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What is Incontinent?

Urinary or urethral incontinence occurs when your dog has involuntary urine leakage, normally occurring while your dog is resting or sleeping. Urinary incontinence is involuntary, which means that your dog is completely unaware that they are urinating. 

Many dog owners confuse the puddles of urine on their kitchen floor with incontinence but sometimes this can be inappropriate behavior and not a health concern. In other cases, your pet may be suffering from incontinence due to an illness.

  • Hormonal causes
  • Over-exercise or stress
  • Anatomic abnormalities 
  • Diabetes
  • Neurological issues

Urinary incontinence is not life threatening but it should be evaluated by a veterinarian in order to treat the cause and avoid long-term complications.

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Why Incontinent Occurs in Dogs

Over-Exercise or Stress

Over-exercise or exertion, stress, anxiety, and fear can cause your dog to forget that he needs to urinate. As his bladder reaches maximum capacity, he will be unable to hold the urine due to pressure, and then your dog will urinate involuntarily.

Hormonal Causes

20% of older, spayed larger breed female dogs will suffer from sphincter mechanism incompetence. In laymen terms, this means that your dog's bladder is weak and incapable of retaining urine inside the bladder, resulting in urine leakage, especially when your dog is lying down. 

80% of the clinical cases for urinary incontinence are caused by sphincter mechanism incompetence. It is caused by hormonal imbalance and mostly affects female spayed dogs, but in some cases, male dogs can also suffer from the condition.

Anatomic Abnormalities

One of the most common anatomic abnormalities is ectopic ureter. Normally the ureter empties into the bladder, but an ectopic ureter opens up into the urethra, vagina or uterus, resulting in a constant dribble of urine. This abnormality is often observed in dogs under one year old.


When a canine develops diabetes, the increased need to drink and to urinate accompany the disease. Diabetes can be managed with lifetime care, including dietary changes and insulin therapy.

Neurological Issues

Spinal injuries and diseases like neuroaxonal dystrophy can cause incontinence. In some cases, the incontinence becomes a permanent part of a dog’s life.

What to do if your Dog is Incontinent

If your dog's incontinence is caused from over exercise or stress, it will come on quite suddenly and abruptly stop. But if your dog is suffering from a medical condition, it could begin gradually or suddenly, turning into a persistent concern. 

Dogs that are suffering from urinary incontinence will still urinate when outside and will not have signs of discomfort when urinating. If you suspect your pet is incontinent, observe him when active and when at rest to see if he has any of the following symptoms:

  • Check your dog's bedding to see if it is wet where he was lying
  • Take note as to whether your dog’s back legs are damp
  • Monitor him to see if he is excessively licking his back end
  • You may see that your dog and his bedding smell of urine.

If you suspect that your dog is incontinent, take your dog to the vet for an appointment. Your vet will do a complete health check up to eliminate any serious clinical concerns. The good news is that many cases of urinary incontinence can be eliminated 100% with the correct treatment. Some common tests that may be done are:

  • Urinalysis
  • Blood tests
  • Ultrasound (to make sure there are no bladder stones or other abnormalities)
  • CT scan (a more detailed view is obtained)
  • Cystoscopy, if an abnormality is observed

If your dog was diagnosed with sphincter mechanism incompetence, your vet will likely prescribe a combination of a hormone replacement and phenylpropanolamine. This will help strengthen your dog's urethral sphincter, preventing urine leakage. 

If your dog was diagnosed with ectopic ureter, your vet will need to do a corrective surgical procedure on your dog. This operation has an 80% success rate and can be treated after with phenylpropanolamine for a 100% success rate. This surgical procedure will not affect your dog's lifespan or quality of life. Neurological illnesses or injury will have different outcomes as to the resolution of loss of bladder control or leakage of urine, depending on the cause of the condition.

Prevention of Incontinent

Sadly, there are no ways to prevent your dog from suffering from this condition. But you can learn to manage your dog's condition, making his life more comfortable and urine free. 

Doggy diapers will prevent unwanted urine dribbling from dripping on your carpet, meaning less clean up. Your dog will love them because they will keep his fur dry and more comfortable, meaning less bathing to wash the urine smell away.

Take your dog outside for longer and more frequent bathroom breaks. Additionally, urine can sting and scald your dog’s skin, so keep a package of baby wipes nearby to clean your pet’s fur and skin regularly. Keep in regular contact with the veterinarian and attend follow up appointments as needed.

Cost of Incontinent

The cost of treating your dog’s incontinence will depend greatly on the reason for his urinary leakage. If your dog has been diagnosed with sphincter mechanism incompetence, it should be about $350 for the diagnosis plus medicine. If your dog is suspected to have a urinary tract abnormality such as an ectopic ureter, it could cost about $3000 including tests and surgery.