A recent nationwide study examined risk factors, treatment, and patient outcome.
Urinary incontinence (UI) is considered relatively more common in female than in male dogs. One recent study estimated a prevalence of 3% in a population of approximately 100,000 female dogs.
By comparison, most UI studies focusing on male dogs have included 50 or fewer animals. Therefore, veterinary researchers recently performed a large-scale study, published in the Journal of Small Animal Practice, evaluating prevalence and risk factors associated with UI specifically in male dogs throughout the United Kingdom.
The investigators obtained patient data using VetCompass, an electronic database that anonymizes primary care patient records for research purposes. They searched records over a 4-year period to identify cases of UI either by diagnosis or prescription of an appropriate UI treatment, such as phenylpropanolamine or estriol. Cases of secondary UI due to an underlying condition (eg, spinal disease, urolithiasis) were omitted.
Patient information, including date of diagnosis, prescribed treatments, and mortality, was also recovered. Then, the investigators statistically analyzed whether development of UI was related to breed, body weight, age, or neuter status, and whether the patients had insurance.
A total of 109,428 male dogs were treated at 119 clinics throughout England during the examined time period. Of these, 2307 dogs were identified as potential cases of UI. Due to time constraints and logistics, the authors examined a subset of 803 candidate cases, from which they confirmed 383 cases of UI. Thus, their sampling approach estimated the overall prevalence of UI at 0.9% in male dogs.
Median age and adult body weight at the time of diagnosis were 11.6 years and 18.8 kg, respectively. Seventeen percent of cases were treated medically. Death from euthanasia or natural causes was reported in 55% of dogs with UI by the end of the study. The median age at death for UI-affected dogs was 13.2 years, with UI contributing directly to 42% of those deaths.
Ten breeds showed increased odds of developing UI, including the bull mastiff, Irish setter, fox terrier, English springer spaniel, and boxer. Interestingly, the previous study focusing on female dogs indicated the same breed predispositions, excluding the fox terrier.
In this study, UI was more likely to develop with increasing age. For example, male dogs 9 to 11 years old were 10 times more likely to develop UI than those less than 3 years. Neuter status and body weight did not significantly affect risk of UI development; however, UI was identified more frequently in insured versus uninsured dogs.
In this nationwide study, the authors found a lower prevalence of UI in male dogs (0.9%) in the United Kingdom compared with previously documented rates in female dogs (3%). However, male dogs with UI were more likely than were female dogs to be euthanized rather than managed medically. The authors noted potential welfare concerns of early euthanasia, as well as the need for more research on UI etiology and treatment in male dogs.
Dr. Stilwell received her DVM from Auburn University, followed by a MS in fisheries and aquatic sciences and a PhD in veterinary medical sciences from the University of Florida. She provides freelance medical writing and aquatic veterinary consulting services through her business, Seastar Communications and Consulting.