Urinary Incontinence in the Bitch: An Update



Urinary incontinence (UI), defined as the involuntary loss of urine during the filling phase of the bladder (Abrams et al. 2002), is a commonly seen problem in veterinary practice. Urinary sphincter mechanism incompetence (USMI) after spaying is the most common micturition disorder, and its medical treatment is normally successful, even though the underlying pathophysiological mechanism is not fully understood. Hormonal changes inducing structural and functional alterations in the bladder, as well as in the urethra composition, are discussed. To manage incontinent patients successfully, possible underlying abnormalities besides USMI should be ruled out. In the majority of cases, history, physical examination and simple tests including urinalysis and urine bacterial culture lead to a presumed aetiology. If USMI is the most likely cause, then the advantage of further diagnostic tests should be discussed with the owner before starting a trial therapy with alpha-adrenergic drugs. Potential side effects of this therapy have to be mentioned even though they rarely occur. It is important to thoroughly evaluate the success of the initial treatment. Its failure should lead to further diagnostic testing. Specialized clinical assessments may provide an aetiological diagnosis, and this could serve as a basis for discussing further treatment options. Surgical procedures, which may in rare cases cause irreversible side effects, may be instituted. If incontinence reoccurs after initial treatment was successfully performed, the diagnostic work-up including urinalysis should always be repeated. As results of urinalysis did not correlate well with results of bacterial culture, a urine culture is recommended (Comer and Ling 1981). Cystocentesis is the preferred method of urine collection (Bartges 2004). Equivocal results of quantitative cultures of urine samples obtained during midstream voiding or by catheterization require repeat collection by cystocentesis (Comer and Ling 1981).