7 Clinical Reasons for Dog Incontinence

Nobody wants a dog peeing in the house. I’ve heard grown men mutter threats under their breath, disgusted by even one mishap. What that says to me, is that the person doesn’t know much about dog health. Unless you bring a rescue dog home with a previous history of anxiety and behavioral issues, your trained dog isn’t going to suddenly start peeing in the house without a reason.

The first things you want to consider are underlying health conditions like the ones I’m about to mention.

Don’t Lose Your Juice Over A Little Dog Incontinence

Dog incontinence typically isn’t anything to worry about and is usually caused by the changing hormones of a female dog. It could also signify an infection.  I’ve known dog owners who immediately jump to the “bad behavior” conclusion when it’s obviously not that at all. Being a smart dog owner, I know you’re here to get to the bottom of the behavior and protect your dog from any type of illness or infection.

1. Dog Incontinence Could Simply be Related to Age

Many owners assume that incontinence is just part of a dog getting older and that when it happens there is nothing we can do about it. This is not the case. There are lots of reasons why your dog is losing control of her bladder and it is essential to get to the root cause of the problem in order to treat the problem.  Hormone production naturally decreases as your dog ages which is why by the time they are middle-aged or older, they begin to suffer from incontinence.

Even dogs have a mid-life crisis and it could be what’s happening to your spayed, female dog. It’s less of a psychological problem and more of an aging, weakening body issue. As your dog ages, her sphincter muscles are unable to hold pee as long as it used to.  Hey, I’m middle-aged and I feel for the poor dog. A middle-aged dog (depending on the breed and size of the dog in relation to its lifespan) is generally thought to be between 7 and 9 years old. Upwards of that and you’re starting to look at old age.

2. Dog Incontinence Might Have Something to do With the Dog Breed

Here are 3 examples of specific breed types that might be more susceptible to incontinence as they age:

  • Old English Sheepdogs
  • Spaniels
  • Doberman Pinschers

3. Is it Simply Submissive Incontinence?

You’ll see this mostly in puppies who haven’t been adequately trained yet. They might pee in a new place, when scared or scolded. When a puppy hasn’t yet learned what it means to be submissive, he or she might pee as a way for them to communicate their submissiveness to you. Unfortunately, most owners don’t appreciate the sentiment

4.  Maybe It’s Because She’s Getting Older and Was Spayed

It’s vital to have your female dog spayed, but studies have shown that having her spayed before three months of age can cause problems with incontinence later in life. In addition, older spayed females will experience a drop in estrogen (just like we do, ladies).   After the estrogen drop, neurotransmitter receptors  in your dog’s sphincter doesn’t register the need to store urine.

This can be treated with hormonal medication to balance the lacking hormone or with phenylpropanolamine which helps increase the pressure and strength of the urethral sphincter allowing urine to be held in the bladder.

5. Have You Had Her Checked for a Bladder Infection Lately?

If you’ve ever had a bladder or kidney infection yourself, then you know what that’s like. It feels like you constantly have to pee and it hurts like H.E. double hockey sticks. A bladder infection is a common cause of incontinence, especially in female adults.

Clinical signs of a bladder infection in a dog include:

  • Frequent urination, especially in the house.
  • Some blood or pink streaks in the urine
  • Dribbling urine.
  • Showing signs of pain when urinating
  • Straining to pee
  • Constantly licking the genitals

If you suspect a bladder infection is a reason for your dog’s incontinence, make sure to have the dog checked by a licensed veterinarian. Bladder infections are painful but can be treated successfully with medication.

6. Have you Thought About Nerve Compression?

Damage or disease to the spinal cord can cause the compression of nerves which results in the loss of urinary control. This is something repeatedly seen in German Shepherds.

Spinal cord disorders can be caused by a number of things including:

  • congenital defects
  • degenerative diseases,
  • inflammatory and infectious diseases
  • tumors
  • nutritional disease
  • injury and trauma
  • toxic disorders
  • vascular diseases.

7. How Much Water is Your Dog Drinking?

We all get thirsty, but overdoing it can cause the bladder to dribble and leak. In this case, incontinence is a sign of something more serious and it’s important to get to the bottom of it. 

Causes of extreme thirst include:

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Cushing’s syndrome
  • Kidney failure
  • Urinary tract infection


If the source of your dog’s incontinence is more than just being too young to know better or the occasional dribble due to aging, give your vet a call and book an appointment In order to get to the bottom of your dog’s condition, the vet will take a:

  • Urinalysis

This test will flag up any signs of infection in the urine. The kind of things that are being looked for in this test are: red and white blood cells and bacteria. A urinalysis will also be able to determine if your dog is drinking water excessively.

  • Blood Testing

If the urinalysis finds something that needs to be tested further then a blood test will be completed. This additional testing will help find the root cause.

When Can I Expect the Problem to Clear Up?


Once the underlying cause is identified the incontinence can be treated accordingly.

  • Weak bladder sphincter can be treated with diethylstilbestrol (hormonal medication) or phenylpropanolamine.
    These are the two most common treatment drugs used for urinary incontinence, they offer long-term management of the issue rather than a quick fix/ cure.
  • Bladder infections are treated with antibiotics.

Following a urine culture test, the most effective antibiotic will be selected and after one to three weeks of this antibiotic, your dog should be infection free. Thus, having full bladder control back.

  • Spinal issues can be treated with medication, bed rest and occasionally, decompression surgery
    The majority of incontinence causes are treatable with medication and simple changes in lifestyle and care. However, some spinal issues may require surgery if the issue does not subside following medication and other treatment.


Incontinence is not your dog’s fault, there is an underlying medical reason that is causing it. In fact, your dog is probably embarrassed by the accidents inside the house. You can help make your dog more comfortable by placing plenty of clean towels and blankets in your dog’s bed, taking frequent walks (especially first thing in the morning and after your dog has been napping) and by using dog diapers or waterproof pads in key areas if necessary.

None of us are getting any younger and we all could use a little patience and understanding now and then.  Your dog is family, so make sure to extend the courtesy to your pooch.