7 Facts About Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

Urinary incontinence is a commonly diagnosed problem in dogs. Luckily, treatments are available to keep your dog living a happy, healthy life.

Jul 8, 2024byHeather Jarek

facts about urinary incontinence in dogs

As a dog owner, nothing is more exciting than finally reaching the goal of potty-training your dog. That official potty-trained stamp is cause for celebration. So, nothing is more disappointing than stumbling upon a yellow puddle on the floor when you have just walked your dog for a potty break. Don’t automatically assume your dog is being naughty. A random accident may not be random at all. It could be a sign of canine urinary incontinence.

1. Urinary Incontinence Isn’t the Same as Accidents 

dog urinating on tree
Image credit: Libelle

Canine urinary incontinence is when a dog involuntarily loses control of its bladder. You may notice your dog getting up from a nap and leaving behind a small puddle of urine. Or a dog may leak urine during a walk or be unable to stop dripping after urination. The dog is entirely unaware and cannot control the urine flow. Urinary incontinence is not a behavioral issue and requires medical treatment and diagnosis. So, if you suspect this condition in your dog, avoid using harsh words or punishment. They can’t control it!

2. Symptoms of Urinary Incontinence Vary 

puppy potty accident floor
Image credit: Healthcare for Pets

Inappropriate elimination is when a potty-trained dog or puppy begins having accidents again. These accidents can look like urinary incontinence but are separate conditions. Submissive urination is a common problem in young dogs and occurs when they get so excited that they urinate. This is a behavioral issue, and corrective training will help. Many dogs grow out of submissive urination.

Incorrect potty training is another problem that can look like urinary incontinence. Dogs with incomplete potty training will urinate in large puddles, usually near the door. Once your veterinarian rules out medical causes, you can begin retraining your dog or puppy to go potty outside. Finding a professional dog trainer to help you through the process may be helpful. Properly potty-training a dog is no easy task!

old geriatric labrador dog laying bed
Image credit: Cy Fair Animal Hospital

Pain is another cause of inappropriate elimination that may resemble incontinence. If a dog is in pain, it may have difficulty getting up to go outside in time to go potty. A painful dog might have trouble getting into the correct position to go potty and end up dripping urine afterward. Older dogs may experience cognitive changes and forget where it’s appropriate to go potty.

Dealing with a dog who is urinating inappropriately can be frustrating. It’s important to remember never to punish your dog when these accidents occur. Finding the cause of the inappropriate elimination is the first step in resolving the problem. It can be challenging to tell which condition your dog may suffer from. Your veterinarian will be able to help you find the cause. It can be helpful to write down each instance of inappropriate elimination, so your veterinarian can answer your questions appropriately.

3. Old Age and Congenital Conditions Cause Incontinence

dachshund wheelchair
Image credit: DaySmart Pet

  Any age or breed of dog can be affected by urinary incontinence, but it is most common in older female dogs. The most common cause of urinary incontinence in dogs is urethral sphincter mechanism insufficiency (USMI). This condition occurs when the urethral sphincter is not strong enough to hold in the urine. It can be caused by canine obesity, genetics, or estrogen deficiency. Other causes of canine urinary incontinence are:

  • Neurological causes, including spinal injuries, nerve damage, or brain disease
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Bladder tumors
  • Anatomy abnormalities
  • Congenital defects
  • Hormones
  • Dementia

4. A Vet Can Diagnose Urinary Incontinence

golden retriever getting ultrasound
Image credit: Lemonade

 Diagnosing the exact cause of urinary incontinence can take time and patience. A complete history will be taken, followed by an examination. The next steps will depend on the dog’s clinical signs but may include a urinalysis to check for a urinary tract infection. A urine culture may be recommended if a urinary tract infection is suspected, but the urinalysis was inconclusive. Blood work to evaluate kidney function may be advised as well.

Radiographs (x-ray) may be recommended to rule out bladder stones. An ultrasound will help identify tumors, growths, or anatomy issues. Additional blood tests may be needed to rule out underlying conditions, including diabetes or Cushing’s disease.

5. Urinary Incontinence Is Treatable 

labrador dog with medications
Image credit: The Spruce Pets

There are many treatment options available for dogs that suffer from urinary incontinence. Medications or surgery may be recommended depending on the cause. If a dog’s incontinence is due to an underlying disease, then treating that illness may resolve the issue. Medications can be prescribed that improve the bladder’s muscle tone to help hold in the urine.

Surgical treatments may be necessary if bladder stones, or tumors, are suspected. If a physical abnormality is found, surgery may be needed to correct it. If hormones are the culprit, then hormone therapy may be required. Most canine urinary incontinence cases can be successfully treated. If you suspect your pet may be suffering from incontinence, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your veterinarian.

6. Lifestyle Changes Can Manage Urinary Incontinence

dog wearing diaper
Image credit: Amazon

Most cases of canine urinary incontinence can be successfully managed with daily medication or surgery. Depending on the cause of the incontinence, the general prognosis is good. However, not all cases can be cured or wholly managed by medication and may require lifestyle changes. These changes may include the following:

7. Certain Breeds Are Predisposed to Urinary Incontinence

smiling panting boxer dog
Image credit: Lucy Pet Foods

Any breed of dog can be affected by urinary incontinence. Studies have shown that some breeds may be predisposed to the condition. The breeds that may be at a higher risk of urinary incontinence are Irish setters, Dobermans, collies, boxers, and Dalmatians. Obesity and spay and neuter status can also predispose a dog to urinary incontinence.

Don’t stress if your dog suffers from urinary incontinence. You have options for improving their quality of life.

Heather Jarek
byHeather Jarek

Heather is a lover of all animals, big and small. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology in 2014. She has been working as a licensed veterinary technician for the last eight years. Her favorite hobby is horseback riding, and she has been riding horses since the age of eight. She enjoys spending time with her family at the lake with their golden retriever Calista in her free time.