Female Urinary Incontinence

By Anne Simulcik

Although Urinary Incontinence (UI) is a non-life threatening condition, it is resulting 
in Swissy owners surrendering their dog to rescue, non-kill shelters, and 
shelters that euthanize dogs. UI is defined as involuntary urination, and most 
often presents in Swissies as leaking of urine while sleeping. 

In the dog world in general approximately 20% will be incontinent and most incontinence will be found in geriatric dogs since our dogs are living longer and healthier lives. Based on anecdotal evidence from Swissy breeders and owners, the percentage of incontinence in Swissies is much higher, and can occur anytime after a female is spayed. Additionally it is not uncommon for Swissy female puppies to experience periods of incontinence during their peak growth 
periods prior to being spayed.

Incontinence is occasionally found in Swissy males as well, but the incidence is much lower.
All Swissy owners need to be aware of this condition so that early treatment can be started. 

Incontinence can occur for many reasons,

such as a weak bladder sphincter (generally the most common in Swissies),
urinary tract infection (UTI), excessive water consumption, 
congenital structural defects and spinal cord disease. Swissy owners should
have their Swissy examined by a veterinarian to determine the possible cause of
their incontinence. When additional symptoms such as frequent urination, blood
in the urine, unsuccessful attempts to urinate are seen then a UTI is likely.
UTIs are common across all breeds of dogs and can be treated and most often
cured through the use of antibiotics. 

Many Swissy breeders recommend that females be spayed after their first heat cycle in 
order to prevent or greatly reduce the incidence of UI. It is possible that the 
hormones related to the heat cycle help mature the urinary tract and strengthen 
the bladder sphincter which controls urination, however at this time no formal 
studies have been done to prove this theory. 

There are two health reasons to spay a female (other than unwanted puppies). The first 
is that it reduces the risk of mammary tumors/cancer. If spayed before the first 
heat cycle, the risk of mammary tumors is less than 1%. If spayed between the 
first and second heat cycle, the risk becomes about 8%. If spayed after the 
second heat cycle, the risk goes up to 25%. The second reason to spay a female 
is to eliminate the possibility of Pyometra, which is a life threatening abscess 
of the uterus that is not always easy to diagnose, depending on whether the 

Pyometra is open or closed. 

UI caused by a weak bladder sphincter can usually be controlled with relatively 
inexpensive medications, such as Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) or diethylstilbestrol 
(DES) obtained through consultation with your veterinarian. This condition, due to a large percentage of affected females, has its unique problems in the Swissy breed, but with education and the medications available, Swissies with UI can easily be forever members of their families.