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Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

Reviewed by Dr. Alexis Seguin, DVM, MS, DACVIM on Monday, April 27, 2015
Posted January 09, 2014 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

Most dog owners who have acquired a new puppy have been through the “accident” phase. Many of those dog parents ask themselves, “Will he ever stop peeing in the house?” (Learn about house training your puppy.) The good news is that once a healthy puppy is house trained they don’t often revert. Unexpected and inappropriate changes in the toilet habits of a dog should not be considered a slip but rather a tip that something is occurring and making it difficult to control urine flow. Occasionally, a puppy may be born with a congenital defect such as ectopic ureter, which makes them unable to control their urination without medical intervention. These puppies will seem to fail to learn housebreaking skills. Make sure that you discuss any and all abnormalities, concerns, and changes in your pet with your vet.

Talking about incontinence in your dog with your veterinarian
Don’t be shy. Though it can sometimes be a bit awkward, be sure that your pet’s toilet habits are discussed with your veterinarian. The most important step is to discuss the problem of urinary accidents and treat it appropriately.

One of the first things you as a pet parent can do is to carefully observe the problem. If your dog is having "accidents," it would be helpful to tell your veterinarian if the dog is consciously urinating or is “leaking” urine as is seen with urinary incontinence. Some details to share can be obvious:

  • What is the timing of the urination? 
  • Is it happening frequently or only occasionally?
  • Is there effort involved?
  • Does your pet squat and strain, or do you find puddles of urine where your dog has been sleeping?
  • Does the urine have an unusual color or unpleasant odor?

Common causes of urinary incontinence
But what could be causing the incontinence? There are several possible causes, including:

  • Urinary tract or bladder infections will often result in frequent and urgent urination. A burning sensation in the bladder and resultant spasms that occur express small amounts of urine frequently. Bladder infections are common in dogs and must be ruled out before any treatment is considered. In these cases, urination is often conscious (not true incontinence), but is difficult to control due to the sense of urgency.
  • Ectopic ureters are an uncommon congenital defect in which the urine flows freely from the kidneys without being collected in the bladder. This defect is not common,

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Mike has more than 35 years of experience in companion animal veterinary practice and is a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2013.