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.
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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:
- Defecating while walking or sleeping
- Dragging hind end on the rug or floor
- Loss of muscle tone in the anal area
- Inability to wag tail
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
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
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Muscle wasting (atrophy)
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.
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.
For infections of any kind, the veterinarian will most likely give your dog an antibiotic by injection.
Treatment for muscular degeneration or wasting will likely include medication or surgery to repair the sphincter and anal muscles in that area.
Treatment of an infestation by parasites may include antiparasitics and corticosteroids.
Chiropractic care, acupuncture, aquatherapy, or physiotherapy may be suggested for spinal problems.
A tumor of the spine may need to be removed surgically and will include physical therapy as well.
Anal fistulas and other damage to the rectal area may need to be repaired surgically.
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.
Bowel Incontinence Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
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.
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Our 14 year old Golden is quite active, eats grain free high quality food and takes golden paste twice a day (changed his life 2 years ago). He does have cloudy eyes and slips a bit on hard wood and his hearing is going but he plays and walks daily and is at a great weight. He does have quite a few fatty tumors, some 2 inches, and they are checked annually.
This past week he has started to just go poo standing in the kitchen, once in the front room, and once even when turning over in bed. He does not assume the position, his poo just falls out. It is 'normal' and he does not appear to be in any pain (other than the shame he feels).
I was chalking it up to his age, he is a rescue and may be older... and do not want to put him through a battery of tests for that. But am now wondering if it may be something else, something I should take him to the vet for? Thank you.
(I've done so much reading, I have pages of things... I'm sick with worry he is in pain now!)
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She can't hold her poop
There are various causes of faecal incontinence in dogs especially as they age, this may be caused by damage to the anal sphincter, rectal disorders, parasites, infections, trauma, spinal disorders, tumours among other causes. A visit to your Veterinarian to check for an anal reflex and for a general examination; minocycline is rarely used in dogs and can cause gastrointestinal upset. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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