Red Setters, Bulldogs and Boxers most likely to suffer incontinence

Male Irish Red Setters, Boxers, Bulldogs, Bull Mastiffs and Fox Terriers are more likely to develop urinary incontinence than the males of other dog breeds, according to new research.

Purebred male dogs are 1.45 times more likely to suffer from involuntary leakages compared with their crossbred counterparts, suggesting a likely genetic component to the disease.

The Royal Veterinary College’s (RVC) VetCompass programme studied anonymised clinical data from 119 first opinion veterinary practices across England and found that one in every 100 male dogs is affected by urinary incontinence. Irish Red Setters were found to particularly suffer, with one in 12 of them affected, and the breed is 14 times more likely to have leakages than a crossbred dog.

Researchers also found that urinary incontinence was cited as the main reason or a contributing cause for being put down in 41.6 percent of the incontinent male dogs that were euthanised during the study.

The study has disproved previous veterinary opinion that incontinence mainly affects female dogs.

VetCompass also found that older dogs were more prone to leakages, with male dogs aged nine to 12 years’ old 10.46 times more likely to suffer from the problem than dogs aged under three. There is no conclusive evidence to suggest that neutered dogs were more likely to develop incontinence issues.

This particular study focused on an estimated 1,027 urinary incontinence cases from the 109,428 male dogs that attended participating clinics between September 2009 and July 2013. ‘Urinary incontinence in male dogs under primary veterinary care in England: prevalence and risk factors’ is published in the Journal of Small Animal Practice.

Dr Dan O’Neill, senior lecturer in epidemiology at the RVC and study co-author, said: “The most fascinating outcome of this study was the power to use Big Data to identify just how frequently some breeds show urinary incontinence in male dogs. Using these types of data, we are finally lifting the lid on which diseases really impact most on dog welfare.”

Jon Hall, senior lecturer in small animal surgery (soft tissue) at the University of Edinburgh and study co-author, added: “Urinary incontinence is a huge problem for dogs and people, with considerable welfare and financial impact. Until now, the vast majority of studies have focused on females since they were considered to be much more commonly affected.

“Whilst this remains true, a large number of male dogs presenting to general practice also show signs and we hope that by highlighting this problem by examining such large number of male dogs (which is only really possible with the VetCompass programme and the financial support provided by the generous grants provided by funding bodies), we can now better identify and recruit these patients for investigations and clinical trials to help treat this disease.”

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