aging bladder in dogDog ownership is a beautiful and rewarding thing, but one of the most frustrating challenges that can come along with that is when your dog starts peeing inside the house. When a well potty trained dog suddenly begins exhibiting this behavior – bladder stones, urinary tract infection, or a sudden back injury may be the underlying cause. In these cases, a trip the vet and appropriate medication can, in most cases, bring a quick resolution to the matter. However, when none of these correlating symptoms are apparent, and no prescribed treatment seems to be effective, one might have to face the real issue at hand – the inevitable incontinence that comes along with an aging animal.

Why bladders weaken in older dogs?

To understand how a dog’s bladder weakens over time, it is first important to examine how a healthy bladder functions.

female & male lower urinary tract

In every dog, there is a muscular band of tissue located at the base of the bladder called the External Urethral Sphincter, acting as a valve that releases urine when instructed by the dog’s conscious brain. During urination, the bladder contracts while at the same time, the sphincter relaxes and lets the urine pass through. Overtime the sphincter can decrease in size, therefore weakening its strength towards holding the urine inside the bladder. Picture a rubber gasket deteriorating after extended use. Sometimes the leaks are minor – commonly described as “dribbles” – often seen when your dog is excitable or nervous. Other times, the leak can be extreme, where your dog is waking up in a puddle of their own urine because they can’t hold it in through the night.

Females dogs are more often found to have a weakened bladders as they age, especially if they are spayed. The reason for this is as the female ages, as with human females who are postmenopausal, their estrogen levels decrease. Estrogen is the key hormone, that when decreased, can cause the lining of the urethra to thin, significantly reducing the strength of the bladder’s sphincter.

Older male dogs can experience similar issues with a decrease in testosterone levels. Their enlarged prostate (a gland surrounding the neck of the bladder) can block the flow of urine through the urethra, forcing the bladder to contract more forcefully in order to exit the urine, even when only a small amount of urine exists.


Prescription Medication
Proin dog medication for incontinenceProin is currently the most common medication prescribed by veterinarians to aid in the management of urinary incontinence in dogs.

Proin contains the active ingredient Phenylpropanolamine (PPA), which mimics the effect of the adrenaline hormone, constricting the blood vessels (a process called vasoconstriction), which in turn can help strengthen the muscles around the bladder sphincter muscles.

But like most prescription medications, there are potential side effects. It is important to note that PPA (previously named Dexatrim) was banned from being prescribed to humans in both the United States and Canada when studies revealed that the medication was too high a risk for heightened blood pressure that led to strokes. The risk was found to be greatly reduced when tested on canines and so it was brought back into the market in the form of a liver-flavored tablet for your pooch. Although it is stated that the chance of stroke is rare, Proin is still found to cause an increased heart rate that could lead to hypertension in some dogs.

It is recommended that if administering your dog Proin, be on the lookout for sudden changes in behavior such as lethargy, loss of appetite, anxiety, or irritability that could be signs that your pup is having a negative reaction to the medication.

Over-the-counter Supplements
vetriscience bladder strengthThere are supplements available in stores and online that you can purchase yourself (although its always a good idea to run it by your veterinarian first). VetriScience Laboratories Bladder Strength Tablet for Dogs is just one of those supplements found to be highly recommended.
It combines a variety of ingredients that have been found to help dogs with bladder control such as Pumpkin Seed Powder, Rehmannia Glutinosa, Olive Leaf Extract, Wild Yam, and Soy protein.

Soy protein is an interesting component that has received a lot of controversy over the years. While many studies say it can help regulate hormones, especially in women experiencing menopause and hot flashes, others say it can lead to severe health problems including breast cancer.

What all studies can agree on is that soy contains phytoestrogens or plant-based estrogen that can essentially act as and increase the estrogen levels in the body, thus counteracting the hormone imbalance that occurs with age. Just as soy milk and tofu exists at the supermarket for people, soy pills and powder supplements are available to purchase for dogs. When females ingest soy, it can strengthen the vaginal tissue, lining of the urethra, as well as the surrounding muscles around the bladder. However, due to – for lack of a better term – “soy scare”, dog owners are looking for labels that read “corn-free”, “wheat-free”, as well as “soy-free”. If you willing to give it a try, you can purchase a dog food brand that contains soy or a supplement like VetriScience Laboratories that combines soy with several other health-aiding ingredients.

At-Home Remedies
Opposite to Proin’s method of constriction, there are many at-home remedies that aim to relax the body and help relieve the unwanted pressure around the bladder.

Corn Silk
You know those long and shiny fibers at the top of an ear of corn? That’s corn silk. When ingested, corn silk can reduce fluid retention in the body, reduce blood pressure, help eliminate toxins, and most importantly – help tighten the bladder lining.

Saw Palmetto
Made from the berries of the Dwarf Palm Tree, Saw Palmetto is beneficial for male dogs as it aids in the normalization of hormone levels as well as strengthening of the prostate.

Oatstraw is a plant that is high in minerals and vitamins such as calcium and vitamin B that can help reduce stress, strengthen bones, stabilize blood sugar levels, and of course – help reduce incontinence.

Wild Yam
Wild Yam is an anti-spasmodic and inti-inflammatory herb that relaxes muscles and tendons which can releases tension put upon the bladder and helps prevents unwanted spams that can result in dribbling urine habits.

The plantain is a plant with anti-inflammatory properties that helps tone the urinary system, while at the same time treating any bladder infections that might exist.

See more remedies:

If you are unsure of the reason for your dog’s incontinence, please consult your veterinarian first. A weak bladder, although common, can be one of the first signs of a serious underlying ailment.

Treatments for Your Aging Dog’s Weakened Bladder
Tagged on: