Sometimes toilet training alone is not enough.

Urinary Incontinence in a Young Puppy

When we get a new puppy, we all expect some toilet training issues.

Puppies, like babies have small bladders and need to toilet frequently. In the average young puppy, urine needs to be passed every 2-4 hours.

Urinary Tract Disorders that May Cause Incontinence.

Incontinence can be caused by:

  1. Bladder problems eg infections, spasms or weakness of the muscle of the bladder wall, stones or crystals in the bladder or bladder positioning issues.
  2. “Plumbing problems” – abnormal positioning or connection of the ureter/s or urethra. eg sometimes the ureters connect to the vagina or urethra, which means they bypass the storage unit of the bladder. This can lead to dripping of urine.
  3. Behavioural issues eg poor toilet training

In order to successfully toilet train your puppy:

  1. Give lots of opportunity to urinate. Every 2-3 hours take your puppy outside to go to the toilet. Once they go in the correct spot outside, make an ENORMOUS amount of fuss and give positive praise. This will associate urinating outside with a positive feel.
  2. If however the wee happens inside, don’t make a big deal of it. Pick the puppy up, without making any eye contact, and put them outside. Clean up the urine using a paper towel. Wipe the area with hot water and dry. DO NOT use smelly disinfectants or any fragrances. This will only work to attract your puppy back to the same spot. Have you noticed how dogs like to wee in the park where other dogs have gone?
  3. It is important not to accidently reward your puppy for weeing inside whilst cleaning up. Eg no chasing the paper towel or wrestles on the floor whilst cleaning. This will serve to associate weeing inside with appositive reward.
  4. You may use enzymatic cleaners that neutralise the urine smell without trying to cover it up. Products include: “Piss Off” or “Urine Off” or you may use Bio-zet laundry detergent – 1/2 level teaspoon mixed into one litre of water.
  5. Never rouse or rub their nose in the urine. This will only succeed in scaring the puppy and making it reluctant to urinate in front of you. Your puppy will then tend to wee and poo in hidden spots eg under the lounge or bed. Remember they must feel relaxed to toilet in front of you so that this can occur on walks and in the garden….allowing for positive praise.
  6. At night, either corral the puppy into a small area with access to their toilet area or with access to a toileting pad/ newspaper.
  7. When the puppy is left unsupervised, the access to the toileting area must be straight forward and simple. When they need to go, they do not have the bladder control to hang on for too long. Try and use child barriers to corral the puppy play area close to the toilet exit. Ideally include the toilet access as part of the corralled area.

As the puppy becomes more used to using the toilet area, you may gradually enlarge the area. Success can be achieved in one weekend of consistent training and reward.

If you continue to have training difficulties and urine is passed intermittently all over the house then sometimes urinary tract abnormalities need to be considered.

Ginny is a gorgeous 17 week old Golden Retriever. She was a typical puppy, leaving the occasional urine puddle about the house. Her owners became concerned when Ginny started being unable to control her urination and the accidents were happening all the time and poor Ginny was unable to keep her bed dry.

Initial testing showed a urinary tract infection, but even after the infection was resolved, Ginny continued to be incontinent. It was time to check the ”plumbing”. In order to do this, a special dye is injected into the veins and Ginny’s abdomen was radiographed. The dye highlights the urinary tract and allows us to see how the organs of the urinary tract are sitting.

The kidneys, ureters and urinary bladder have been highlighted in this picture. We were able to map out the plumbing from the kidneys to the ureters to the bladder and out through the urethra. All of Ginny’s urinary tract was present and connected correctly. Unfortunately, we found a pelvic bladder. This is an incorrect positioning of the bladder too far back into the pelvis.

This creates a number of problems:

  1. The length of the urethra is shortened and as such there is an increased risk of bacteria creeping up from the outside of the body into the bladder. Making urinary tract infections more common.
  2. The bladder is squashed in the pelvic canal thus reducing its ability to fill properly. The storage capacity of the bladder is reduced and this means it needs to empty more often.

How is it fixed?

Surgically the bladder is pulled back and anchored into the abdomen. This lengthens the urethra and and makes it easier for the bladder to store a larger volume of urine.

Ginny has recovered well and now can make it all the way through the night without wetting her bed. Ginny’s mum and dad are very happy indeed with the outcome.

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