Written by Anna Hollisey
She’s the best dog in the world, but she’s suddenly started suffering from incontinence – and she looks as surprised as you. Here are four possible causes of, and ways to deal with, household incontinence.
Have you started finding puddles inside the house? Don’t scold your house-trained hound. Indoor incontinence is a sign of an underlying problem.
It’s commonly experienced by senior dogs (due to memory problems or muscle weakness), but younger dogs can suffer from incontinence too. If your dog’s active and healthy, their incontinence could be caused by an infection, condition, or anxiety.
If your female dog has suddenly started peeing indoors, read on to discover some of the most common causes:
Research shows that spaying (neutering) causes incontinence in around 20% of female dogs.
This type of incontinence is caused by a weakening of the urethral muscles, which is due to the depletion of estrogen. Ongoing incontinence (we know from experience) can have a significant effect on quality of life – not just your dog’s, but yours too.
It’s a difficult diagnosis to accept, but there’s hope. Older female dogs who are incontinent are usually prescribed with a hormone treatment or phenylpropanolamine, which can keep incontinence to a minimum.
Last year, the American Kennel Club reported on developments in new treatments for spayed female dogs; regenerative medicine was shown to restore urethral function, although the dogs also stayed on their regular medication afterwards.
Sometimes, canine incontinence is caused by a change in routine or state of mind. Anxiety is common in dogs, who can develop stress responses to certain triggers (like fireworks or even the sound of their owner leaving the house). For example, ‘submissive urination’ is a habit which occurs when a dog is intimidated by another person or dog. Changes at home – like moving or a new family member – can also cause stress for pets, who may use urination as a marking technique.
If the cause is behavioral, scolding your dog for their incontinence could make the problem worse – exacerbating their stress. Instead, stay calm and clear up the puddle, encouraging your dog to go outside in case their bladder isn’t empty.
On the other side of the mental-health coin is excited incontinence! This affects puppies and younger dogs. They simply become over-stimulated (for example, when their favorite relative comes to visit) and pee unrestrainedly, even though they are completely house-trained. But there’s some good news: most pups will outgrow this stage… or at least stop doing it so frequently!
A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is common in dogs: look for blood in the urine. Your vet will test their urine to check whether your dog’s incontinence is caused by a UTI (or crystals in the tract). It’s treatable with antibiotics and usually short-lived.
Note that incontinence is a symptom of many other health problems in dogs. Diabetes, liver or kidney disease, and Cushing’s disease are some of the issues that your vet will want to rule out. Speak to them early for testing, especially if your dog is experiencing other symptoms (like fatigue, vomiting, or unusually high thirst).
Sadly, arthritis and muscle weakness can cause incontinence in older female dogs. When their legs begin to wobble, getting up from their bed becomes a mission, and they can’t always get outside in time.
Dementia (or Canine Cognitive Disorder) often makes dogs feel dazed and confused. They lose their bearings and forget which ways the doors open – you might notice them pacing and staring at walls. This can cause urinary accidents as your dog forgets where they are supposed to pee.
If your dog’s incontinence is caused by a medical issue, first consult your vet to learn about the treatment options – hormone medication can be very successful.
At home, you could consider trialing doggy diapers to see if your dog will tolerate them. Add puppy pads at the back door to prevent last-minute puddles.
If your dog is urinating on their bedding, replace it with a waterproof bed, or use a pad beneath it to soak up urine. Also make sure you wash the bed frequently – ideally at a higher temperature – to prevent secondary infections or skin problems.
A housetrained dog who has lately become incontinent will benefit from routine. Just like humans, dogs get into biological routines where they drink, eat, and pee at roughly the same time every day. Try to let them outside to pee at regular intervals, and keep them in a routine as much as possible.
Don’t get mad, get prepared… learn how to get dog urine stains out of carpets and furniture! Read about some of the possible causes, such as Arthritis, Canine Cognitive Disorder, Separation Anxiety, and Cushing’s Disease.