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Labrador puppy urinating on the floor

Incontinence in Dogs: Why Is My Dog Urineating at home?

4 min read

Discovering that your dog is leaving behind small puddles in their bedding or on the couch can be frustrating for pet owners. In some cases, this might be an isolated incident that will never happen again, but it is also possible that your dog is suffering from a medical condition that makes them unable to control their bladder and they might not be aware of their urinary incontinence.

Incontinence in dogs can affect all breeds, genders, and ages. So, if you’ve noticed any accidents happening, make an appointment with your vet for an official diagnosis. Meanwhile, here are a few things to know about incontinence and what to do if your dog is leaking urine.

What is urinary incontinence in dogs?

black and white dog with incontinence issues

If you’ve noticed wet patches in your dog’s bedding or other places where they are resting in the house, this might be a sign that your pet is experiencing urinary incontinence. The term ‘incontinence in dogs’ refers to a pet that is involuntarily losing control of their bladder and is a medical condition which must be evaluated by a vet.

This is different from your pet having housetraining issues or marking their territory. Incontinence in dogs means that your dog is leaking urine mostly in their sleep (although they might also do it while awake) because of their age or a health condition. Therefore, it’s important not to tell off or punish your dog as oftentimes, they don’t even realise it has happened.

What are the causes of incontinence in dogs?

Dogs may leak urine due to behavioural issues or stress and fear. But in the case of urinary incontinence the underlying factor is a medical condition. Here are some of the possible health problems that may lead to your dog peeing involuntarily:

  • spinal injuries affecting the nerves controlling the bladder
  • urinary tract infection or lesion
  • congenital anomalies that alter the way the bladder functions
  • hormonal imbalances
  • weak bladder
  • diseases that lead to increased thirst such as diabetes or kidney issues
  • tumours
  • urinary bladder stone

Which dogs are more predisposed to developing incontinence?

Different dog breeds and age groups seem more likely than others to experience incontinence. However, this problem can appear in dogs of all ages and of all types.

Dog breeds that may suffer from urinary incontinence

Certain dog breeds such as German Shepherds, Boxers, Dalmatians, Rottweilers, or Weimaraners seem more prone to urinary incontinence. There is also an ectopic ureter congenital defect which may cause dogs to drip urine. Some of the breeds affected include Golden Retrievers, Siberian Huskies, terriers, and poodles.

Urinary incontinence in older dogs

Incontinence is more likely to affect senior dogs. This is because the muscles that hold the urine in the bladder tend to get weaker with age, therefore making accidents possible.

What symptoms to look out for when your dog is leaking urine?

A dog peeing involuntarily could point to a health issue which is why owners should be on the lookout for other symptoms as well. Did you notice your dog drinking more water than usual? Is there any blood in their urine? Are they limping or are they walking with difficulty? Noting any other unusual symptoms will be helpful when you visit your vet so that they can narrow down the problem and come up with a diagnosis more quickly.

How is incontinence in dogs diagnosed?

french bulldog on a sofa looking out the window

The vet will likely take a look at your dog’s medical history and do a physical examination. Various tests might be recommended including blood analyses, ultrasounds, urine tests, and radiography. This will help rule out tumours, bladder stones, infections, hormonal imbalances, and diseases such as dog diabetes.

Neurological tests may also be required if your dog’s spinal reflexes are the suspected cause of the urinary incontinence.

Can incontinence in dogs be treated?

Yes, there are many treatment options available, depending on the underlying cause. If your dog is leaking urine because of an infection, antibiotics will be prescribed. Medication that addresses hormonal imbalances also exists, so if that’s the cause behind the sudden puddles you’ve been finding at home, treatment can alleviate the problem. In other cases, surgery may be needed, especially if a tumour was found. Congenital defects leading to incontinence can sometimes also be corrected by surgery.

How can I avoid or manage urinary incontinence in my dog?

Sometimes medication is not enough to completely stop your dog from leaking urine. But there are many things you can do to make life easier for both you and your dog:

  • increase the number of trips outside
  • use dog diapers designed for incontinent pets
  • change the surfaces where your dog sleeps or lounges so it’s easier to clean if accidents do happen

It’s also important to avoid telling your dog off because this can increase their stress and anxiety and make the problem worse. Plus, they’re not doing it on purpose and might not even be aware that it’s happening. So, even though it can be frustrating at times, remember that medication combined with simple lifestyle changes can make a huge difference when dealing with incontinent dogs. If medical conditions have been ruled out and you think your dog is leaking urine because they are scared, stressed, or anxious, try to find out what is stressing them out. Managing new situations can be tricky for your four-legged friend and anxiety in dogs is a real thing. Thus, as far as possible , you should aim to eliminate any stressors from your dog’s environment.