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Developed in collaboration with Ernie Ward, DVM
Last reviewed: December 27, 2023
This article provides information on the common causes and treatments for incontinence in dogs. If you have noticed that your dog is having more accidents in the house or you find wet spots on the floor or bedding where they sleep, your dog may be experiencing urinary incontinence.
Fortunately, canine urinary incontinence can usually be managed with lifestyle changes, medication, surgery, or a combination of treatments.
While cleaning up after your dog can be frustrating, remember that urinary incontinence is an unintentional or “accidental” action. Your dog isn’t misbehaving or forgetting its “house training;” it has a medical condition that requires treatment.
The type of treatment for incontinence depends on its underlying cause. Obtaining an accurate diagnosis from your veterinarian is essential to treat it successfully.
Urinary (or urethral) incontinence is a broad term used to describe the passive, involuntary leakage of urine. Any dog can be affected, but it is more common in middle-aged to senior dogs and spayed female dogs. Some medium to large-breed dogs are more susceptible to incontinence.
The severity can range from small drops of urine on the fur while walking or after it urinates to the complete unintentional voiding of a large amount of urine. The most common symptom of incontinence is a spot of urine underneath your dog after sleeping or relaxing.
Canine urinary incontinence falls into three general categories: Stress, urge, and mixed urinary incontinence.
Along with a medical history and physical exam, veterinarians will perform some or all of the following diagnostic tests to form their diagnosis:
Once your veterinarian diagnoses the source of your dog’s urinary leakage, they can recommend a specific treatment plan. Most dogs respond well to medications, but surgery is sometimes necessary. Some common treatments include:
Ways to Increase Water Intake
Be sure to speak with your veterinarian before starting any supplemental therapy. Some herbs and other natural remedies may interact or interfere with your dog’s medications.
Some conditions seem like urinary incontinence but are a completely different issue. The following examples of inappropriate elimination are voluntary urination instead of “accidents” or involuntary urine leakage. That means the pet is aware they are urinating where they shouldn’t but have lost control of their bladder.
Your veterinarian may prescribe a customized, compounded medication. These medications are mixed by trained, licensed compounding pharmacists and often come in dosage forms designed to make giving or applying the medication easier and more accurate.
There are many reasons why your dog may be incontinent, leaky, or peeing in the wrong place. Some causes are a product of age or lack of hormones and are easily corrected with medication. Other causes are symptomatic of another, sometimes serious, underlying medical condition.
Your observations, a thorough physical examination, and diagnostic tests can help your veterinarian pinpoint the specific cause of your companion’s incontinence. In most cases, your dog’s urinary incontinence can be managed with lifestyle changes, drug therapy, a surgical procedure, or a combination of all of them.
How your dog’s urinary incontinence is treated depends on its specific cause. In some cases, urinary incontinence resolves as an underlying condition is treated. Other causes cannot be cured but can be successfully managed with medication. While other dysfunctions can only be fixed through surgery.
Talk to your veterinarian if you're concerned that your older or senior dog is developing an incontinence problem. They'll perform a full health check and identify whether any underlying conditions are aggravating the problem, such as a urinary tract infection.
Dogs sometimes leak urine when they are sleeping or lying down because they become so relaxed that the muscles in the urinary tract loosen and leak. The evidence is commonly a wet spot or wet patches where they were sleeping. This is usually a sign of losing urethral muscle tone due to age or hormonal problems. But it could also be from diabetes, UTIs, or other medical conditions. Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to check for causes.
Frequent urination, straining to pee, and/or painful urination are common symptoms of a UTI. Other signs of a UTI are blood in the urine, dripping or leaking urine, and frequent licking of the genitals.
Any dog may develop urinary incontinence, but some breeds appear more prone:
Yes. Estrogen decreases after a female dog is spayed and as they age. Over time, it can result in the inability to close their urinary sphincter fully. This is also called urethral incompetence. Older, non-spayed female dogs sometimes experience urinary incontinence related to lower estrogen, too.
Symptoms of kidney failure in dogs include:
Natural Incontinence Remedies include:
Diapers help reduce how much you need to clean around your house. They are especially helpful to senior dogs that know they have to go but can’t reach the door in time. Absorbent bedding is also helpful. It’s hygienic, easier to clean (just throw them away), and pulls urine away from your dog’s skin, reducing irritation and “diaper rash.” It also might help to keep a pee pad near the door when they are not wearing a diaper.
This article is meant to provide general and not medical advice. We strongly recommend that a veterinarian be consulted for the specific medical needs of your animal.
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