dog sitting next to wet spot on carpet, dog urinary incontinence

Key takeaway

Urinary incontinence in dogs is relatively common, and it’s typically a symptom of a medical condition. Urinary incontinence is different from behavior-related urination problems, like when your dog pees because they’re excited. With urinary incontinence, your dog most likely won’t even realize they’re peeing.

It’s not uncommon for dogs to pee randomly. Dogs may urinate when they get overstimulated, like if they’re excited, nervous, or afraid. Potty training your dog takes a lot of hard work and dedication, and even then, you may find your dog involuntarily peeing from time to time. 

This type of involuntary peeing has a name, and it’s called urinary incontinence. Urinary incontinence in dogs is quite common, and it’s usually caused by a medical condition.

Dealing with a dog who pees involuntarily can be frustrating, especially when you’re left to constantly clean up after them. But fortunately, there are some ways you can treat urinary incontinence in dogs, which we will be discussing below.

Causes of Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

So, your dog is losing control of their bladder. What is causing that?

There are a host of different factors that can cause urinary incontinence in dogs. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Neurological issues: Spinal injuries, brain disease, or damage to the nerves that control the bladder are all neurological issues that can lead to involuntary peeing in dogs.
  • Urinary tract infections: UTIs, bladder tumors, or any other type of condition that pushes on the bladder can cause urinary incontinence in dogs.
  • Bladder storage dysfunction: If your dog isn’t able to properly store urine in their bladder, this can cause them to involuntarily urinate.
  • Urethral disorders: Urethral disorders can cause the muscles that close the urethra to not be able contract, which can lead to urine leakage.
  • Urine retention: With urine retention, a dog will not be able to voluntarily urinate due to stress or fear. It’s a good idea to be aware of the signs of dog anxiety, so that you can tell if your dog is leaking urine due to stress. 
  • Old age: Older dogs are more likely to experience urinary incontinence because the muscles that hold urine in the bladder have weakened.
  • Urinary obstruction: Urinary stones can develop in your dog’s urinary tract, leading to bladder inflammation, and a possible urinary obstruction. This can cause your dog to urinate uncontrollably, urinate in small amounts frequently, or dribble urine.

Why has My Dog Suddenly Become Incontinent?

If your dog has suddenly started leaking urine, there are a variety of things that could be causing that. UTIs, bladder infections, and old age are some of the most common causes of urinary incontinence in dogs. If you notice that your dog has started to lose control of their bladder, you should bring them to the vet as soon as possible. If urinary incontinence goes untreated, it can get worse over time and lead to infection or urine scalding. 

Symptoms of Urinary Incontinence in Dog

The main sign of urinary incontinence in dogs is that your dog will start peeing in the house, even if they are fully potty trained. Most dogs with urinary incontinence will urinate when they’re lying down, so it’s very common for their beds to be covered in urine.

Some other common symptoms of urinary incontinence in dogs to look out for include:

  • Damp legs
  • Irritated skin
  • Urinary dribbling
  • An unpleasant smell
  • Excessive licking of the penis or vulva

It’s very important to watch out for these symptoms so that you can relay the information  to your vet. You’ll want to tell your vet where and how often your dog is urinating, when the urinating started, if it’s gotten worse, if your dog is drinking more water , if their urination seems painful, and if you’ve noticed any additional symptoms. This will all be helpful information so your vet can make a proper diagnosis of your dog’s condition. 

Types of Dogs More Likely To Have Urinary Incontinence

Certain types of dogs are more likely to have urinary incontinence than others. This includes:

  • Female dogs: Female dog incontinence is very common, and it’s often caused by a lack of estrogen levels, which lead to a lack of muscle tone in the urethra. It’s most common in middle-aged to older female dogs who have been spayed.
  • Older dogs: Older dogs are more likely to leak urine or pee involuntarily because their urethral muscles aren’t as strong as they once were, so they can’t hold their urine in their bladder. 
  • Dog breeds: Certain dog breeds are believed to be more likely to develop urinary incontinence, including German Shepherds, Rottweilers, English Springer spaniels, Dalmatians, Boxers, and Collies.

Diagnosing Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

To diagnose a dog with urinary incontinence, a vet will perform a series of tests, as well as conduct a physical examination. They will likely run blood and urine tests, as well as do an X-ray and ultrasound. These tests will give your vet a better idea of exactly what’s causing your dog’s urinary incontinence and how you can go about treating it.

Your vet may also want to rule out other diseases, like Cushing’s disease or diabetes, that could be causing them to urinate involuntarily. An X-ray can be done to rule out bladder stones and an ultrasound can rule out tumors in the bladder. Your vet may also perform a cystoscopy, which will allow them to see if there are any abnormalities in the bladder or urethra. 

How to Treat Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

Once your vet has determined the primary  cause of your dog’s urinary incontinence, then they will have the best idea of how to treat it. Treatment will differ depending on your dog’s diagnosis.

If a bacterial infection is causing your dog to leak urine, your vet will likely prescribe an antibiotic to treat the infection. If a hormone imbalance is the cause, then your vet may recommend hormonal therapy, or estrogen supplementation for female dogs. 

If your dog has a weak urethral sphincter that’s causing them to urinate involuntarily, your vet will likely recommend a medication to control their urinating and manage symptoms. And if your dog has bladder stones or another abnormality, surgery may be needed. However, surgery is usually only needed in severe cases.

If you’re not able to treat your dog’s urinary incontinence with the help of a vet, the only thing you can really do is to manage it. You can do this by putting blankets and towels underneath the areas where your dog often urinates, or even using puppy training pads. You should clean up their sleeping quarters often to prevent them from getting any infections. You should also bring them outside to use the bathroom more often, to reduce the amount of times they pee inside.

dog urinary incontinence

Final Notes

So, your dog has started to urinate around the house and you can’t figure out a way to get them to stop. This involuntary urination is quite common in dogs, and usually it’s due to a medical condition, which will require treatment from a vet to fix. As soon as you notice your dog is leaking urine or peeing uncontrollably in the house, despite being potty trained, make the next available appointment with your vet. Leaving urinary incontinence in dogs untreated can cause it to get worse over time and can even lead to infections or urine scalding.

Finding a good vet who’s available to help you when you need them definitely isn’t easy, but that’s why Dutch is here to help. Dutch partners with a network of licensed veterinarians who are ready and available to help you with any pet health concerns you may have, whether that be regarding, urinary incontinence in dogs, dog seizures, or dehydration in dogs.

When you sign up on Dutch, we’ll connect you with one of our highly trained veterinarians who will help to diagnose and treat your pup in a timely manner so you can get them the medication they need. Our vets are trained to address everything from how to bathe your dog to what to do if your dog is panting heavily, so no dog owner will be left without an answer. We believe all pet owners deserve equal and easy access to pet care, which is why we’ve created a pet telehealth service that’ll get your pet care easier than ever before.