Spay Incontinence in Dogs

Neuter and spay incontinence can be a confusing and frustrating thing to deal with, especially if an owner doesn't realize such complications can arise.

Spay Incontinence

After a female dog is spayed, their level of the female hormone, estrogen, is significantly lower. Estrogen plays a part in constricting the sphincter muscles dogs use to urinate. The lack of estrogen means a lack of that tone needed to control her sphincter. The adrenal glands also produce estrogen, albeit in small amounts. This is usually enough to keep the sphincter muscles working properly, but in about 20% of cases, this isn't so. Male dogs also suffer this (with the lack of testosterone) however it's not generally as much of a problem as it is with female dogs.

You might notice your dog leaving behind small wet spots where she's been lying down. Or sometimes she might be a little damp around her hindquarters. This can be attributed to spay incontinence.

Larger breeds are at risk of spay incontinence, such as German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers or Boxers. More recent studies have found spaying your dog before her first heat reduces the chances of spay incontinence by almost half.

What Medications for Spay Incontinence

There are a number of medications your dog can take to help alleviate or remove her problem. Drugs such as Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) work well to stimulate the sphincter muscles directly. PPA is sold in brand-names like Propalin and Proin.

Hormone Supplements

Since spay incontinence is a result of low estrogen, it makes sense that replacing that estrogen would help fix the problem. Estrogen is generally given once a day for about a week, and then decreased to three times a week. The hormone replacement stilbestrol is a sugar-coated pink pill usually quite effective.

Other Options

There are, of course, other options that may work better for you and your dog.

Dog diapers are available at most pet stores. These are primarily used for female dogs in their heat cycles, but work just as well for incontinence issues.

Herbal remedies, such as corn silk, have worked for some. This comes in the form of capsules, tincture or tea. Corn silk is not the only herb, of course; the following have also been found to work:

  • nettle root

  • uva ursi

  • marshmallow

Corn silk works as an anti-inflammatory for the urinary tract and helps get rid of urine more frequently. Unlike many medicines, corn silk can be used for long periods of time with little or no side-effects.

Fennel is another herb, often added to your dog's drinking water, with reports of high success. Fennel had been used for centuries in human mothers to help with milk production for nursing. Fennel is also high in vitamins A and C, iron, potassium and calcium. The reason fennel is thought to work so well is because of the estrogen-like properties it carries.

Dietary changes could benefit your dog as well. Many dog owners report limiting or removing grain from their dog's diet helped spay related incontinence issues. Grain (such as wheat or rice) can irritate a dog's bladder and inflame the urinary tract. This goes for the food they eat, as well as any treats you may be giving her.