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What is Bowel Incontinence?

Similar to humans, dogs’ muscles tend to get weaker as they age, and that includes the anal muscles. In addition, there are many illnesses that can create a situation that makes it difficult for your dog to control his bowels. Any type of gastrointestinal problem can also cause bowel incontinence. However, you should have the veterinarian check your dog if the incontinence goes on longer than a few days. In addition, if you notice other symptoms such as vomiting, appetite loss, increased body temperature, or any other abnormal behavior, let the veterinarian know right away.

Bowel incontinence is common in older dogs from lack of muscle tone or from a medical problem such as diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), colitis, liver or kidney disease, or Cushing’s disease. Some other illnesses may cause your dog not to want to go outside to have a bowel movement such as arthritis, blindness, and some cognitive disabilities. No matter what you suspect the reason is, if your dog is having accidents in the house you should make an appointment to bring him to see a veterinary care provider.

Symptoms of Bowel Incontinence in Dogs

The symptoms of bowel incontinence are caused by your dog not being able to control his bowel movements and may include one or more of the following:

  • Diarrhea
  • Defecating while walking or sleeping
  • Dragging hind end on the rug or floor
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Loss of muscle tone in the anal area
  • Aggravation
  • Inability to wag tail

Types

Reservoir incontinence is the inability to hold the fecal matter, giving the dog a frequent urge to defecate. Pain may also cause an unwillingness to defecate properly.

  • Non-nervous system-related anal sphincter incontinence can be from trauma, infection, or fistulas
  • Nervous system-related anal sphincter incontinence includes involuntary dribbling when barking or coughing, loss of muscle contracture, lack of muscle tone, and paralysis
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Causes of Bowel Incontinence in Dogs

  • Myasthenia gravis is a neuromuscular disorder that stops the muscles from contracting; the nerves that control the anal sphincter no longer are able to communicate with the brain, which causes incontinence
  • Tumor of the spine can cause pain or paralysis
  • Parasites such as cryptosporidium and trichomoniasis can cause muscular damage from prolonged diarrhea
  • Anal fistula is a chronic lesion in the anal area
  • Viruses like parvovirus that cause diarrhea
  • Anal sac infection from previous injury or condition
  • Paralysis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Muscle wasting (atrophy)
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Diagnosis of Bowel Incontinence in Dogs

The veterinarian will do a complete physical examination on your dog including vital signs, palpation, and auscultation. Laboratory tests will be performed, which usually includes blood tests, fecal examination, and urinalysis. Radiographs such as abdominal x-rays, ultrasound, MRI, and CT scans will be performed to rule out obstructions and other abnormalities. An endoscopy and colonoscopy will give the veterinarian a better look at what is going on in your dog’s system.

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Treatment of Bowel Incontinence in Dogs

The treatment of bowel incontinence will depend on the reason it is happening. However, there are treatments the veterinarian will perform right away to help your dog such as a warm water enema, fluid therapy, and medications.

Infections

For infections of any kind, the veterinarian will most likely give your dog an antibiotic by injection.

Muscle Problems

Treatment for muscular degeneration or wasting will likely include medication or surgery to repair the sphincter and anal muscles in that area.

Parasites

Treatment of an infestation by parasites may include antiparasitics and corticosteroids.

Spinal Issues

Chiropractic care, acupuncture, aquatherapy, or physiotherapy may be suggested for spinal problems.

Tumors

A tumor of the spine may need to be removed surgically and will include physical therapy as well.

Anal Fistulas

Anal fistulas and other damage to the rectal area may need to be repaired surgically.

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Recovery of Bowel Incontinence in Dogs

Recovery is usually very optimistic unless it turns out to be a tumor or paralysis, which may take longer to treat. Patience, as your dog cannot help his condition, and perseverance in the event he needs a bit of retraining after the treatment, are both important parts of the recovery process. Consult your veterinarian if you need guidance in dealing with the effects of bowel incontinence on both you and your pet.

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Bowel Incontinence Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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German Shorthaired Pointer

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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Pooped In Cage, Threw Up Small Amount Of Bike, Peed While Looking Out The Window

My dog isn’t acting strange besides that she pooped in her cage today while we were gone. She only does this when she has diarrhea and has an accident. Some of the poop in the cage was formed, it was soft but formed. Also she then threw up a small amount of bike with one piece of grass an hour later. Then she was looking outside and say a neighbor and she peed while standing up. Her crotch is dripping pee.

July 21, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. She may have a bladder infection, or a problem with her bladder or urinary tract. Those can cause GI upset in some dogs. It would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian. They will be able to examine her, see what might be the cause of what's going on, and get treatment for her so that she feels better soon.

July 21, 2020

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Lelo

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Boston Terrier

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5 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

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I am fostering a sweet 5 year old boston terrier/frenchie mix, rescued from a puppy mill. She was overbred causing complete incontinence, both bowel and bladder. Please, if you know of any specialists that could help her I would love to see if its possible. Currently she wears a diaper, and it is very difficult. Thank you

Aug. 30, 2018

Lelo's Owner

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Bennie

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Weimaraner

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11 Years

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Incontinence
Slight Gait Issues

For the past few weeks, Bennie has started leaving little surprise poop nuggets around the house. He does not seem to even know he is doing it, and otherwise has his normal poop patterns (tells us when he has to go, holds it fine when we aren't home, etc). For his whole life he has been an excellent dog for housebreaking with very few accidents in many years. Recently, maybe a couple of times a week, we will find a small poop, like the size of a golf ball or smaller, that has somehow "slipped out". One time even in bed. It seems very random. He also has had some other issues that we have not yet resolved, so maybe they are related. 2.5 years ago he had cervical vertebrae surgery as he was having gait issues and it was a disc and a spur (if I remember correctly). He had seemed to recover from that, but recently I have been suspicious of similar symptoms to what we saw then (still to get more tests done for that). Could these be related? We put him on tramadol as he seemed in some pain and also carprophen as it may be some inflammation (vet recommended that one).

July 6, 2018

Bennie's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Finding faecal balls around the house and in his bed may be due to a few factors like faecal incontinence which may be from a spinal issue, however another possible cause may be due to constipation with the odd ‘nugget’ sneaking out especially if it is hard in consistency; other issues may be with anal glands, tumours, age among other causes. You may try feeding a little plain canned pumpkin with his food to make defecation easier which may help if there is some constipation but ideally you should have your Veterinarian examine him to be on the safe side. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 7, 2018

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Lulu

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Miniature Schnauzer

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1 Year

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Loose Bowel Movements

My Miniature Schnauzer cannot control her bowel movements. She will have accidents wherever she is with loose poop. We have changed her diet but nothing seems to help. We have taken her to the veterinarian but they just gave her some medication but it did not help.

April 6, 2018

Lulu's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

There are various causes for faecal incontinence, but it is important to note that there is a difference if the faeces is falling out without Lulu being aware and if she is squatting to defecate all the time. Spinal conditions, nerve inflammation, anal gland disorders, sphincter damage among other causes may lead to faecal incontinence; checking anal tone is important to see if the anus responses when poked gently with a pen lid. Without examining Lulu I cannot give you any other advice unfortunately. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

April 6, 2018

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Damon

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Mix

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7 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Pooping While Sleeping

Our seven year old Great Dane boxer mix has started releasing a small portion of loose stool while he’s asleep. It seems to happen less if he’s empty but at first it was maybe once a day then once every 8 hrs and now we are at about every 4 hours. This started nearly three weeks ago. We took him to the vet twice in that time and they expressed his anal glands and ruled out an infection and gave him arthritis meds. This seemed to help for about a week or so. And then the issue returned so we called our vet and they suggested switching his diet from Hill science to a high protein low residue food. So we are stocky transitioning to Fromm. We started 3 days ago but it’s seems to becoming more frequent. Every time it happens we take him outside and he will finish his movement. It seems he’s pooping twice as frequently as he used to. He only shows pain if we wipe him in an effort to clean him up. He’s pretty active and has a very muscular build. It’s hard for us to believe it’s just because he’s getting older. Seeking help trying to solve this puzzle.

Jan. 15, 2018

Damon's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. I'm sorry that that is happening, it is never easy to accept that our pets our aging. Large breed dogs can be affected by neuromuscular degenerative problems in their hind end, and sometimes there is sadly very little that can be done. Your veterinarian seems to be doing a good job trying to help you manage this condition, and it may just be a trial and error process in finding foods that give him fewer stools, and firmer stools. Some dogs respond better to a low residue food, some to a higher fiber food. I hope that you and your veterinarian are able to find that combination.

Jan. 15, 2018

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Emma

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Bijon

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14 Years

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Serious severity

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Emma is a 14 year old Bijon. She has a very difficult case of diabetes. She is deaf, blind due to cataracts and has many bowel accidents while sleeping. She is also losing strength in her hind legs. She has ear infections and eye infections and the vet said borderline Cushing disease. Is it time. I take her to the vet constantly. This is so cruel.

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Sam

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Shepherd heeler

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10 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Fecal Incontinence.

Our 10 yr old shepherd mix Sam, began Fecal incontinence 3 yrs ago. For a couple yrs the poop would shoot out whenever he was agitated, barking crazily. Then we found poops in his bed in the mornings. Now we are finding poops randomly. Our vet has tried acupuncture. He eats 4Health salmon & potato, fed twice daily. I also give him a spoonful of coconut oil on food 3-4 times a week. At times when taking a poop he

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Onyx

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Miniature Schnauzer

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11 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea, Wight Loss, Blind

Our 11 yr old miniature schnauzer develop a very severe case of diarrhea. We took her to the vet and after meds, and several changes in dog food we thought the issue was finally resolved. It was determined that our dog had to go on a low-fat diet. The solution was short-lived or should I say partially resolved. Our dog lost a lot of weight and don't know if it's related but soon after all this began she started to lose her vision too. We increased her intake from 1 cup a day to two cups a day which has helped in her putting on weight but she is still very thin and trail looking, and very quickly (seemed almost like overnight) lost all her vision. Diarrhea continues to be an issue and she is now unable to hold it until we get her to the dog run. She goes anytime and anywhere she has the urge. She is crated at night, nothing new she has always been crated at night, but she now defecates in her crate. Whereas before she would let us know she has to go outside. I guess that is also a concern, she no longer lets us know she has to go. We have started to restrict her to a single room and have lined the room with pee pads. But as you can imagine the odor is horrendous even worse her urine also smells rotten. Are we in denial, are we keeping her longer than we should?

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Ajay

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Pit bull

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9 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Fecal

Sorry I have posted a few times in the wrong fields. I have a pittbull mutt who we adopted at 9 years old. He has fecal incontinence and well after a lot of searching and frustration I found this video that helped. It helped us in our home. It costs nothing just your commitment an willingness to do it. Copy and paste the following link: I have the same incontinence issues with my 9 year old perfect mutt. I came across this video and it helped alot. My boy eats at the same time everyday and gets this free treatment at regular intervals throughout the day. I works for us. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPJw8cr6Seo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPJw8cr6Seo&t=2s

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Bryzzo

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Boston Terrier

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15 Months

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Fecal Incontinence
Fecal

My Boston Terrier had a screw tail that the vet decided to remove due to chronic infections. It's been a week and sutures are still not removed. However, my poor Boston now can't control his poop. Did we make a huge mistake?