This is my now 10 year old female Australian Shepherd named Fire. She is a young and spry 4 year old in this picture, but she has aged very well. She is still incredibly smart, quick, agile and amazingly beautiful (and she knows it). In the last 8 months though, she has started showing signs of urinary incontinence when sleeping. I would find wet spots on the couch where she was napping and look over to find her offering sheepish, appeasement behaviors. One day when I took her to work, she urinated on the floor she was napping on. Fortunately it was a concrete floor which made the clean up easy, but became concerned that she might be dealing with a chronic urinary tract infection. I had also heard of a condition that occurs in older spayed female dogs where minute nerve damage caused by the sterilization procedure manifests later in the dog's life as an increasing loss of bladder control. Could Fire be dealing with something like this perhaps?
Interestingly, between March and September of this year I worked through and completed my certification as an Animal Chiropractor. As a result, I have been adjusting my own dogs at least 2 times/month since the late spring. I noticed that Fire's incontinence had decreased from a daily problem to a weekly issue to now being only an occasional issue. I couldn't help but wonder if the adjustments had helped the situation. Her annual vet visit in May pronounced her fit and healthy, free of any urinary tract infections. Regular chiropractic care was the only thing that had changed in her routine. Could that really be it? My analytical mind questioned, but my practical mind decided to not mess with a good thing and to keep adjusting her.
Last week while doing a Pubmed search on animal chiropractic, I came across a 2015 study from the Journal of Small Animal Practice that had found significant correlations between lumbar spine "chiropractic abnormalities" (aka spinal misalignments aka vertebral subluxations) and the incidence of urinary incontinence in dogs. Here is the link to that study:
There are many possible physiological explanations as to why this correlation has been noted. The simple explanation is that the spinal nerves from L3, L4 and L5 provide motor supply to the muscle of the sphincter of the bladder and to the urethra. More research is certainly needed. In the short term though, it is worthwhile for folks who have a dog suffering from urinary incontinence to have his/her spine checked by a certified animal chiropractor. (In some states, you may require a referral from your veterinarian.) A certified animal chiropractor will check the tone, range of motion and alignment of your dog's spine to determine if any misalignments (subluxations) are present. If subluxations are detected, a series of gentle adjustments will be administered to correct the subluxations. A course of care will then be recommended that takes into consideration your dog's overall state of wellness and his/her subjective and objective response to the adjustments. Does Puppy look like she can move better? Has her energy improved? Has the incontinence decreased in frequency? Does the alignment and flexibility of the spine look better? All of these are factors that a certified animal chiropractor will take into consideration.
So, if you are finding pee stains around the house and you know your dog is house trained and does not have a UTI, consider having her spine checked for subluxations. Your dog, your couch and your rugs just might thank you for your attentiveness!
Angelo Marinakis is an Animal Chiropractor certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association and the Animal Chiropractic Certification Council. He is a graduate of Animal Chiropractic Education Source, Life University School of Chiropractic and the University of Toronto.