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LIVING WITH: Incontinence by Kathryn Harrison

There are many reasons a dog many be incontinent ,it can be age related ,disease related or due to a genetic or birth defect that occurred in the puppy but whatever the reason this is a guide to help how to deal with the issue and help the dog have a more happy and comfortable active life .This guide can be added to with your own experiences as every dog is different and we need to adapt to fit in with the individual dog needs taking in to account the dog age, cause of incontinence and degree of incontinence and type of problem as ever dog is different and what works for one may not work for another, the main thing is we help the dog and allow them to have as normal a life as they can.

Many of you may know me as Archie Hough’s Mum and have met me at the Bulldog Rescue Picnic or at Bulldog Day Archie had spina bifida and was double incontinent he became an ambassador for bulldog rescue and had his own Facebook page with over 3,ooo members and also has several YouTube videos in circulation until his sad passing at the age of 4 years old but he is still remembered by all who met him and we continue to fundraise in his name.

My experience has come from dealing with double incontinence in puppies at a very early age in to their adult hood both bitches and dogs, while fostering for Bulldog Rescue UK and several have become long term fosters due to their care needs .All the fosters I have had while with me have had very active lives no different from any other dogs we have had ,they have ran ,played travelled, been mischievous and been loved by us and all who met them.

The main reason the bulldogs have come to my home has been spina bifida which has affected them all in different ways main difference being different degrees of mobility or weak legs but all have been doubly incontinent .Good veterinary support is needed from an
experienced vet or a vet willing to learn about the care these dogs need from bulldog rescues experience for caring for them.

I am going to write this advice from things I have tried and found to help and as you care for your dog I’m sure you will find different coping strategies that work for you and your bulldog as they are all different and this is a learning curve for all of us
As my experience comes from spina bifida dogs I will describe the things here that we have found helped me but these tips can be used to a lesser effect if your dog has become incontinent due to old age or if they are not doubly incontinent you can take what you can from here.
Many spina bifida dogs tend to dribble urine all the time rather than a big flow a few times a day so that may be different from your dog’s needs.
I am going to base this advice here on the spina bifida dogs I have cared for and as they usually have the extreme form of incontinence anything less than this the advice can be adapted and used to suit your dogs need.

If we start with what goes in must come out this can form the beginning of my tips

I have tried both dried foods with these dogs and raw I will tell you the issues we have had
If this is a dog that has no bowel control from birth it is important to get the dog on a food that suits him as soon as possible as it will help to control any mess from diarrhoea and frequent stools .Many dogs when diagnosed with incontinence from being a puppy have come in to rescue with terrible diarrhoea which because the dog has no control has left them thin, smelly and a very sore anus/bottom which can be red inflamed and sometimes bleeding this needs to be dealt with immediately to prevent more discomfort and infection.

Raw feeding seems to be the best option for incontinent dogs as more food is absorbed and less waste is produced so there stools become more formed and less frequent and can be dealt with more effectively .We have found that most stools being passed just after eating and on exercise and usually when asleep in their beds, this means it can be picked up and dealt with more easily in the home and outside, remember there will be accidents in the home as these dogs have no idea what is happening it is not their fault. Find a good stockist and keep to their products if it suits the dog as changing types of meat can also lead to diarrhoea and an upset tummy as they seem more sensitive to diet changes.

The ones who cannot for whatever reason deal with raw meat I have found success in one of my fosters with dried meat but this was trial and error and did take longer to settle on more formed stools and can also in some dogs to lead to more stools being passed.

I found a good quality dried food eventually which was fish based and grain free but I must add this is not for every dog and if possible would always try the raw feeding route initially. This will help them gain lost weight and nutrients they may have had issues with due to diarrhoea causing absorption problems initially .They may have very soft runny stools or even diarrhoea when they first come to live with you but once on the correct food and regular regime this will improve Introduce new foods gradually some people just change directly on to new meat I feel it is better to introduce slowly over a week but it is trial and error in every dog.

I find letting the dog in the garden or a short walk after feeding helps the stool to pass after feeding so less mess in the home as it seems to help their sluggish bowels as remember they have no feeling of the need to go so regular exercise helps to keep them regular.

Always make sure your dog has plenty of clean water as these dogs can be prone to urinary tract infections which not only are very smelly but can be very uncomfortable for the bulldog ,cause skin burns ,staining of fur and pain and can lead to more severe illness in your pet keeping them hydrated and keeping the kidneys and bladder healthy is essential to prevent complications in the future. Apple cider vinegar which can be obtained from Bulldog Rescue Clinic can help prevent urinary infections by adding a few drops to their clean water ,if you find the dog doesn’t like the smell or taste of the water with this added it may be beneficial to give 1 cranberry tablet a day to prevent infections instead. You must be alert to any changes in your dog’s urine appearance, smell and colour and any changes seek advice as they can develop urine infections quickly and pass blood in their urine due to presence of infection

It is essential to pay attention to your dog’s hygiene needs after all you would not leave a baby in a wet nappy or lying in wee or poo and the same applies to these dogs ,I always
think how would you care for this dog if they were a human baby just because they have fur does not mean they don’t have the same problems a baby would have if not cleaned and cared for properly.

Urine burns so every morning and throughout the day I wash the area that can get wet from urine either lying in it or dribbling on movement ,the areas you need to pay attention to are the tummy area inside legs ,backs of legs and obviously the genital areas.
Dry them thoroughly it is beneficial to use a thin layer of barrier cream such as Vaseline or sudocrem to problem areas to prevent urine burns and especially if you have chosen the belly band ,knicker aids which I will discuss later in the article.
Always clean any poo stains /discharge away and also apply barrier cream to these areas .If when your dog initially comes to you with a very sore anus /bottom a good covering of sudocrem and cleaning will help the problem greatly and will show improvement in a few days.

Always change your dog’s bedding several times during the day if wet in anyway vet bedding is very useful for this and can be easily washed and dried, you can put it over their regular bed I would always advise a washable bed where the cover can be removed and where you can cover the internal soft part with a waterproof cover to prevent soiling going straight through to the filling.
If you wish your dog to go on furniture in the home that I would suggest good thickness covers and throws over the sofa and if possible with a waterproof backing if your furniture is absorbent or soft to prevent any passing though the throws in to your sofa., I have sat in many a wet patch over the years .

Depending on your dog and room available I always feel if they can have their own bed area /crate this can be beneficial as it can contain any mess overnight and prevent it being spread around a room for you to find in the morning I do favour a croft pen as they are very roomy so they can have their own toys and blankets and can be easily cleaned in the morning instead of crawling in a crate to pick poo up or wash the bed base down.
These dogs can pass poo very slowly sometimes which can lead to marks on your wallpaper /paintwork so a bonus if in their own bed area at night otherwise you may be washing the walls down frequently.

Hygiene aids
There are differing opinions on whether nappies/knickers and belly bands are beneficial in these dogs but I feel you need to individually assess you r dog and see what helps them and stay vigilant to their needs and changes.

Many aids help the dog lead a more normal life and can help the dog fit in the family home easier if the urine and poo can be contained especially if there are young children in the home. The wearing of knickers and belly bands can help with hygiene in the home but do
remember if wearing them they need to be changed regularly like you would a baby and also barrier cream and washing needs to be used otherwise the urine and poo will burn the skin and lead to infection and soreness which can be severe.

Aids available
I find that if you are thinking you may need to use belly bands and knickers at some time it is best to get your dog used to them from an early age to prevent wrestling with them at a later date. Some dogs quickly get used to them and don’t mind others are like Houdini getting out of them every time ,covering you in wee while you try to put them on so try early to prevent struggles at later dates

1) Belly bands
These are of use in boy dogs to catch urine flow only and just go over the penis and fasten on the upper back very simple to use ,you need to put a absorbent pad in them such as a tenor lady, dog pad or even cut down nappy depending on your dogs flow if urine, some bought ones come with their own washable pads,. You will need to measure your dog to get a snug fit, so it does not slip off many have an absorbent filling in case of leaks or a waterproof liner in them