Have you ever heard of an ectopic ureter in dogs? If not, don't worry, you're not alone. This condition is relatively uncommon in dogs, but it's still important to be aware of it in case your dog is one of the unlucky few who develop it. This post will explain what an ectopic ureter in dogs is and how it's treated. So if you're curious about what ectopic ureters are, continue reading!

What is the normal anatomy of the urinary system in dogs?

The urinary system in dogs consists of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. The kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs that are responsible for filtering the blood and producing urine. Urine is composed of wastes and excess water that need to be eliminated from the body. The ureters are tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder. The bladder is a sac-like organ that stores urine until it is ready to be expelled from the body. The urethra is a tube that transports urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. In dogs, the urinary system is typically well-functioning and able to rid the body of waste efficiently.

What is an ectopic ureter in dogs?

An ectopic ureter in dogs is a congenital abnormality in which one or both ureters enter the bladder but in an abnormal location. The ectopic ureter will bypass the bladder and open into an area behind the urethral sphincter and often in the distal urethra, hence the main presenting symptom of urinary incontinence is the urethral sphincter cannot control urine flow.

Ectopic ureters are diagnosed up to 20 times more often in female dogs than in males. The following breeds are particularly susceptible: Labrador retriever, golden retriever, Siberian husky, West Highland white terrier, Newfoundland, poodle, Wheaten, and the Entlebucher Mountain dog.

What are the symptoms of an ectopic ureter in dogs?

The most common clinical sign of an ectopic ureter is continuous or intermittent urinary incontinence since puppyhood. However, some affected dogs only urinate normally or are only incontinent in certain positions. Male patients may exhibit fewer signs of urinary incontinence than females. This is because male urethras are longer than female urethras, which causes increased pressure in the external sphincter mechanism and restricts the flow of urine.

There may also be areas of moist dermatitis around the vulva or preputial regions due to urine dribbling. Commonly, ectopic ureters may be associated with recurring urinary tract infections.

How is an ectopic ureter diagnosed in dogs?

Your veterinarian will start by evaluating the medical history and clinical signs as well as a detailed physical examination. Tests such as a urinalysis and abdominal ultrasound will likely be recommended by your veterinarian. Although ectopic ureters can be seen on ultrasound, false negatives are common.

Contrast radiology can also be used to obtain a diagnosis of an ectopic ureter in dogs. A special dye-type contrast agent is introduced into the urinary system and sequential x-rays are performed to evaluate for the ectopic ureter. There is an 80% chance of successfully diagnosing an ectopic ureter in dogs with this test.

The most effective way to diagnose ectopic ureters, especially in female dogs, is through cystoscopy. This test is performed with a scope and allows for a direct view of the lower urinary tract.

What are the treatment options for an ectopic ureter in dogs?

Surgery has been the traditional treatment for ectopic ureters in dogs, but good results have also been achieved with minimally invasive techniques. Cystoscopic-guided laser ablation is sometimes regarded as the best option for some types of ectopic ureters and is a minimally invasive technique.

Non-surgical, medicinal options are also available and may be the best choice for some ectopic ureter patients when surgery is either non-successful or not an option. This includes medications such as phenylpropanolamine (PPA) and estrogen supplement therapy.

What are the potential complications from surgical correction of an ectropic ureter in dogs?

Transient ureteral obstruction from inflammation or blood clots may cause hydroureter (dilated ureter) or hydronephrosis (dilated and enlarged kidney). Urethral tears have also been reported. Most changes go away within 4-6 weeks, but some patients may get ureteral stricture, which causes permanent hydroureter and hydronephrosis. Other possible complications from therapy include blood in the urine (hematuria) and urinary tract infection.

What is the prognosis for dogs with an ectopic ureter?

Persistent urinary incontinence is the most common complication in dogs following correction. In one study, of the 43 dogs that underwent surgery to repair their ectopic ureters, 31 (or 72%) became continent and no further treatment was required.

The long-term outlook for dogs treated solely with medical therapy varies, with some responding well to medical therapy and others requiring surgery. This is due to the fact that the ectopic ureter attaches in various areas in different dogs.

In conclusion, an ectopic ureter in dogs is a congenital defect where the ureter, the tube that carries urine from the kidneys to the bladder, enters anywhere other than at the normal location near the bladder. The most common sign of an ectopic ureter is continuous or intermittent urinary incontinence since puppyhood, but some affected dogs only urinate normally or are only incontinent in certain positions. Male patients may exhibit fewer signs of urinary incontinence than females due to their longer urethras.
Diagnosis is typically made with a urinalysis and abdominal ultrasound, though contrast radiology and cystoscopy are more accurate techniques.

Treatment options include surgery (traditional or minimally invasive) or medical therapy (including medications such as phenylpropanolamine (PPA) and estrogen supplement therapy). While surgical correction is often successful, there is potential for post-operative complications. Dogs with ectopic ureters have a good prognosis when treated medically if they respond well to medication. If you have any questions or are concerned that your dog may have an ectopic ureter, please contact your veterinarian.