Tackling urinary incontinence in dogs and puppies


Cloudy treatingM

Excitement and weak bladder muscles may cause submissive urination.

The arrival home after a few hours is remarkably like a dramatic soap opera reunion between two long lost relatives on television. My West Highland Terrier, Cloudy, is very much like the long lost grandmother who is seeing her grandchild for the very first time every time I come through the door.

I have had to teach this little dog restraint when greeting others, some of whom might not take well to doggy jumpiness. She has responded well to calm assertiveness and distance.

Her hyperactivity is not her only doggy behavioral tendency. She has another slightly more serious problem of dog incontinence.

Cloudy releases liquid gold at the entrance of our home whenever she gets too excited upon our return. She is toilet trained and will only release liquid nuggets of excitement at such times, so we know that she suffers from slight incontinence. It is a situation that can put off anyone from giving their love to their pets.


Urinary incontinence is defined as the involuntary passing of urine because of problems related to the bladder or uretha.

A proper diagnosis of incontinence in pets is necessary because it can easily be confused with non-bladder related diseases that cause untimely urination.

Symptoms of dog or puppy incontinence

Cloudy is slightly incontinent and would release a little liquid gold when she cannot control her level of excitement. Incontinence can range from occasional, slight dripping because of little issues like over excitement or large leaks of urine in the most unlikely of places.

A dog will have more serious problems if he displays this and some other signs of problems with urination.

Dripping Urine

Dripping urine is a definite, obvious sign of incontinence, more serious if it is constant and perpetual. Do not brush it off as the dog having a need for more toilet training but instead arrange a trip to the vet.

Redness and irritation

The constantly dripping urine will cause the dog’s skin to become irritated and red. If that is observed, it is a clear sign of incontinence and will require veterinary attention.


Physician, heal thyself. Our pets will attempt to rid themselves of the irritation by always licking it. Symptoms like this indicate that a pet has more serious medical issues.

Causes of dog incontinence and treatment

Dog incontinence can be attributed to many causes. Incontinence can be indicative of more serious medical issues.

Behavioral Causes

Submissive Urination

This type of urination occurs when a dog is unduly excited, as is what happens with Cloudy. Abdominal wall muscles contract while the urethral sphincter expands and relaxes, causes a release of urine.

Behavioral modification techniques to control a dog’s fear and excitement, with prescription medication such as phenylpropanolamine to increase muscular tone and strength  have to work together to control submissive urination, especially if it is excessive.

Medical Causes

Hormonal imbalance

A deficiency of hormones can cause excessive urination. Lack of estrogen in females and testosterone in males. They are important in the development of the muscles of the urethral sphincter and a lack would mean a weaker bladder and urethra.

Hormonal responsive incontinence is treated with  phenylpropanolamine, a drug that increases the muscular tone and strength  of the urethral sphincter.

Weak bladder sphincter

A weak bladder sphincter would lead to an inability to control the release of urine. This happens with dogs as much as it does with humans.

Again, prescription drugs like phenylpropanolamine will work to increase the bladder sphincter’s muscular tone and strength.


Certain medication that a dog may be consuming for the treatment of other conditions can cause incontinence. The veterinarian will advise on what these are.

Congential Abnormalities

These are birth defects resulting from damage to the puppy fetus. This may be a spinal cord defect or a distended bladder.

Distention of the bladder

Simply put, it means that the bladder is partially obstructed. Dogs that are incontinent because of a distended bladder can be treated by removing the cause of the obstruction and introducing an indwelling catheter to help redirect the urine until the bladder regains its muscular tone. If the bladder itself is normal, treatment should eliminate the problem entirely.

Infection of the ureter

Both dogs with infected ureters and puppies with ectopic ureters can have incontinence. If one ureter is affected, the dog will dribble but can pass out urine normally.

If both are affected, the ureter may have to be surgically removed and be returned to its normal position.

Neurogenic disorders

Problems with the spinal cord, such as a protruding intervertebral disc or injuries can interfere with the nerves that control the bladder . Infections or tumors can lead to a compromised supply of nerves. A bladder that has a deficient or compromised supply of nerves will fill until pressure from the urine exceeds what  the sphincter muscle can control. That leads to an intermittent release of urine.

A pet with such disorders will need long term catheterization and drugs that help the muscular tone of the bladder.


Mild incontinence ebbs and wanes. It is sometimes hardly present. However, others can progress to cause other infections of the bladder or kidney.

Breeds prone to incontinence

Older or spayed females tend to have problems with incontinence. Certain breeds do have a tendency to have birth abnormalities that lead to incontinence. Below are the breeds that may be prone to the problem.

  • Miniature Poodle

  • Labrador Retriever

  • Collie

  • Welsh Corgi

  • Wire-haired Fox Terrier

  • West Highland White Terrier

  • Old English Sheepdog

  • Doberman Pinscher

Coping with pet incontinence

Misty bedding

Prepare bedding or waterproof pads where your dog sleeps if it is incontinent.

Clean waterproof padding or blankets

Lay these in your dog’s sleeping spot. Put the waterproof padding under its bedding to absorb moisture.

Frequent walks

These mean more opportunity for the dog  to relieve itself. Put the family on rotation to take the dog on such walks. It is also an opportunity for an older child to learn responsibility.

Proper Hygiene

Clean the area of the skin affected and irritated by incontinence regularly. Monitor your pet as it can escalate to other more serious conditions, especially in older dogs.

A dog being treated for incontinence because of cysts

Incontinence is a hassle, but steps can be taken to make coping with it easier. If you have had pets with experiences with incontinence, do share your thoughts in the comments.

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12 Replies to “Tackling urinary incontinence in dogs and puppies”

    1. Hi, Paula, I think you’re right, the cold does affect the continence level, especially since Weimaraners are more lean and lanky, with less fat for protection against the cold. I’m sure he will do well though!

  1. Years ago, we had a Westie with ‘submission urination’. Long story short, we had to get rid of her but not because of her potty-issue though, just life-changes. I heard through the Westie adoption people we went through that Kizzy’s potty-problem cleared right up with her new owner where she had another Westie buddy. Maybe that was the answer–having another puppy-friend to show her what to do and what not to do. We had adopted her at one year old and she was NOT house-trained yet…it took me 5 months to get her fully trained. I also always suspected that her previous owner used a rolled up newspaper to ‘teach’ her to not potty indoors. I think that could have a lot to do w/ her sub.urination issues. …also, I suspect she was a puppymill puppy.

    Now, we have a 10 yr old Cairn Terrier. His potty issues are not incontinence, but I don’t know what they are. He’ll potty in the house literally minutes after we just took him outside and he pottied 17 times (exaggeration yes, but he does like to potty on a lot of things–ha-ha). He can hold it all night long, so I know he CAN hold it, but seems he chooses sometimes not to. He does have congestive heart failure for which he takes lasiks for…which does cause a lot of pottying, so we do take him out often. But, like I said, he will come in and go on the floor right after being outdoors! It really baffles us..and it’s not just potty, he’ll poop too. We adopted him, so I don’t know much about how his previous owners house-trained him, etc. Anyway, do you have any insight or advice for a situation like this? We love him so much so we do put up with it, but … I really DO hate pee & poop in my house! ya know? 😉

    1. Hi Kari, how long have you had your Cairn Terrier? I think he might be a little confused as to where and when to go, because complete retraining is sometimes necessary since he probably had different habits with his previous owner. Isolate him in a specific area of your yard where you want him to poop. Leave a little of his fecal content there because he will probably associate that with the smell. Being an older dog, he will probably soon associate that with the area where he is expected to go.

  2. Good post! i didn’t know any of this, just always thought a dog wets when they get excited. it seem to be a very common condition.. came over from bloppy bloggers

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