by Jenny Smiechowski
If you’ve been lucky enough to have your dog or cat live to a ripe old age, then you’ve probably also cleaned up your share of “accidents” around the house.
Urinary accidents are common in pets —especially as they get older (1). So you may find yourself coming home to mysterious wet spots on the couch, puddles on the floor and soaking wet pet beds more and more often.
Of course, urinary problems don’t just affect senior pets—they strike pets of all ages (2). And the first thing you’ll want to do, no matter what your pet’s age, is figure out the cause of their incontinence.
UTIs and Other Causes of Incontinence
You may assume when your pet begins having accidents that he or she must have a urinary tract infection (UTI). And it’s true that this is the first cause of incontinence you and your vet will want to rule out.
Besides the obvious sign of puddles and wet spots around the house, pets with urinary tract infections will also lick their genital area, and may be red and sore in that area as well (3).
Pets with UTIs may whimper in pain when they go to the bathroom too (1), and if you’ve ever had a UTI yourself, you know why. They’re darn painful!
Of course, if your vet does a urine analysis and determines that it’s not a urinary tract infection causing your pet’s incontinence, then he or she will want to look into other potential causes of incontinence, like:
- Neurological issues
- Bladder stones
- Weak muscles in the bladder sphincter (often caused by a hormonal imbalance triggered by neuter or spay surgery)
- Birth defects or congenital problems
Getting to The Root of Your Pet’s Urinary Incontinence
Since there are so many potential causes for incontinence in pets, your first responsibility is to get your pet to the vet for an exam. How you proceed from there will depend on what’s causing your pet’s problem.
If the incontinence is a side effect of an underlying health issue, like a bladder tumor, bladder stones or a spinal disk injury, you obviously need to take care of the root problem to take care of the incontinence.
Of course, some problems that cause urinary accidents (like dementia) don’t have an easy solution (4). And sometimes vets rule out a lot of causes without ever pinning down exactly what’s wrong.
If you are lucky enough to get a diagnosis, then there may be conventional and natural treatments you can try—especially if your pet is diagnosed with one of the more likely and treatable causes of incontinence—UTIs or spay incontinence.
Treatment Options: UTIs
Urinary tract infections happen in pets of all ages, but become more common as pets get older (1). Once your vet confirms your pet has a urinary tract infection, he or she will prescribe an antibiotic to clear up the infection. But you can also try diet changes and herbal remedies to help your pet overcome a UTI and prevent future infections.
Commercial dry pet foods can contribute to alkaline urine in dogs (5). And since a healthy dog’s urine is typically slightly acidic, overly alkaline urine can set your dog up for urinary problems like UTIs (6). Consider changing your dog’s diet from conventional kibble to a high-quality wet food, raw food or homemade food (5).
Juniper berry is a long-standing botanical remedy for people with urinary tract issues (7). And when used in moderation and as directed, juniper berry supplements are safe for dogs and cats with UTIs too (8). Juniper berry is helpful for UTIs and other urinary tract issues, because it’s a natural antibiotic (9). It also helps the kidneys get rid of toxins quicker, which causes the body to produce more urine and clears out the infection (5).
Uva-ursi is another popular herbal remedy for UTIs, and it’s safe for both cats and dogs (8). Uva-ursi is especially helpful for pets with highly acidic urine, because it contains a compound called arbutin, which becomes a powerful antibiotic and anti-inflammatory in an acidic environment (10). If you do use uva-ursi to clear up your pet’s UTI, you should only use it for a few days, because it’s a strong herb meant for short-term use (10).
If your pet gets frequent bladder infections, you may want to try cranberry or blueberry supplements. These supplements work in both pets and people with UTIs, because they make it more difficult for UTI-causing bacteria to attach itself to the urinary tract lining (5).
You can also try homeopathic remedies to ease and prevent UTIs. Pet Alive’s UTI-Free™ for Urinary & Bladder Problems supports bladder health and eases uncomfortable UTI symptoms through homeopathic ingredients like Berberis vulg, Cantharis and Staphysagris.
If you want to treat your pet’s UTI with herbs and homeopathy, your best bet is to turn to a holistic vet who can guide you. The options mentioned above are great choices, but there are plenty of other herbs, homeopathic remedies and supplements you can try for your pet’s urinary tract issues, including marshmallow root, parsley leaf, vitamin C, cornsilk, slippery elm and couchgrass, just to name a few (11).
No matter how your choose to treat your pet’s UTI, you’ll want to make sure your pet has access to a constant supply of fresh, clean water and has frequent access to bathroom facilities (i.e. a clean litter box for a kitty and the great outdoors for a doggy) to prevent the likelihood of a recurrence.
Treatment Options: Spay Incontinence
When pets are spayed or neutered, it leads to a decrease in hormones, which can weaken muscles in the bladder sphincter (12). These muscles also tend to weaken with age (3).
When it comes to treating animals with this problem, conventional vets turn to drugs like Phenylpropanolamine (Proin) or surgery (12). Of course, there are less invasive options.
Glandular supplements are one option for restoring hormonal balance and improving spay incontinence (13). They contain extracts from the ovaries, adrenal, thyroid and pituitary glands, which can encourage the body to produce more natural estrogen (13). Some glandular supplements are only available for purchase by vets, but others are available to pet owners. It’s always a good idea to partner with a holistic vet, however, when starting your pet on a new supplement, so ask about this option for your pet at your next appointment.
Homeopathic remedies are another way to support the muscles of the bladder sphincter and urethra. PetAlive’s Better-Bladder Control™ for Pet Incontinence Symptoms, for example, contains homeopathic ingredients that are known to ease involuntary urination and the discomfort associated with it, like Cantharis, Causticum, Equisetum and Ferrum phos.
What to Do When You Just Don’t Know…
If your pet is dealing with a case of urinary incontinence that’s not easily diagnosed or resolved, you may want to turn to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture has helped pets without a traditional diagnosis for their incontinence, and so have Chinese herbs like Suo Quan Wan (3). Here’s a searchable database that can help you find a vet near you who practices Traditional Chinese Medicine.
There are also steps you can take to make your pet’s accidents less messy for you and less uncomfortable for them. You can try disposable or reusable pet diapers, put incontinence pads in their favorite spots and invest in waterproof pet beds. The goal is to keep you and your pet healthy and happy, so any simple change that makes life easier and more comfortable for both of you is worth a shot!
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- Schamble, Melody. “Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) in Dogs.” American Kennel Club. 22 Aug. 2016. Web 6 Sept. 2017. <http://www.akc.org/content/health/articles/urinary-tract-infections-uti-in-dogs/;.
- Rubin, Stanley DVM, MS, DACVIM. “My Dog is Leaking.” University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign College of Veterinary Medicine. 6 Jan. 2016. Web 6 Sept. 2017. <http://vetmed.illinois.edu/pet_column/urinary-incontinence-dogs/;.
- Huntingford, Janice DVM. “Urinary Incontinence in Dogs and Cats.” Animal Wellness Magazine. N.D. Web 6 Sept. 2017. <https://animalwellnessmagazine.com/urinary-incontinence-dogs-cats/;.
- Tobiassen Crosby, Janet DVM. “Senior Dog Having ‘Accidents.’” The Spruce. 4 Apr. 2017. Web 6 Sept. 2017. <https://www.thespruce.com/senior-dog-having-accidents-3976986;.
- Gordon, Loridawn. “Ask Dr. Loridawn Gordon: Natural Relief for Your Dog’s Urinary Tract Infections.” Modern Dog. 27 Dec. 2013. <http://moderndogmagazine.com/blogs/loridawn/natural-relief-your-dogs-urinary-tract-infections;.
- Peralta, Jessica. “A Powerful Arsenal Against Your Dog’s UTI.” Dogs Naturally Magazine. N.D. Web 6 Sept. 2017. <http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/uti-in-dogs/;.
- Yarnell, E. “Botanical medicines for a urinary tract.” World Journal of Urology. 2002 Nov;20(5):285-93. Epub 2002 Oct 17. DOI: 10.1007/s00345-002-0293-0. Web 8 Sept. 2017.
- “Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants List.” ASPCA. N.D. Web 8 Sept. 2017. <https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants;.
- Filipowicz, N., et al. “Antibacterial and antifungal activity of juniper berry oil and its selected components.” Phytotherapy Research. 2003 Mar;17(3):227-31. DOI: 10.1002/ptr.1110. Web 8 Sept. 2017.
- Tilford, Greg. “Herbs for Urinary Tract Health For Animals.” Animal Wellness Magazine. N.D. Web 8 Sept. 2017. <https://animalwellnessmagazine.com/herbs-for-urinary-tract-health/;.
- “Urinary Tract Infection: Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD).” Veterinary Institute of Integrative Medicine. N.D. Web 8 Sept. 2017. <http://viim.org/cat-flutd-urinary-tract-infection.php;.
- Brooks, Wendy DVM. “Urinary Incontinence.” VeterinaryPartner.com. 17 Jul. 2012. Web 8 Sept. 2017. <http://beta.veterinarypartner.com/default.aspx?pid=17256&catid=93475&id=4952092;.
- Editors of Prevention. Natural Healing for Dogs and Cats. New York: St. Martin’s Press/Rodale, 2001. Google books. Web 8 Sept. 2017. <https://books.google.com/books?id=nHpnGxbzDqMC&pg=PA76&dq=natural+dog+incontinence&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjy1Onl65XWAhWCy4MKHYCHCjUQ6AEIRTAF#v=onepage&q&f=false;.