What is Urethral Sling?

An urethral sling  is a surgical procedure used in dogs to treat urinary incontinence. Urinary incontinence in dogs occurs when they have a loss of bladder control.  

The goal of a urethral sling surgery to support the dog’s urethra. As a result, this will help control the dog’s bladder. 

The urethral sling procedure in dogs is used in severe cases of urinary incontinence. In most cases, other steps are taken prior to this procedure. 

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Urethral Sling Procedure in Dogs

Prior to performing a urethral sling, a veterinarian will perform a physical exam. In addition to the exam, the veterinarian will also blood work, imaging tests, and urine cultures. This is to ensure that the urinary incontinence isn’t due to any underlying causes. These tests also ensure that the dog is healthy enough to undergo anesthesia. 

The day of the urethral sling procedure, the dog will first be put under anesthesia. After the anesthesia is administered, the dog is placed on their back with their knees bent up and out. Once positioned, most of the stomach and genital areas will be clipped with a surgical blade. After the area is free of any hair, it is cleaned with an aseptic. 

Once the area is clean, the veterinarian will make their first incision. The first incision usually extends from the muscular layers of the dog’s intestinal wall to the end of the urethra that is closest to the bladder. After the first incision, the seromuscular flaps are exposed. Seromuscular flaps are thin tissues that are part of the bladder. 

After the seromuscular flaps are exposed, two flaps are lifted. Once lifted, a suture is placed between each end of the seromuscular flaps. The two flaps will then be placed around the urethra. Then the seromuscular flaps are are secured to the urethra. 

Securing the seromuscular flaps to the urethra is the last step before suturing the surgical area closed. The remaining seromuscular flaps are then sutured internally. Once the internal sutures are placed, the catheter used during the procedure is removed. Then the abdomen is closed with sutures. 

In most cases, following a urethral sling in dogs, the veterinarian will want the dog to stay at the clinic at least for 24 hours. This stay allows the veterinarian to monitor the surgical site and the dog’s vital signs. 

Many veterinarians may prescribe pain medications and/or antibiotics following surgery. In most cases, veterinarians require a follow-up appointment within two weeks following the urethral sling procedure. 

Efficacy of Urethral Sling in Dogs

In most cases, the urethral sling procedure in dogs is quite effective for a period of time. Some cases of this procedure have reported that the urinary incontinence returned shortly after surgery. But, in most cases the incontinence does not return for about a year. 

Other treatments for urinary incontinence depend on the reason behind the loss of bladder control. In mild cases of loss of bladder control, medications and/or injections may be given. Unlike surgery, these must be administered on a regular basis. In addition, the urethral sling is often used in more severe cases. 

There are other surgeries used for treating urinary incontinence. These surgeries include vasopexy, colposuspension, and cystourethropexy. The least invasive of these surgeries is the vasopexy. Although, in most cases, success of this surgery is only around 20%. In most cases, the cystourethropexy procedure has the lowest rate of success. 

Urethral Sling Recovery in Dogs

Pain relief and antibiotics may have been administered during the urethral sling procedure. Still, the veterinarian may prescribe these medications to send home with the dog. 

The surgical site must also be monitored on a daily basis. You should look for changes to the site such as swelling, redness, or draining. If any of these changes are noticed prior to the dog’s follow-up appointment, the veterinarian should be contacted. 

Dogs may try to lick at the incision site. Licking the area may cause irritation and infection. In order to prevent this, the dog may need to wear an Elizabethan collar. 

Following the urethral sling surgery, dogs should also be walked on a leash until their follow-up appointment. In addition to leash walking, crate rest is also recommended for at least two weeks following the procedure. 

Urinary incontinence can return following the urethral sling surgery. This is why it is important to continue monitoring the dog’s urine after the procedure. 

Cost of Urethral Sling in Dogs

The cost of an urethral sling surgery itself may range between $300 and $1,300 or more. The cost of the surgery will depend on different factors, including include where the surgery is performed and how invasive the procedure is. 

In most cases, the cost of urethral sling procedure itself includes medications and anesthesia administered during the surgery. The cost also usually includes any catheters used and vital sign monitoring. Some veterinarians will include the overnight stay at the clinic in the final cost. 

Dog Urethral Sling Considerations

In most cases, dogs who undergo the urethral sling procedure have relief from urinary incontinence right away. Little to no complications are reported in most dogs. Although it may take some dogs a few days to have a bowel movement following surgery. 

As with any surgical procedure, while rare, the urethral sling also carries risks. Any surgery that requires anesthesia presents the risk of possible anesthetic death. This is very rare. In addition, some dogs may have a bladder and/or abdominal infection following the urethral sling procedure. 

Another risk of an urethral sling revolves around the bladder. There is a chance that some dogs will strain to urinate following the surgery. In most cases, this resolves about 2 weeks after the urethral sling procedure. 

Following surgery, some dogs’ urethras may swell. Sometimes the swelling of the urethra will require catheterization. 

Overall, an urethral sling is quite effective compared to other surgeries for urinary incontinence. The success rate of dog’s who no longer suffered from loss of bladder control is around 75%, although most dogs did see a return in urinary incontinence around a year after the surgery. 

Urethral Sling Prevention in Dogs

Urinary incontinence in dogs comes in many forms. In some cases, the dog may only dribble a little bit of urine. Other dogs may urinate in a much larger quantity than usual. In addition to the urine output, there may also be an increase in urine frequency. 

Don’t dismiss your dog as a “bad dog” if he or she has an accident in the house. Inappropriate urination in the house in one of the top signs of urinary incontinence in dogs who are housebroken. 

The odor and color of the dog’s urine should also be considered when it comes to urinary incontinence. If blood or a strong smell is noticed in relation to the dog’s urine, a veterinarian should be contacted as soon as possible. 

Monitoring your dog’s urine is one of the best ways to prevent the need for an urethral sling. Treating urinary incontinence as soon as it is noticed is another way. 

Regardless of the cause of urinary incontinence, monitoring a dog’s urine is important. Any change in the urine can indicate an underlying medical risk. Although severe urinary incontinence in mostly seen in older, spayed female dogs.