People: Camilla Pegram, Dan O'Neill, David Brodbelt

Dates: October 2017 – October 2018

Background: Urinary incontinence is a common problem in bitches in the UK, with work by O’Neill and colleagues (2017) estimating that approximately 3.14% of practice attending bitches suffer from the condition. An increased risk of urinary incontinence due to sphincter mechanism incompetence in bitches has been attributed to timing of ovariohysterectomy (Holt 1987, Holt & Thrusfield 1993). However, current evidence is equivocal and a recent systematic review, though identifying some evidence of an association between timing of neutering and development of incontinence, highlighted that the existing evidence was of moderate strength at best and further work was required (Beauvais et al. 2012).  

It has been suggested in a recent study that urinary incontinence in pet bitches was a cause of disharmony in 10 to 20% of affected households, with individual owners reporting feelings of anger and frustration (de Bleser et al. 2011). Therefore, although the direct welfare impact may be considered minor for the affected animal, the potential impact on a large group of dogs, the owner-animal bond, as well as the perceived importance of the condition in the neutering decision-making process, suggest further evaluation of the condition is merited.

Aims of the project:

  • To evaluate the major risk factors for development of urinary incontinence in bitches attending VetCompass-participating veterinary practices in the UK.
  • To evaluate the association between neutering and the probability of early incontinence, as well as the association between the age at neutering and the onset of early incontinence in bitches attending VetCompass-participating veterinary practices in the UK.

Dates: October 2017 – 1 year (MRes project)  

Funding body: BSAVA PetSavers


Beauvais W et al. (2012) The effect of neutering on the risk of urinary incontinence in bitches – a systematic review. JSAP 63, 198/204.

De Bleser et al. (2011) The association between acquired urinary sphincter mechanism incompetence in bitches and early spaying: a case-control study. Veterinary Journal 187, 42-47

Holt P & Thrushfield M (1993) Association in bitches between breed, size, neutering and docking, and acquired urinary incontinence due to incompetence of the urethral sphincter mechanism. Veterinary Record 133, 177-180

O’Neill et al. (2017) Urinary incontinence in bitches under primary veterinary care in England: Prevalence and risk factors JSAP 10.1111/jsap.12731

Vet Compass Project Type: Dog

Top of page