Urinary incontinence affects sick and aging dogs.

Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

Overview of Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

Urinary incontinence is the loss of voluntary control of urination. Normal urination requires that the nerves and muscles of the bladder are working properly. In dogs, urinary incontinence sometimes may be confused with inappropriate urination. Inappropriate urination often is a behavioral problem. Diagnostic tests may be needed to distinguish between urinary incontinence and inappropriate urinations.

Probably the most common form of incontinence in dogs is called “primary sphincter mechanism” incontinence and is thought to be caused by weakness of the urethral muscle. It is most common in middle-aged medium- to large-size spayed female dogs.

Urinary incontinence can have neurogenic and non-neurogenic causes.

What to Watch For

Finding wet spots in the house does not necessarily imply that the pet is incontinent. Pets with increased thirst and increased urination may urinate in the house due to increased urine volume and not being allowed outside frequently enough.

Straining while urinating and blood in the urine suggest other disorders such as bacterial cystitis or bladder stones.

Diagnosis of Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

Diagnostic tests must be performed to confirm the diagnosis of urinary incontinence and exclude other diseases that may cause similar symptoms such as bacterial urinary tract infection, urolithiasis (stones or calculi) or prostatic disease in male dogs. Tests may include:

Treatment of Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

Whenever possible treatment for urinary incontinence will be determined by the underlying cause. Definitive treatment involves elimination of the underlying cause of the urinary incontinence. Examples include correction of an anatomic defect, removal of a neurologic lesion, relief of partial obstruction, effective treatment of bacterial urinary tract infection.

In many cases, the cause of incontinence remains unknown after all diagnostic tests have been performed. In this instance, urinary incontinence must be treated symptomatically. The drug phenylpropanolamine is commonly used to treat urinary incontinence thought to be caused by weakness of urethral muscle (sphincter mechanism incompetence).

Home Care and Prevention

Administer medications prescribed by your veterinarian to your pet as directed. Allow your pet free access to fresh clean water and frequent opportunities to urinate. Make sure the bedding is clean and dry.

Follow-up with your veterinarian for examinations and urinalysis. If your pet has an inadequate response to treatment, additional tests may be necessary to identify the cause of the incontinence.

Contact your veterinarian if you notice any signs of urinary tract infection (e.g. straining, blood in the urine) or urinary obstruction (e.g. painful urinations, frequent unsuccessful attempts to urinate).

In-depth Information on Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

Other medical problems can lead to symptoms similar to those encountered in pets with urinary incontinence. These disorders should be excluded before establishing a diagnosis of urinary incontinence.

Causes of Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

Neurologic problems can cause urinary incontinence and can be divided into the following:

A variety of non-neurologic problems can cause urinary incontinence including:


Certain diagnostic tests must be performed to confirm the diagnosis of urinary incontinence and exclude other diseases that may cause similar symptoms, such as bacterial infection, stones or calculi, or prostatic disease in male dogs. Tests may include:

Your veterinarian may recommend additional diagnostic tests to exclude or diagnose other conditions if preliminary tests do not yield a diagnosis, or to understand the impact of urinary incontinence on your pet. These tests are selected on a case-by-case basis. Examples include:


Treatment of urinary incontinence in dogs is based on the cause of the condition and other factors that must be analyzed by your veterinarian. There are several potential causes of urinary incontinence, and it is necessary to identify a specific cause to provide optimal therapy. Treatments may include the following:

Home Care for Dogs with Urinary Incontinence

Optimal treatment for your dog requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. Follow-up is essential and may include the following: