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Incontinence in Dogs

Incontinence is the inability to voluntarily control movement of defecation and urination. In dogs, these conditions are often encountered and can be caused by numerous infectious agents, as well as various conditions of spinal cord damage and systemic diseases. Both urinary and fecal incontinence are curable. In this article you will learn more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of urinary and fecal incontinence. If your dog shows signs of uncontrolled defecation, you can jump to the “Fecal Incontinence” section.

Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

Dog standing beside odor peeUrinary incontinence involves the unconscious release of urine, where the dog can’t control where he urinates. This condition is curable. Although it can occur in any age group of dogs and in both sexes, older dogs are predisposed to developing this condition. Incontinence disorders are more common in large and medium breeds as overweight dogs and their treatment is more complicated, so care should be taken to maintain the dog’s normal weight throughout his life as much as possible. Breeds of dogs that are predisposed to urinary incontinence are therefore divided according to several norms.

Breeds of dogs that are susceptible to this disorder due to the most common occurrence of urinary stones and infections:

  • Shih Tzu
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Bichon Frise
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Yorkshire Terriers
  • West Scottish White Terriers
  • Fox Terriers

Breeds of dogs that are susceptible to this disorder due to the anatomic causes:

  • Golden Retriever
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Siberian Husky
  • Newfoundland
  • English Bulldog

Females of dog breeds that are predisposed to urinary incontinence, ranked from most prone to incontinence to least prone:

  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Springer Spaniels
  • Doberman pinschers
  • Old English sheepdogs
  • Boxers
  • German Shepherds
  • Great Schnauzers
  • Irish Setters
  • Rottweilers
  • Weimaraners

Other breeds that are also predisposed to developing urinary incontinence based on age and gender:

  • Dwarf Poodles
  • Collies
  • Welsh Corgis
  • Dalmatians
  • Great Danes

The frequency of this health issue is higher in female dogs than in males, and especially the ones who are spayed. The female dog’s hormone (estrogen) and the male dog’s hormone (testosterone) play a major role in the work of the muscles that allow the bladder to be emptied. When a female dog is spayed or a male dog is castrated, it greatly affects the level of the mentioned hormones in the dog’s body, and also the work of the bladder.

Female dog incontinence occurs in more than 20% of cases of spayed female dogs, most often from the third year of life. Male dog incontinence occurs in male dogs that may or may not be neutered at the age of 10 years and older. Even from the age of six, the level of sex hormones certainly decreases, so the muscles that support the proper function of the bladder relax their tone (tension), and this is the so-called “old dog incontinence.”

Causes of Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

This disorder has a number of causes that can be related to abnormalities that are reflected and seen directly in the functioning of the bladder. The main causes of urinary incontinence in dogs are the following:

  • Birth abnormalities (congenital problems)
  • Anatomic disorders of the urinary tract
  • Obesity
  • Injury of the nerves of the bladder
  • Infections of urinary tract
  • Urinary stones and tumors
  • Imbalance of the hormones
  • Spinal injury and brain lesions
  • Psychological or emotional issues
  • Prostate disorders
  • Systemic diseases related with excessive water intake
  • Medications

Birth Abnormalities (Congenital States)

Congenital abnormalities are conditions that occur in dogs after birth. As for the urinary system, abnormalities that can be noticed at birth are the following:

  • Bladder facing the inside of the urethra (urinary outflow tract)
  • Underdeveloped bladder
  • Overdeveloped bladder
  • Two or more bladders

Ectopic ureters (ureters that come out in the wrong place) can also be seen in newborn puppies of both sexes. Ureters are the ducts that normally carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder. However, when that outlet is found anywhere else except in the bladder, it is an abnormal condition. This condition is visible from the outside only in the form of constant involuntary dripping of urine.

There is another health issue that occurs only in female dogs, and that is vulvogainic stenosis. Stenosis in itself means narrowing, so in this case, it is a narrowed passage from the vagina (inner part of the female genitals) to the vulva (outer part of the female genitalia). As urine passes through that part of the genital organs, and the passage is narrowed, it becomes difficult to excrete, so it accumulates there. When the dog makes a sudden movement, for example when getting up, the urine spills out abruptly.

Anatomic Disorders of the Urinary System

Dog disorder of urinary systemVarious anatomical disorders can occur throughout a dog’s life, and the most common is a weak circular muscle in the bladder that closes it (the sphincter) and a poorly developed bladder. Also, urethral sphincter mechanism incompetence (USMI) may also occur in older females. In this case, the sphincter between the bladder and the urethra weakens, leading to a loss of urethral tension. In this way, urine reluctantly leaks from the dog’s vagina. The causes of this condition can be numerous, and the most common are some damage to the discs between the vertebrae and disorders of the spine and spinal cord.


Due to the sudden cessation of estrogen secretion, sterilized female dogs become more prone to weight gain. In such cases, urinary incontinence can occur as a result of pressure of the accumulated adipose tissue on the bladder and the muscles around it. If this condition is long-lasting, the muscles around the bladder weaken over time, and due to the pressure of the accumulated urine on the weakened muscles, the urethral sphincter relaxes and urine leaks out. That is why it is very important to control your dog’s body weight. If you notice that there is a sudden increase in it, put the dog on a proper diet.

Injury of the Nerves of the Bladder

The urinary bladder consists of several parts, and each of them is connected to different groups of nerves that originate from the spinal cord. When there is damage or change to these nerves that is mainly caused by injuries, falls and blows, it can very easily lead to urinary incontinence, and the condition that then occurs is called a “neurogenic bladder.”

Infections of the Urinary Tract

Urogenital infections are conditions that are very common in dogs. Urinary tract infections occur in 14% to 27% of all dogs at least once in their lifetime. The most common causes are bacteria (in 70% of cases, there is only one type of bacteria), and they can be viruses and fungi, and some mycoplasmas. In conditions such as inflammation of the bladder, inflammation of the kidneys and inflammation of the urethra caused by a bacterial infection, the dog has an increased need to urinate (pollakiuria). This is a symptom that represents very frequent urination of small amounts of urine and can lead to incontinence. if not treated in time, it can lead to chronic incontinence. If the cause is bacterial or another kind of infection, the dog should be taken to a veterinarian for antibiotics to be included in the therapy.

Urinary Stones and Tumors

Urinary tract infections, obesity and genetic changes can lead to the appearance of urinary stones in the urine of dogs, and they can cause inflammation, pain and incontinence. Smaller breeds of dogs are predisposed to the formation of these stones because they drink smaller amounts of water and urinate less frequently, so their urine is more concentrated.

Benign tumors in the form of masses or polyps can be located in and around the bladder and can mechanically put pressure on the bladder neck, causing a delay in the excretion of urine and a dilated bladder. In this way, the bladder is overfilled over time and a small amount of urine can leak around the tumor that caused this blockage. In these cases, blood can even be seen in the urine passing by the tumor.

It can also happen that the tumor grows so big that a complete blockage of urine excretion occurs. This condition is urgent and can even lead to intoxication and death. As for other tumors in the bladder, malignant fibrosarcomas, leiomyosarcomas and transitional cell carcinoma can occur.

Imbalance of the Hormones

The female and male sexual organs are the ones that regulate the growth and repair of the reproductive organs. When there is any imbalance or lack of estrogen, progesterone or testosterone (their reduced secretion), it also affects the tension of all the muscles of the bladder and urethra, where urine begins to flow uncontrollably.

This usually happens after the castration of the dog or during aging. Decreased estrogen secretion leads to frequent urination. In order to successfully control this condition, hormone therapy is usually prescribed to such dogs, which helps in the treatment of incontinence.

Spinal Injury and Brain Lesions

Damage to the spinal cord, which is the result of some injuries, blows, falls of the dog or some other causes, leads to degeneration of the nerves that innervate the muscles around the urethra and bladder. Degenerations can be temporary or permanent, resulting in excessive tension of the bladder due to its overflow and inability to empty it. This health condition can lead to bacterial infections and inflammation of the kidneys.

It can also happen that a dog suffers from intervertebral disc disease, which is caused by pressure on certain vertebrae. This disease occurs due to wear and tear of the vertebral cartilage or some congenital defects, and it is manifested by pain and irregular gait, as well as nerve damage and incontinence. If the nerves are too damaged, surgery is needed to correct the condition.

Also, various types of brain tumors and infections can lead to damage of the brain tissue; certain structures in the brain control the dog’s bladder and the urge to urinate. Such conditions can lead to the appearance of dementia or senility of the dog, which is accurately called “canine cognitive dysfunction.”

Such dogs become anxious over time and lose sensation in space. They lose function and control over voluntary body movements, such as relaxation of the urethral sphincter to release urine. In these cases, the dog can be helped only by certain supplements that should alleviate the symptoms of dementia because it is incurable.

Psychological or Emotional Issues

Dog hides under bedVarious emotional experiences of certain phenomena and sounds, such as stress and fear caused by loud sounds (thunder, firecrackers), can lead to uncontrolled urination in dogs. Also, if there is another dog in the presence of the dog that is more dominant, the first dog may show urinary incontinence out of fear or humility. The same is the case if the dog owner treats him aggressively.

Dogs also urinate uncontrollably out of a sense of excitement when a new member arrives in the family, when some environmental changes occur at his place of residence (in the house or yard) or when the dog is separated from the family to which he is otherwise accustomed. When the owner who takes care of him comes home, the dog may experience a hypersensitive reaction of joy, which can also provoke an emotional urge to pee uncontrollably.

Dogs still experience incontinence for the reason of marking their territory, or even for the reason that some significant change in their daily routine occurs (change in feeding schedule or walks). Incontinence caused by psychological or emotional issues is manifested in the same way as incontinence caused by other causes, that is, by relaxing the tone of the pelvic muscles.

Prostate Disorders

Male dogs can experience various issues with the prostate during its life in the form of its enlargement, and the cause is most often benign tumors that grow over time and exert mechanical pressure on the bladder. This health condition is called “benign prostatic hyperplasia.”
Precisely because of the pressure from the tumor, the bladder “tries” even harder to expel urine and works more actively.

However, the pressure reduces the lumen of the bladder neck and the urethral sphincter, and thus reduces the flow of urine through the urethra. This leads to urination becoming more frequent and in smaller quantities. This blockage of the urethra and excessive pressure acts on its walls, weakening them, and it can also allow the bladder to simply “flood.” This type of incontinence is called “obstructive” due to bladder obstruction or due to tumor pressure.

Systemic Diseases Related to Excessive Water Intake

Some systemic diseases in dogs cause an increased need for water, such as diabetes, increased thyroid function (hyperthyroidism), as well as kidney disease caused by urinary tract infections. This increased water intake can also cause an increased need to urinate. Older dogs can lose their sense of urination over time, so they may unconsciously urinate wherever they go.


Most drugs are excreted in the urine. Therefore, the complete urinary system is complete, and the bladder is very sensitive to their harmful effects. Bladder retention and incontinence can occur as one of the side effects, and the most common medications that can cause it are the following:

  • Antidepressants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Sedatives
  • Medications used to relieve stomach upsets and cramps
  • Medications used to relieve cold and flu symptoms
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Antiallergic drugs

Also, hormones given orally and drugs that stimulate urination (diuretics) can lead to the same effect. It is important to read the side effects on each medicine that may occur before giving it to the dog, and observe the dog during treatment. If any harmful effects occur, consult a veterinarian for further instructions.

Symptoms of Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

There are a number of symptoms that you may notice in your dog and that may indicate urinary incontinence early, if you pay attention and follow it. A representative symptom that occurs at the very beginning is a strong strain when urinating. Even then, it can be concluded that something is wrong with your dog’s urinary tract.

The most common symptoms of urinary incontinence in dogs are the following:

  • Involuntary urination
  • Difficulty urinating and a weak stream of urine
  • Drops of urine in bedding or around the house without ever doing it before
  • Licking the genital tract area
  • Frequent attempts to urinate
  • Hair between the legs is wet
  • Irritated and red skin between hind legs due to too long retention of urine droplets on the hairs in that area
  • Distended (stretched) abdomen
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Frequent infections of urinary tract

It would be best to monitor your dog’s behavior. If you have already noticed any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian or visit the closest veterinary clinic to find out the cause and determine a course of treatment.

Diagnosis of Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

In order to make an accurate diagnosis, it is important that you provide all the necessary information about the symptoms you noticed in the dog and about the history of the disease (whether the dog suffered from an infectious disease and if so, when, and from which). A detailed history is crucial in distinguishing incontinence that is a symptom of a primary disease from incontinence itself being the cause of a urinary tract infection.

A physical examination can also provide a lot of data. Abdominal distension and leakage of urine can be visually noticed, and palpation checks the pain of the abdomen and the dog’s reaction to the pressure on the bladder.

Diagnosis of urinary incontinence in dogs is performed by urine sampling for biochemical analysis and sedimentation. Blood is also sampled, which is then sent for biochemical tests and a complete blood count is done. If after these examinations a diagnosis of incontinence is not at all clearer, an ultrasound examination of the abdomen, especially the bladder and urethra, can be done.
An X-ray examination may also be performed, as well as a vaginoscopy to determine the presence of fistulas or tumors in the vagina of sterilized female dogs. There is another diagnostic method that can determine the presence and type of bacteria in the urine. It is a bacteriological examination of urine, and in this case, urine is collected by puncturing the bladder. This method of collecting urine is called cystocentesis, and it is done by stabbing the abdomen with a needle, passing it directly into the bladder and aspiring urine into a syringe. Such urine is sterile in a healthy dog, without the presence of bacteria.

Treatment of Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

The treatment of incontinence depends on the cause. Most of the causes include going to the vet and treatment with antibiotics, painkillers, (urination medications) diuretics, and some surgical methods that fix the condition. However, you can try to solve certain causes at home.

For example, if you suspect that your dog has urinary stones, you can try giving vitamin C and a small amount of flaxseed oil. Vitamin C helps to break down stones and flaxseed oil lubricates the urinary tract in order to eliminate the stone as easily as possible through the dog’s urine, to eliminate damage.

If you notice that the condition lasts longer, or if there are serious symptoms like blood in the urine, loss of appetite and vomiting, take the dog for a clinical examination immediately.

Natural Remedies for Dog Urinary Incontinence

Natural remedies should be only used if your veterinarian advises you so. Alternative methods of treating urinary incontinence can lead to a reduction in the use of medications prescribed by the veterinarian for the dog in this case. In the case of obesity caused by sterilization of a female dog and a sudden decrease in hormone secretion, a natural home remedy would be to introduce some types of cereals into the dog’s diet.

Cereals can be used in the diet in almost all forms, and they are best raw. A common helpful ingredient is soy, which is rich in natural plant estrogen. Its use will help restore urethral sphincter function. In order to prevent obesity in female dogs, it is necessary to take them for walks as often as possible, keep them physically active and follow an appropriate diet.

The use of some homeopathic remedies can help improve the condition. The vitamin B complex is good in cases when the dog is experiencing stressful situations. Fresh and dried cranberries in small quantities, fresh fruits and vegetables and yogurt help prevent urinary tract infections. Also, some herbs that contain various minerals such as magnesium, iron, calcium, zinc, and vitamins A, B1, B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), D3, as well as essential fatty acids, have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects. Those herbs are cranberries, juniper berry, uva ursi and marshmallow root.

Also, parts of plants from traditional Chinese medicine, such as Rehmannia, Epimedium (Barrenwort), blend of herbs called “Eight Gentlemen” and leaves of Mugwort (Artemisia), which is previously ground, are used in making products that help treat incontinence. 1Huisheng, X. (2015) Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine for Renal Failure. World Small Animal Veterinary Association Congress.

The dog should not be given dairy products, except yogurt, or fresh vegetables that contribute to the development of urinary tract infections and therefore incontinence, which are carrots, spinach, tomatoes and asparagus. All these foods affect the pH and density of urine, because in cases where the urine is thick, urinary calculus and stones are formed.

Some types of calculus can be treated with a diet or by using specialized foods for pets that have a disease of the urinary tract. To avoid thickening of the urine, it is necessary for the dog to drink plenty of water regularly and to urinate as often as possible, which encourages a decrease in the concentration of minerals in the organs of the urinary tract and thus prevents the accumulation of calculus.

If the cause of incontinence is the presence of small stones in the bladder, it is desirable for the dog to include a diet that will not include cereals and to supplement with vitamin C, which participates in the decomposition of these stones. Larger stones in many cases cannot be removed except surgically.

If the incontinence is caused by dementia, it is difficult to achieve anything with medication, but you must help your dog adjust to the new way of eating and living, which may be a little different from what you and he are used to. There are a couple of ways you can help your incontinent dog:

  • If the dog sleeps with you in bed, the bedding you put on should be as airy as possible and made of light materials, so that it is not susceptible to moisture. You can place covers that are waterproof or pads on the floor, on the dog bed and in places where the dog most often resides.
  • You can cut hair or trim the area between the hind legs of a dog if the dog is quite hairy or if it is a long-haired breed.
  • In areas that are in constant contact with urine (mostly the area between the dog’s hind legs), skin infections may occur. This happens predominantly in cases of older dogs where incontinence lasts longer and more time is needed to achieve successful treatment. Those areas should be regularly cleaned and dried to prevent urine scalds that lead to skin irritation.
  • Increase the number of times you walk your dog.
  • Try to take the dog outside immediately after waking up and after each meal.
  • In severe cases that have mostly gone into a chronic phase, where none of the above has helped, you can use dog diapers.
  • Do not change dog diapers often so as not to irritate the skin and thus unknowingly lead to infections.
  • Areas in the house where the dog has already urinated should be thoroughly cleaned with enzyme solvents, so that the smell of urine and hormones do not attract him to urinate again in those same places.

This state of incontinence represents a multiple problem. In addition to bothering dogs because they can’t choose where to urinate, you still have to deal with stains and unpleasant odors as well. Urine stains are especially problematic, but all in all, it is important to have a good stain remover that will effectively remove stains and odors.

Medication for Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

The choice of therapy depends on the cause of incontinence. Initially, it starts with drug therapy if dietary supplements didn’t manage to improve the condition. Sometimes incontinence occurs as a secondary phenomenon caused by a systemic disease, such as a urinary tract infection, and in these cases, antibiotics are usually prescribed.

Infection of parts of the urinary tract can occur in such a way that the urethral sphincter relaxes and infectious agents penetrate through it. For incontinence caused by age and muscle relaxation around the bladder and urethra, in addition to antibiotics, sympathomimetics (agents that mimic the work of nerve impulses originating from the sympathetic nervous system) are also usually prescribed.

They are mostly based on phenylpropanolamine HCl, and they achieve a positive effect on up to 75% cases of incontinent dogs, by irritating and stimulating the work of the urinary tract organs and strengthening the sphincter of the urethra. These stimulatory agents are produced in the form of tablets, and the dose is 1.5 mg per 1 kg of body weight. Dogs tolerate these drugs well, and the therapy is mostly prescribed for a period of one month, after which over 85% of dogs don’t show incontinence. If this doesn’t happen after that period, it is recommended to repeat the veterinary examination.

Phenylpropanolamine is also produced in the form of syrup, which can be given in dog food. It stimulates receptors (structures that receive nerve impulses) in the urethral sphincter, and there are very rare cases of side effects from its use.

Recently, it has been discovered that collagen injections have a successful effect on the elimination of incontinence in female dogs. They are applied to the upper part of the urethra directly to the submucosa (connective tissue in the urethra that has a secretory role). They regulate the work of the sphincter and show minimal side effects.

Preparations made on the basis of bethanechol chloride can be given to the dog for the contraction of the urethral sphincter, and if the sphincter is too tight, drugs based on phenoxybenzamine and valium can be given. Valium is a drug used in the treatment of anxiety; caution is needed in its use and dosage in dogs.

Another type of therapy that is most often used in neutered female dogs is hormonal therapy with estriol-based preparations, which is given in the form of tablets for six weeks, and it has the task of replacing estrogen production, which is sharply reduced after sterilization.

In the presence of stones and tumors in the urinary tract, protruding disc disease or some congenital abnormalities, surgery is recommended as well as changes in the dog’s eating and living habits. Dog incontinence caused by damage to the spinal cord or brain can be treated with chiropractic treatments and acupuncture, which can have a good effect in relieving pain and restoring nerve function.

Fecal Incontinence in Dogs

Fecal incontinence in dogs is an unconscious and uncontrolled discharge of feces that can occur in combination with bowel incontinence. There is no huge difference between fecal incontinence and bowel incontinence because in both cases, there is uncontrolled and involuntary gut emptying. Fecal incontinence refers more to the inability to control the ejection of feces from the rectum, and the rectum is the hindgut, while bowel incontinence refers to the inability to control the movement of the upper guts.

Even if it can appear at any age, breed and gender, it appears more often in older dogs, precisely because of the relaxation of muscle tone. The inability to retain the contents in the intestines for the period of time required for it to be there contributes to the development of disorders of the digestive tract.

There are several important factors that can lead to the occurrence of fecal incontinence, and these primarily include any damage to the nerves or muscles around the rectum. If the dog is not allowed to poop every day at the time when he expresses the need to do so, it is possible that the stool will soften and leak due to the prolonged action of the enzyme on the formed feces. It leads to excessive tension of the sphincter (circular muscle) of the rectum, and it relaxes by time.

Causes of Fecal Incontinence in Dogs

The most common causes of fecal incontinence in dogs are damage to the nerves innervating the anus, rectum or other part of the intestine; diarrhea; and the presence of hard stools that make it difficult to empty and sometimes make it painful (constipation). Constipation causes prolonged tension of the anal sphincter due to the pressure of hard stool on it. Due to so much pressure, the sphincter starts to loosen over time and feces can come out of the rectum in pieces.

Various traumas of the spinal cord can lead to interruption of intestinal innervation and development of disorders in bowel emptying. These causes are most often related to some changes that occur in the digestive tract, and consequently diarrhea occurs, which sometimes cannot be controlled.

Dog looking at his poopDiarrhea can lead to incontinence of the anal sphincter because it disrupts the nerves from the spinal cord that innervate the anus, thus “confusing” when to open and when not. This can also occur in the presence of some lesions on the anus and rectum, tumors and inflammation of the intestines (colitis), which may occur secondarily in the case of some systemic diseases such as Crohn’s disease. This condition can also manifest in a dog with a parasitic infestation.

One of the causes may actually be incontinence of the rectum or its emptying. It can happen that there is damage to the nerve that innervates the rectum, so it does not empty and feces accumulate in it, and this leads to a huge pressure on the anus, which must relax in order for the contents of the rectum to flow out. This leads to incontinence of the anal sphincter, which in that case is unable to remain closed. This condition can also be a secondary occurrence of a much more serious disease, such as nerve damage, senility, multiple sclerosis or elevated blood sugar (diabetes mellitus).

Age is also one of the predisposing factors for the development of fecal incontinence due to the weakening of muscle tone and weakened nerve stimulation. Also, reduced dog activity and obesity lead to a slowdown in overall metabolism, and thus reduced bowel function, slowed digestion and the development of constipation.

Although rare, fecal incontinence can occur in dogs in whom inflammation of the anal sacs could not be cured in any other way so they had to be removed surgically.

Symptoms of Fecal Incontinence in Dogs

Depending on the cause and the duration of the fecal incontinence, the symptoms can be different. Most often, you will first notice balls or stains from feces on the bedding or in the place where the dog sleeps and stays. On the dog itself, at the place where the feces comes out of the rectum, redness, skin irritation, increased production of mucus, leakage of feces, the presence of blood in the feces, holding tail too low and unusual gait can be noticed. The dog licks the anus area more often and in some cases may whine due to feelings of discomfort and pain. The dog is powerless to prevent defecation in places where he is not used to doing so.

Diagnosis of Fecal Incontinence in Dogs

Initially, it’s crucial for a veterinarian to take the anamnesis and history of the disease from you to perform a clinical and neurological examination of the dog. Examination of the anus and rectum by palpation (digitorectal examination) can show whether a part of the rectum is retracted into another part of the intestine or whether there is a tumor or lesion that interferes with the normal function of the rectum. If the presence of a tumor is suspected, a tissue sample of any part of the bowel may be taken by surgical biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.

The purpose of the neurological examination is to examine whether any part of the spinal cord, (especially based on the sacral part), the innervation of the sphincter of the anus or tail and hind legs is damaged. A fecal sample should also be taken if parasites are suspected, to determine if they may be the cause of an intestinal disease that results in fecal incontinence.

If these methods do not give a better insight into the condition of the dog, it is desirable to do an ultrasound examination of the rectum, endoscopy and colonoscopy, which require sedation, X-ray of the stomach and intestines, or the entire abdomen.

A CT and an MRI are performed if the diagnosis is still not clear and if a neurological examination determined that there is no damage to the nerves, vertebrae of the spinal cord and the space between them. If, from the anamnesis of the owner, it’s suspected that the cause of fecal incontinence is a systemic disease, it is desirable to do a complete blood count.

Treatment of Fecal Incontinence in Dogs

Treatment depends on the cause, and since there is no single unified cure for fecal incontinence, it is best to dedicate yourself to helping the dog through non-surgical treatment, conservative treatment methods and nutritional supplements from your home.

In case of bowel disorder or their motility, medications are used to alleviate or relieve symptoms such as diarrhea and excessive bowel movements. These are mostly various probiotics that increase the number of “good” bacteria in the stomach and intestines, then charcoal used to stop diarrhea and to harden the contents that form in the rectum, and some anti-inflammatory drugs. Surgery is most commonly used when dealing with more serious cases, such as tumorous conditions, large stones that have completely closed the urinary tract, or congenital anomalies (anatomical disorders).

A high-fiber diet, dishes containing cooked white rice and white chicken, and all other dishes that can be made and given to a dog when he has diarrhea can improve the formation of feces in one piece and the tension of the anal sphincter. This will prevent unintentional leakage of liquid feces.

Antidiarrheal medications have the same effect, and there are different types of dietary and medical foods that can be bought and introduced to the dog’s diet in order to increase pressure on the anal glands and sphincter to help voluntarily excrete normal feces in one piece.

Diapers can also be put on the dog if the incontinence lasts a long time and is chronic, and there are also pads that are placed around the house in the most accessible places for the dog. There are also waterproof dog beds made of canvas or nylon that are very easy to maintain (just wipe with a towel). They are suitable for dogs suffering from incontinence because they do not retain unpleasant odors and urine, they are airy, comfortable and are produced in sizes for all dog breeds.

In this case, as with urinary incontinence, it is very important to have a good pet stain remover in the house. In that case, unpleasant odors and stains don’t stay long in the place where you and your dog live, making it difficult for the multiplication of new bacteria or fungi. Since stress can affect the development of fecal incontinence, it would not be bad to restrict your pet’s access to parts of the house where you receive guests and where the noise level is increased.


Incontinence occurs in dogs in two forms: urinary incontinence and fecal incontinence. As for the urinary tract, the condition is in a large number of cases curable and prevention has a great effect. You can prevent it in time if cause did not occur before birth or if it was not caused by some more severe condition. A lot of supplementary products such as herbs rich in vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids that can help strengthen muscles, improve nerve stimulation and prevent onset of tumors are welcome in your dog’s daily diet.

If the urinary incontinence does occur, it is long-lasting and home remedies do not help, I suggest you consult your veterinarian again.

As for fecal incontinence, it can occur due to various changes that occur in the digestive tract, inadequate nutrition, stress, etc. However, this condition is very successfully treated in dogs using appropriate therapy that is determined based on the cause. It is also curable in most cases. The sooner you notice the symptoms, the faster and more successful the treatment is. That is why it’s very important for you as an owner of the dog to be engaged as much as possible, to supervise the dog and to provide him the best possible conditions. This includes giving certain foods and taking them out regularly.

To make life easier for the dog, but also for yourself, you can get dog diapers, waterproof beds, pads, as well as a quality pet stain remover, because it’s difficult sometimes to effectively remove stains and unpleasant odors that dogs leave behind, due to this disorder.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Incontinence in Dogs

Why Has My Dog Suddenly Become Incontinent?

Your dog usually does not become incontinent at once, but it happens over time gradually due to various factors. However, some incontinences may be noticed suddenly, such as those due to the presence of bladder tumors, bladder stones, and some urinary tract infections. Also, neutered female dogs can show incontinence very quickly, most often urinary, due to a sudden decrease in hormone secretion. Also, damage to the nerves innervating the bladder and urethra leads to a sudden onset of involuntary urination.

What Can You Give a Dog for Incontinence?

There are a couple of things you can give your incontinent dog at home, but it depends on the type and cause of the incontinence. If your dog suffers from urinary incontinence, you can learn more about ways to help him in the section 'Treatment of Urinary Incontinence in Dogs.' Also, if the dog has some difficulty in performing a large bowel movement and performs it all over the house, you can learn more about how to help him in the section titled 'Fecal Incontinence in Dogs.'

Can Incontinence in Dogs Be Cured?

Curability of incontinence depends on the cause. However, incontinence in dogs is most often curable, and dogs recover successfully through proper use of medical therapy, adequate nutrition, lifestyle improvements, and owner supervision.

Is Incontinence a Reason to Put a Dog Down?

Incontinence is not a reason to put a dog down because it is treatable, so you should not rush to make such a serious decision. It is necessary to consult as much as possible with the veterinarian about the health condition of your dog and the choice of therapy depending on the cause, and about the prognosis of recovery.


1 Huisheng, X. (2015) Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine for Renal Failure. World Small Animal Veterinary Association Congress.
Dr. Elvira Sefo-Kapidzic (DVM)
Dr. Elvira Sefo-Kapidzic (DVM)
Dr. Elvira is working as a field veterinarian and in a small animal ambulance in Sarajevo. She has a deep knowledge of toxicity in dog food. She has successfully completed a large number of seminars in her special fields. She is a proud mom of 11-years old labrador retriever “Bonny”.

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