Before I had senior dogs the thought of dealing with incontinence never crossed my mind, but when my first dogs started to face challenges in their golden years it quickly became front and center in my life. Sadly, incontinence (both bladder and bowel) is one of the main reasons people put their dogs down. And while sometimes the cause of the incontinence can be something more serious, more often than not it is just a leaky bladder and in the case of fecal incontinence, many times it is related to a spinal issue and not life threatening. It's like we forget that humans go through this very same thing as we get older. In fact a multi-billion dollar market has been created around products to support incontinence in humans, yet we give up on our dogs when they have these very same issues? I will never understand a decision to euthanize a dog for something so manageable.
In fact managing incontinence in my dogs is a big reason I started Dog Quality. Churchill, my first French Bulldog (and love of my life) was struggling with mobility issues and incontinence and I remember when I first tried a disposable diaper on him. Both of us were mortified. Churchill clearly did not like the crinkly material and I clearly did not like the fact that it would not stay on. I also missed trying to stick the tabs onto their correct positions tearing the diaper in the process. I knew this was never going to work for my dogs. I also knew that I could not be the only dog parent looking for a better solution; something that worked and was comfortable for our dogs so we could ensure that they maintained dignity regardless of their challenges.
Our dogs go most of their lives being trained to go outside for potty breaks. They know this pleases us and when they start to lose control and have accidents often times they are more upset than we are about the mess. A simple thing like a dog diaper or a dog belly band can do wonders, not only for your carpets and your peace of mind, but also for your dog's emotional state.
When we first introduced our Washable Wonders line of dog diapers and belly bands Churchill had already passed away so I was never able to help him with these products, but I have depended on them for all of my seniors that came after him. My Paige, who was the most intense cuddler you'll ever meet, became incontinent and our diapers allowed her to continue to sleep in my bed, under the crook of my arm where she always preferred to lay. Side note: Sleeping has never been the same without you :(
My Milo, who is about to turn 14 yrs, is a mix between a marker and a leaker so he wears our belly bands with our pads 24/7 and Lily (11 yrs) relies on our female dog diapers to help manage her incontinence (both bladder and bowel) caused by a spinal condition. All of my dogs sleep with me in my bed, lay with me on my couch, ride with me in my car and come to work everyday and I would never want this to change so I am eternally grateful for our diapers and belly bands as well as our blanket pads for allowing me to combine quality time with maximum protection.
I feel completely immersed in our products not just as a business owner but more because they have and continue to improve the quality of life for my older dogs. So please, if your senior dog is experiencing any form of incontinence whether it be urinary or fecal please know that it can be managed. Depending on volume and their condition sometimes we need to get creative and that's ok. For example, with Paige I used 2 diapers, one on top of each other, to manage her volume. With Milo I use the bands with 2 of our washable pads and with Lily I use a diaper along with a pad as well as our blanket pads. Lily is also the inspiration for our new stretchable straps which help to keep our diapers and bands in place better. What happened with Lily is due to her spinal problems I was not able to tighten the diaper enough to keep it from falling off. She was just too sensitive in certain areas for the diaper to be made snug enough. I was desperate since her incontinence was quite severe and unpredictable. I started to play around with various ideas and then when I learned about stretch Velcro I knew we could create something very special. We created a Y shaped strap that combines the stretch characteristic of elastic, with the staying power of Velcro and they work so well that you can keep a diaper or a belly band in place even overnight, which is a monumental task given how much dogs roll, move, burrow etc.
With Lily these straps have been incredible. In fact I don't know what I would do without them. And after the success I had using them on Lily with her diapers, I now depend on them to keep Milo's belly band from sliding around. Big relief knowing the band stays exactly where it needs to stay! Some of the best ideas come from personal experiences and I can honestly say that each and every one of our products reflect challenges I have faced with my own senior dogs and the solutions that have changed our lives.
Over the past few months, as I have been helping Lily with her condition and at the same time managing Milo's urinary habits, I have found a great rhythm. We have our routine down pat. I even made a special lift out of a Dogger basket and a duffle bag to help get Lily up and down stairs and we use it each and every day. My point being that with the right products and more importantly with an open mind, you too will find a rhythm. I speak to customers every day that show me what is possible with love, patience, creativity and persistence and the rewards are well worth any effort you put out. I look at Lily in her diaper playing with her stuffies or MIlo stretched out comfortable in his belly band and I know we are making the most out of life and making the most out of our time together. Life is good!
Ann-Marie Fleming is the Founder & CEO of Dog Quality, a provider of products focused on improving the quality of life for older dogs.