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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Incontinence View In Dogs

First Aid Condition

First aid health condition




Condition Overview

Pets may urinate in the house to get your attention if they are upset, the litter box is dirty, or they aren't walked often enough, but these are behavioral problems that are unrelated to incontinence.


Incontinence happens when the pet is relaxed, tired, or sleeping - where she will dribble urine without knowing it.


Urinary incontinence is caused by a physical problem. It is common in older spayed female dogs due to the decline in estrogen production causing a decrease in the control of the sphincter muscle that gives them bladder control.

Any pet can develop the problem, but large and giant breed dogs, obese dogs, and dogs with docked tails - especially Old English Sheepdogs, Rottweilers, Dobermans, and Weimaraners - have the highest incidence.

Other causes of incontinence, especially in cats, are urinary tract infections or blockages. Intact males can develop problems as a result of prostate disease, and neutering usually cures these cases. Incontinence can also be a sign of metabolic disease. Medical attention is necessary to determine the cause and best treatment for the problem, but first aid can help relieve some symptoms.


Diagnosis can be made by observing symptoms.


  1. Limit her water - In many cases, incontinence isn't a problem of bladder control, it is a problem of bladder capacity. It happens when your pet drinks too much water before bedtime and can't contain herself until her morning bathroom run. You can often reduce or eliminate nighttime leakage or dribbling simply by removing the dogs water bowl 2 hours before bedtime and making sure your pet goes out just before you turn in for the night.
  2. Keep her clean - Dogs who suffer from incontinence are usually elderly and may also be arthritic. Older pets are not always flexible enough to keep themselves clean or move away from their "accidents", so their skin may be irritated by prolonged contact with urine. This problem, called urine scalding, is a kind of canine diaper rash that causes red, irritated skin around the vulva, penis, or flanks that looks like a burn. The best way to prevent it is to keep your pet clean by swabbing off any urine with a clean, wet cloth. Usually, your dog will need to be washed off first thing in the morning.
  3. Set up a barrier - To protect the skin from urine scald and soothe inflamed skin, after cleaning the area, smooth on a protective cream like Desitin.
  4. Try antibiotic ointmentWhen urine scald is already a problem, after you have cleaned the area, apply an antibiotic ointment. It will soothe the skin and also help prevent secondary infections.
  5. Eliminate parasites - Incontinent pets can develop sores from urine scald that attracts flies during the summer months. The flies lay eggs in the sores, and the eggs hatch into maggots. If you see these white worms infesting your pet, you will need to clean out the wound and get rid of the maggots. The easiest way is to submerge the affected area in warm, soapy water. When the maggots come to the surface to keep from drowning, you can pick them out. Next, rinse your pet and dry her thoroughly.
  6. Use plastic pads - Incontinence is often a problem of older pets, and the best you can do is provide protection for your pet, your carpet, and other flooring. Place a sheet of plastic over the floor, then spread disposable diapers on the plastic.


There is no prevention for this condition. In continence in older spayed dogs tends to be a problem of keeping your pet clean and comfortable and protecting your carpet and furniture. Doggy diapers are an excellent way to minimize the mess. Canine sanitary pads and protective pants like Pet Bloomers, which are often used for females in heat to protect against soiling, can also be used for incontinence. Pet Bloomers fit over the dogs tail and fasten with velcro.


Your vet may prescribe phenylpropanolamine, or PPA (Propagest), which you will have to administer a few times daily to increase the strength of the sphincter in the urethra and help promote urine control.

Estrogen treatment helps some female dogs, who need to take the medicine for the rest of their lives. Diethylstilbestrol (DES) or Premarin is given in tiny doses in a specific regimen prescribed by your vet. Since DES can have some serious side effects, it must be well regulated by your veterinarian.

When the cause of the incontinence is a bladder or urinary tract infection, you will probably need to give your pet antibiotics for up to 3 weeks. The type of antibiotic depends on the bacteria that caused the infection - it is more common for dogs to have cyctitis caused by bacteria.

Keep your pet and her resting area clean by using absorbent pads.

Continue to monitor your pet's urinary habits and rinse off any urine as needed. It is a good idea to check your pet at least 2x a day, especially in the morning when she first wakes up. Use antibiotic ointment or a protective cream as needed on any inflamed areas of skin.

Show Sources & Contributors +


The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

Website: http://www.rodalebooks.com/

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

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