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Ask the Vet: Labrador bitch leaving puddles everywhere

By Craig Reilly

My elderly Labrador bitch is leaving wet puddles everywhere she sits or sleeps. The vet says she needs an X-ray, but surely it's just because she has been spayed. Am I right?

John, Belfast

I guess if an X-ray has been recommended, that a urine sample test has already revealed some sort of abnormality? True urinary incontinence can be caused by many things, from simple infections, bladder stones and polyps, to serious illnesses such as cancer and spinal damage. Your vet will be able to diagnose this problem, but may indeed need to take some X-rays, or perform an ultrasound examination of the bladder and kidneys, or do other procedures to identify the exact nature or cause of the problem. I would suggest that if there is blood, protein, or any other significant abnormality detected on the urine test that some extra tests are really useful, rather than just a 'best guess' treatment.

You are correct that there is an association between leaking and being spayed, but generally the situation is that spaying in and of itself does not cause incontinence. Most of the evidence is that a spayed bitch who develops sphincter mechanism incontinence (the medical term for leaking due to decreased sphincter tone) will often be a bit more severely affected that an entire (unspayed) bitch.

Most cases can be very well controlled, however, perhaps by a hormone replacement or by daily medication combined with weight loss if required. The leaking is much more common in overweight bitches (spayed or not), since the fat in the abdomen contributes to increased pressure on the bladder, and therefore also more pressure forcing urine out through the sphincter.

Occasionally surgery will be necessary in cases where the drugs don't work, but generally decent control can be achieved with medication. There is even a procedure available now to have collagen implanted around the neck of the bladder to help keep things dry. However, it is really expensive and only lasts around six months.

Please don't leave the leaking untreated or uninvestigated, as even serious problems can be fixed if tackled early in the course of the disease.

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