dogs, the hormone that plays the same role is called testosterone.
When these hormones are decreased due to natural causes or otherwise, incontinence becomes an issue. Incontinence is the inability to consciously control the bladder resulting in involuntary leakage of urine.
Sometimes urinary incontinence is minor without only small quantities of urine escaping and causing a ‘dribble’ of urine here and there. In other cases, urinary incontinence is significantly worse and large amounts of urine escape the bladder, causing a much bigger mess.
Urinary incontinence most commonly happens in older dogs, who’s hormone levels have decreased due to age or other health issues. However, older dogs that have been spayed or neutered seem to have more issues with incontinence.
This is due to the fact that the organs responsible for producing the important hormones are removed during the procedure. In female dogs the organ removed is the ovaries while in male dogs the testicle are removed.
It is rare, but urinary incontinence can effect younger dogs as a result of congenital anatomic abnormalities.