A new study by the VetCompass™ Programme at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) has revealed that certain breeds of bitches are more predisposed to urinary incontinence after, analysing a population of 100,397 female dogs who attended 119 veterinary clinics across England.

It is often a distressing condition for both owners and their pets and the condition needs to be managed effectively to avoid welfare problems for affected females, such as urinary tract infections and skin scalding from urine leakage.

However, until now, there has been little reliable information on the breeds affected to draw similarities between for clinical recommendations.

The study concluded:

  • High-risk breeds include the Irish Setter, Dobermann, Bearded Collie, Rough Collie and Dalmatian
  • Bitches weighing above average for their breed had 1.31 times the odds of urinary incontinence compared with bitches weighing below average
  • Urinary incontinence affects 3.14% of bitches overall but affects over 15% of bitches in some high-risk breeds
  • Older bitches were also predisposed, with bitches aged between 9 and 12 years old having 3.86 times the odds compared to younger bitches
  • Neutered bitches had 2.23 times the odds compared with entire bitches

The study also gave evidence on the welfare impact of urinary incontinence. Almost half of cases (45.6%) received medical therapy for the condition. In addition, of the bitches that died during the study period, urinary incontinence was recorded as either contributory or the main reason for death in 16.7% of these deaths.

RVC veterinary epidemiologist and VetCompass researcher Dr Dan O’Neill said: “This urinary incontinence study has uncovered dramatic breed predispositions that have previously been hidden to vets and owners.

“Overall, about 3% of bitches were affected but this rose to over 30% in the Irish Setter and over 20% in the Dobermann with many other breeds also predisposed. Vets can now use these results to alert owners to typical clinical signs in order to ensure earlier treatment and better outcomes.”


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