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Symptoms of Incontinence in Dogs

By Maureen Ryan. June 28, 2012 | See Comments

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Symptoms of Incontinence in Dogs

If your dog is unable to control their ability to hold their urine until they're outside, they're probably suffering from urinary incontinence. Still, there are slight differences between the symptoms of urinary incontinence and other problems with urination. Learn the facts for your dog here.

Symptoms of Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

The main symptom of incontinent dogs is the inability to control urination. Dogs may leak urine or void in unusual places. They might trail urine while walking or leave behind wet spots where they were lying or sitting down. You might also notice that your pet is often damp around the hindquarters.

Ruling Out Behavioral Issues

Before looking for a medical cause for your dog’s accidents, look for signs of a simpler explanation. For instance, your dog may not be completely house trained: It can take a long time for certain puppies or adult dogs that are transitioning to a new environment to develop appropriate bladder and bowel control, and there may be set backs after you think you’ve fully trained your dog.

In addition, dogs that urinate while assuming submissive postures, when over-excited, or to mark their territory are probably not incontinent. You will need to train dogs to overcome these behaviors, but your pet should not require any medical treatment.

Signs of Incontinence

Incontinent dogs often urinate while sleeping and at unrelated times throughout the day. You may also see your pet licking the genital area more frequently and notice scaling around the penis or vulva.

You should monitor your dog and alert your veterinarian immediately if the problem worsens. For instance, dogs that have a partially blocked urethra may start off leaking urine occasionally while still being able to urinate normally. Left untreated, however, your dog may begin to have problems passing urine and could develop a full blockage, a condition that is usually fatal within a few days.

Veterinarian Evaluation

Especially if your dog is older, you may assume that incontinence is just something that you and your pet have to accept, but it may actually point to a medical condition that your veterinarian can treat or help you manage. So talk with your veterinarian as soon as you start noticing accidents.

Your veterinarian will try to determine whether a lack of urinary control is a symptom of age-related degeneration, hormone deficiency, a bladder infection, nerve damage, or a disease that leads pets to consume excessive amounts of water. To pinpoint the cause, your veterinarian will likely first consider relevant factors such as:

  • Age when incontinence started
  • Time of day incontinence usually occurs
  • Frequency of urination
  • Whether your dog is in pain when urinating
  • Age when a female dog was spayed if applicable
  • Whether your pet can urinate normally
  • History of surgeries or illnesses
  • How much water your dog drinks daily
  • Whether there are signs of nervous system problems
  • Use of diuretics, anticonvulsants, prednisone, or other medications that can dilute urine

Your veterinarian will likely test your pet’s urine for an infection and may do a blood test to check for kidney damage or other diseases. In some cases, veterinarians will take X-rays or perform an ultrasound to rule out problems with the urinary tract. Either way, knowing and addressing the symptoms will help you find the right treatment for your dog's problems.

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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