Urinary Incontinence

What Is Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary or Bladder Incontinence is when your pet loses voluntary control over their urination. This may cause your pet to urinate throughout the entire day, or urinate without knowing it. Urinary incontinence sometimes may be confused with inappropriate urination (a behavioral problem), urinary tract infection, or submissive urination. Diagnostic tests may be needed to distinguish between urinary incontinence and other urination problems. You should visit your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.

One of the most common forms of incontinence in dogs is called primary sphincter mechanism incontinence due to the weakness of the urethral muscle. It is usually seen in middle-aged medium- to large-size spayed female dogs.

The Signs:

  • Dribbling of urine
  • Finding of wet spots where the pet was sleeping
  • Irritated skin from contact with urine

    NOTE: Finding wet spots in the house doesn’t necessarily mean your pet is incontinent. Pets with increased thirst and increased urination may urinate in the house due to increased urine volume and not being allowed outside frequently enough. If you have a cat, check out Cat Spraying to rule out a behavioral problem.


    Urinary incontinence can have neurogenic and non-neurogenic causes.

    1. Neurogenic causes: abnormalities of parts of the nervous system involved in regulation of urination.

    2. Non-neurogenic causes: congenital problems (abnormalities present at birth) such as a misplaced ureteral opening (ectopic ureter), over-distension of the bladder due to partial obstruction, hormone-responsive incontinence, and incontinence associated with urinary tract infection.

    Pets can be incontinent for many different reasons. It can involve the bladder, the urethra, or it can be caused by abnormalities in the parts of the brain and spinal cord that control bladder function.

    Young pets may have a birth defect that causes incontinence. Ectopic ureter(s) is the most common birth defect that causes incontinence in young dogs. The ureters carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder. If one or both ureters by-pass the bladder and connect to an abnormal location such as the urethra or vagina, the puppy may drip urine. Dog breeds with a high occurrence of this birth defect include:

  • Siberian Huskies
  • Miniature Poodle
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Collie
  • Welsh Corgi
  • Wire-haired Fox Terrier
  • West Highland White Terrier

    Female dogs are affected the most. If one ureter is abnormal, the dog will dribble urine but will also be able to urinate normally. If both ureters are affected, then the puppy won’t be able to urinate normally at all.

    Bladder infection: This can cause either a strong urge to urinate scarring of the bladder, preventing it from stretching to hold urine. In this case the pet is usually not truly incontinent. Instead, they are aware that they are urinating, and urinate in abnormal locations or very frequently because of a strong urge to empty their bladder.

    Blockage: Pets with a partial blockage of the urethra with a stone or a tumor may show incontinence. If they can’t completely empty their bladder because of blockage of the path to the outside, the bladder can become so large that it forces some urine to leak around the blockage. The enlarged bladder can be felt on examination. Total blockage of urine flow is usually fatal in 3 to 4 days.

    Hormone-responsive incontinence: Occurs in neutered dogs of both sexes and occasionally in spayed female cats. It is the most common in female dogs. These pets can urinate normally, but leak urine while resting. Hormone-responsive incontinence can occur months to years after a pet is neutered. Physical examination and blood and urine tests are usually given for these pets.

    Age: Pets may become incontinent as they get older. This may be from the weakening of the muscles that hold urine in the bladder. There are various diseases that can cause a pet to create an abnormal amount of urine such as polyuria. Several such diseases occur in older pets. If a pet has one of these diseases and frequently has a full bladder, the bladder can push against the weakened sphincter, causing incontinence. Older pets can also develop senility and become unaware that they are leaking. Brain or spinal cord disease can cause a pet to lose control over bladder function.

    Brain or Spinal cord disease: Dogs and cats with these diseases may either leak urine or be unable to urinate. They will usually have other signs of nervous system disease like muscle weakness or paralysis.

    Intermittent incontinence: Primarily at rest, and has been reported in cats that are positive for the feline leukemia virus. It is not yet known how the virus causes incontinence.

    Vulvovaginal stenosis: A less common cause of incontinence in female dogs. It is a condition in which the vagina is narrowed where the urethra ends. Some urine may get trapped in the vagina in front of the narrowed area. When the pet gets up, the urine pours out. The incontinence may or may not resolve because other defects may also be present.


    The first step is to eliminate any underlying diseases that would cause your pet to urinate excessively or inappropriately and to make sure that he/she does not have a urinary tract infection, which exhibits similar symptoms. See your veterinarian to determine whether or not your pet has Urinary Incontinence.


    Treatment varies based on what’s causing the urination problem. Urinary tract infections are treated with antibiotics. If your pet has urinary incontinence associated with urethral weakness, your veterinarian may prescribe estrogen supplementation or another medication. Other drugs can be used to enhance bladder storage or relax the bladder and urethra.

    RESOURCES Canine Incontinence Support provides natural estrogens to strengthen the bladder.

    HomeoPet Leaks No More (15mL) is specifically for urinary incontinence or "leaking".

    Royal Feline Urinary SO 30 is specifically designed for cats. This formula enfures the production of a urine undersaturated with struvite and with a level of calcium oxalate saturation at which spontaneous homogenous crystallization will not occur.

    Stain and Odor Revomal:

    For the removal of stains made by your pet, try Urine-Off Odor & Stain Remover.