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Help! My Old Dog Pees in Their Sleep

Bulldog looking to one side on a grey background

If you have ever loved and been loved by a fur baby you are familiar with this scenario. Sometimes it is an issue with obstinance when our fur babies pee in our home but most of the time it is not their fault and is in fact the result of an underlying condition. So before you get all upset or yell (been there too) take into consideration these facts below.

Urinary incontinence in dogs is a condition in which they start peeing (involuntarily) in their sleep. Although this problem is generally observed in middle-aged and old female dogs, male canines can also be affected. Most cases of dog incontinence are easy to treat, but this condition can get worse if left untreated.

Why is My Old Dog Peeing in Their Sleep?

Dogs can pee in their sleep for several different reasons. According to Vets Now, bladder abnormalities and urinary tract infections are among the most common causes. Likewise, age is another critical factor that can make your pup urinate while sleeping. Here is a short list of some possible causes.

Hormonal Imbalance

Grumpy looking white chihuahua on a grey background wearing an orange collar

Hormonal imbalance is the most common cause of incontinence in our furbabies. It weakens the sphincter muscles (and bladder) of your pup. Although this problem is more frequent among female canines, it can also affect male dogs. If a hormonal imbalance is responsible for incontinence, your pup may not even realize that they are leaking urine.

If your vet fails to find any other medical problem, it’s quite likely that your pooch is suffering from this syndrome. However, the good news is that there is nothing to worry about because this condition can be treated safely with medications.    


Canines suffering from diabetes develop excessive thirst that results in increased urination. This means that your dog can be diabetic if they are peeing in their sleep. Some other symptoms of this condition include lethargy and weight loss. If you see any of these symptoms you will want to schedule a vet visit for further analysis.

Spinal Cord Diseases

Old brown dog with graying face on a dog bed

Any kind of problem with the spinal cord reduces your dog’s sense of feeling, especially in their lower body region. As a result, they are vulnerable to urinary incontinence. This means that your pooch may urinate involuntarily whether they are awake or asleep. Wag Walking explains how your vet can analyze your doggo to check if they are suffering from a degenerative disease.

Urinary Tract Infections

The inflammation caused by these infections makes it difficult for your furry friend to realize that they are peeing. The probability of an ‘accident’ increases even more when the dog is sleeping. If your fur baby has developed a urinary tract infection, you will observe them drinking a lot of water, more than usual.   

Kidney Disease

Black white and tan dog laying on a tile floor

We recently had a run-in with this with our fur baby Chewy. He drank way more than usual and had to urinate more frequently. We thought it was a UTI but turned out it was a major Kidney infection caused by his teeth being infected and needing to be pulled (he’s an old puppers and our vet assured us that tooth loss and infection for his small breed is common at this age no matter how well we care for his mouth and he has Cushing’s, so there’s also that). It just goes to prove that the cause isn’t always sphincter loss or degenerative spine and you should never try to treat the problem yourself, always talk to your vet. We got lucky and got him to his vet in time before more damage was done and he’s finishing up 3 weeks of antibiotics as we speak!

Just like UTIs, increased thirst is also a common symptom of kidney disease. In this condition, the tissue of the kidney is damaged and the organ tends to malfunction progressively. In addition to excessive intake of water, loss of appetite and bad breath are also definitive signs of kidney disease.  

Neutering and Spaying

Spayed female dogs are more prone to urinary incontinence than neutered male canines. According to Sit Stay, 1 out of 5 female pups suffers from this condition after undergoing surgery of the reproductive organ. This is because it decreases the estrogen levels, drastically. As a result, sphincter muscles are weakened and the dog can’t hold the urge to pee.

Common Symptoms of Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

small dog peeing on concrete driveway, house and shrubs in background

Pets Web MD explains that skin irritation and redness are the most recognizable symptoms of incontinence. Some other signs of continence (in dogs) that can help you determine this condition are listed below.

  • Wet patches on the dog’s bed
  • Nasty smell of urine on the dog’s bed and body
  • Skin irritation and redness due to dripping urine
  • Excessive licking around the genital area

What Can I Do if My Old Dog is Incontinent?

Pug sitting on exam table at vet clinic

The very first thing that you should do is to visit your vet for a thorough checkup of your pup. This will help you to rule out different medical conditions and identify the underlying cause. Once you have done that, you can use the following tips to preserve the sanity of your house.

Use Incontinence Pads

Try to limit the damage by putting incontinence pads on top of the mattress of your dog’s bed. This will protect the mattress from the harmful effects of urine. Alternatively, you can purchase a waterproof and stain-resistant cover for the mattress. Likewise, you can get a pillow cover that can withstand the moisture of your canine’s pee.

Only Purchase Washable Things

dog nose peeking from under a blanket

You could be spending a lot on dry cleaning if your old dog is peeing in their sleep. Therefore, it’s highly recommended to go for only washable items if your pup is incontinent. These things can be easily washed and you won’t have to dig deep in your wallet.    

Get a Cover for your Favorite Couch

If your dog is peeing in his/her sleep, he/she can leak urine whenever he lays down. Therefore, you should invest in a cover for your couch to keep it safe. It’s almost impossible to find a waterproof one, but most water-resistant covers are good enough. Don’t forget to keep fixing it regularly to ensure maximum protection.

Don’t Throw Out Your Old Towels

old towels layered diagonally

You will need plenty of towels because you have to place them on the bed as well as your couch pretty frequently. This means that your old towels can play an important role in preserving your furniture. Simply lay a towel on top of the couch or bed cover to add an extra absorbent layer.

Place Dog Pee Pads Around the House

This is a very useful idea, especially if you have wooden flooring in your home. This is because the dog’s pee can seep through the surface of the dog bed to ruin the floor. To counter that, simply place these pads under your pup’s bed and other relaxing places to protect the flooring. Similarly, you can also use them under area rugs for absorbing the urine (and carpet cleaner).  There are even pet potty stations now available that you can simply empty and wash out for reuse which in the long run can save you money and your floors!

Buy Stain and Odor Remover For Your Carpets

human hand spraying couch with odor reducing spray

You will need a lot of these cleaning chemicals if your dog is suffering from urinary incontinence. In addition to that, you will require a sufficient supply of paper towels to wipe the stains away. It’s recommended to go for an enzyme cleaner to ensure the best possible cleaning. Likewise, you will need a quality odor remover to keep your house fresh.

Finally, and something most don’t think about is how especially in older dogs their diet and treats can affect their urinary output as well. Especially if they have underlying health conditions such as our Chewbacca’s Cushing’s. Because of how Cushing’s disease affects your dog’s adrenal and other glands in their bodies their diet plays a huge role in how their kidneys function and how their cortisol levels are affected. Certain foods and treats are high in fats and sugars and can affect their overall weight and enzymes that break down those sugars in a normal dog’s system which can in turn also affect their kidneys, bladder, and even their brain depending on which gland has the most Cushing’s concentration. There is a treatment if caught early enough. We are lucky with our pup and his condition is somewhat under control now thanks to a better diet, the right medications, and paying attention to when he wants our attention. Older pets are more work and can become fiscally costly to care for but so worth it for all the love they give in return. and we wouldn’t change that for the world. Luckily there is Scratch Pay and Care Credit for those extra unexpected bills.

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Please note: This post is not meant to prevent, treat or, cure any ailment or disease. We are not veterinarians and you use our advice at your own discretion. We always recommend that you consult your veterinarian whenever you have health-related conditions your fur baby is facing. With that in mind, as pet parents ourselves, we wish nothing but the best for your pet and their healthy and happy lives.