Fecal or Bowel Incontinence


Fecal Incontinence

Q: I went by the SPCA and found a very adorable Boston Terrier. I asked the staff about its medical condition and was told she had no anal tone. Her lack of anal tone causes her to have fecal incontinence. My question is, can this be medically or surgically treated? I am going to call my vet tomorrow and ask her but I would like a second opinion. She has not been adopted for this reason and if I can do something to help her I will. --Sylvia

A: Sylvia- While it is not possible to tell you for sure if this condition is treatable without knowing the cause it is possible to say that most of the time fecal incontinence is not very amenable to treatment. The first step is an examination to try to establish the reason for this problem, though.

Mike Richards, DVM

Bowel Incontinence and spinal problems

Q: Hi! We have an 11 1/2 year old male lab mix. Over the last 3 months his back legs have become somewhat lame (he has great difficulty getting up of climbing stairs - some times he just falls down while walking) and he seems to be totally unaware of his bowel movements (at first I thought his legs simply hurt to much to get up but many times he is already standing or is walking along and doesn't seem to realize anything is happening). Is this just age or are there other possibilities?

Thank You. Lisa

A: Lisa- Age alone doesn't explain very many things in veterinary medicine, so I strongly suspect that there is something wrong with your Lab. Due to the combination of neurologic signs (inability to control bowel movements and falling down) and musculoskeletal signs I think it is likely that there may even be more than one thing wrong. In this age range progressive degenerative joint disease from a problem like hip dysplasia or cranial cruciate ligament instability is one likely problem. A problem in the lumbo-sacral area is also possible as well as a condition such as degenerative myelopathy (not that common in Labs but possible, I think). Disc disease, spinal tumors, other forms of cancer and many other conditions are also possible. It takes a pretty extensive workup to diagnose the cause of neuromuscular symptoms in some cases but it can be very helpful in determining the proper treatment and in assessing the prognosis for long term success in treating the symptoms.

Mike Richards, DVM


Michael Richards, D.V.M. co-owns a small animal general veterinary practice in rural tidewater Virginia. Dr. Richards graduated from Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in 1979, and has been in private practice ever since. Dr. Richards has been the director of the PetCare Forum...