Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

Picture of a dog on the bed

Urinary incontinence can be a common problem that dog parents have to face, and it can sometimes be just as common in puppies as it is in senior dogs. In this post, we’ll look at its causes, what you can do to prevent or at least improve it in part, and when it’s time to take your canine buddy to the vet.

What Dogs Can Develop Urinary Incontinence More than Others?

Not all dogs will pee on your bed when they grow old, and while it might be true that incontinence is more common in our senior canine friends, it affects the younger generations, too. However, in most cases, puppies and young adult dogs don’t suffer from real incontinence, rather than hormone-related problems or they can pee due to excitement, anxiety, fear, or stress.

There are some breeds that have been found to be more likely to develop urinary incontinence. Here are several examples:

  • Old English Sheepdogs
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Springer Spaniels
  • Fox Terriers
  • Boxers
  • Bull Mastiffs
  • Bulldogs
  • Irish Red Setters
  • Rottweilers
  • Weimaraners
  • German Shepherds

What Causes Urinary Incontinence in Dogs?

  • Hormone responsible urinary incontinence

This is a condition that most commonly affects female dogs that have been spayed. It can be seen in males and younger females, however. It involves an imbalance of the animal’s estrogen levels. For example, since a spayed female dog doesn’t have her ovaries anymore, she doesn’t have the same amount of estrogen being produced in her body.

Estrogen is important for a variety of reasons, but some studies also suggest that it influences the way a dog can control its urinary sphincter.

UTIs aren’t extremely common in dogs, but they can happen, and if they are left untreated, they can become complicated. Your dog can pee in your bed because the symptoms are quite severe, with pain, blood in the urine, and a partial loss of control of the bladder and urinary sphincter.

UTIs are easier to treat compared to other medical problems that we have noted in this article, so get to the veterinarian as soon as possible if you suspect that your canine buddy is suffering from one.

  • Other urinary-related medical problems

Besides hormone imbalances and UTIs, there are other health issues that can affect the way your pooch controls his or her bathroom habits. These can range from diabetes and bladder stones to spinal cord injuries and neurological disorders.

In most cases, though, urinary incontinence shows up as a dog becomes older and older. That is why most pet guardians will first notice the dog apparently marking several spots throughout the house, but without exhibiting a marking behavior along with the actual urination.

As the dog becomes senior and he/she loses control of the urinary sphincter, you might even notice your pet emptying his/her bladder while sleeping or without realizing that it’s happening.

In some other situations, urinary incontinence can be caused by rarer conditions, such as the following:

What You Should Tell the Vet

If you notice your dog peeing in unusual places or not seeming to have any control over his bathroom habits, you should seek out veterinary assistance. This step is important as dog parents can sometimes mistake one condition for something else and not get the right treatment.

Your veterinarian is going to ask you several questions, such as when the incontinence began, when the leakage is more commonly noticed (during sleep or while the dog is awake), or if your dog seems to have a significant bigger appetite for water (which could be a sign of diabetes).

You will also have to provide detailed information as to whether the actual urine looks and smells different and if you’ve noticed that your dog seems to spend more time tending to his or her ‘business’ than the usual.

Moreover, you’ll be asked whether you’ve recently made any changes in terms of the medication you’re giving your pet or the food you’re feeding to him or her.

Making the Difference Between Incontinence and Poor ‘bathroom’ Habits

Urinary incontinence can be defined as a pet’s inability to control the urinary sphincter. This happens particularly in middle-aged to senior males and females, no matter if they are neutered or spayed.

Dogs can be incontinent for a number of reasons, most of which we have already described in this article. But the most important thing to keep in mind is that if your pooch is truly incontinent, he or she really has no control over its peeing habits.

Some dogs aren’t incontinent, meaning that they haven’t completely lost their control of their sphincter. However, some animals are known to suffer from another medical problem known as ‘sphincter mechanism incontinence’, where the bladder neck becomes weak and can’t keep the pee inside the urinary bladder.

If this happens, the dog will accidentally pee when making certain movements or when sitting or lying down. Whenever there is more pressure put on the neck of the bladder, the pee can be mechanically released without it being related to a dysfunction of the sphincter per se.

What If Your Dog Doesn’t Wet Your Bed?

How can you tell that your dog has urinary incontinence if you don’t ever see him or her peeing in unusual places or without seeming to have any control over this habit?

A dog that suffers from this condition will usually wet the places he or she hangs around in, such as the pet bed, the kennel, or a favorite spot in the house. Most dogs will also lick their nether regions more often, which could be a sign that the incontinence is associated with a painful urinary infection, for example.

Other dogs tend to develop dermatitis in the areas that are more commonly covered in urine. Long-haired breeds can have damp legs for several hours of a day or almost all the time if they pee once every couple of hours. Finally, a dog that has urinary incontinence will almost always smell of urine.


Can urinary incontinence be treated or at least improved or will you have to do your best to manage this problem? It actually depends on what’s causing it. If it’s a hormone imbalance, it can be treated with estrogen tablets, which you can get from the vet.

Diabetes can be treated, too, either with insulin therapy or with significant improvements on a dog’s diet (in case the animal has non-insulin-dependent diabetes). As for urinary tract infections they usually resolve with antibiotics in one to two weeks (depending on the pathogen that has caused them).



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