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Senior Dog Incontinence

Golden retriever laying in dog bed in front of window

Dogs can develop several health problems as they grow old. The inability of your canine to control the bladder and/or bowel (called incontinence) is one of the most annoying ones. Incontinence can become even more frustrating when you have a senior dog with diarrhea. Read on to learn about the causes, symptoms, and possible treatments of senior dog incontinence.

Signs of Senior Dog Incontinence

An incontinent dog doesn’t even realize that he/she is urinating (or pooping) until it’s too late. This condition is not only a problem for the owner but can also be quite embarrassing and frustrating for dogs. This is particularly true if your pup is home-trained and feels bad about eliminating inside the house. The following symptoms can help owners to differentiate between incontinence and inappropriate elimination.

  • Urinating or defecating while sleeping
  • Wet spots on your dog’s bed
  • Your dog smells like urine or poop
  • Leaking urine while standing or walking
  • Dropping stool while standing or walking

Causes of Senior Dog Incontinence

close up of a Multi colored dog wearing an orange color standing in a patch of tall grass and wildflowers

Many medical issues can be responsible for this condition. Therefore, it’s necessary to consult your vet as soon as you have a suspicion of your dog’s incontinence. This will allow him/her to identify the underlying cause and take appropriate measures to counter it. Let’s discuss some of the most common reasons for senior dog incontinence.

Weak Urethral Sphincter

This condition occurs when the muscles around the bladder sphincter become weak, reducing the bladder control of your pooch. In most cases, hormonal imbalance is the reason behind a weak urethral sphincter. This is because estrogen (for female dogs) and testosterone (for male dogs) are vital for maintaining these muscles.

Urinary Tract Infections

Senior chocolate labrador retriever stadning outdoors in grass near trees

This is one of the biggest causes of incontinence and other problems that are related to urinary accidents. If your vet determines that your pup is suffering from a UTI, he/she will prescribe some antibiotics. These medications will help in countering the bacteria that are causing trouble in the urinary system.

Kidney Disease

It is another common problem with senior dogs, especially those who had urinary tract problems. For example, untreated UTIs can damage the kidney and will cause trouble in the long run. If your pooch is suffering from kidney disease, he/she will need to drink more water. This means that the need for urination will also increase, which can be a serious concern for senior dogs.   


Small, old, daschund mix with a grey face running in tall grass

Also known as canine cognitive dysfunction, this condition is often referred to as the dog’s version of Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia affects the memory of your dog and he/she tends to forget the trainings, including house training. Your pooch will also find it hard to concentrate on things and won’t be able to learn new things. Although there is no treatment for this condition, medications and supplements can suppress the progression of the disease.

Spinal Problems

Any damage or trauma to the spinal cord can also result in senior dog incontinence. For example, canines with intervertebral disc disease are quite vulnerable to this problem. Similarly, an injury to the spine can increase the chances of incontinence. This is because it can damage the nerves in the spine, and they are responsible for controlling the muscles of the urinary system.

How to Treat Senior Dog Incontinence?

Butt end of a corgi in a white diaper on a white background

The exact treatment of incontinence depends on the underlying cause. Once your vet has identified the problem, he/she will give you the most suitable plan of action.

For instance, antibiotics can be an effective remedy against urinary tract infections. On the other hand, dementia can’t be cured and you will have to manage it by improving your pup’s lifestyle. Some common treatments of senior dog incontinence are discussed below.


If your dog is having a weak bladder sphincter, your vet will most likely prescribe phenylpropanolamine (PPA). This drug is very effective for strengthening the muscles that are responsible for bladder control. In the case of female dogs, synthetic estrogen is also used quite often. Likewise, medications are used to cure urinary tract infections and other problems, like kidney disease.

Although canine cognitive dysfunction (dementia) can’t be cured, some medications can control its progression. Likewise, nutritional supplements are recommended to minimize accidents.  


Senior dog, golden retriever being comforted while being prepped for surgery

This option is used as a last resort if medications are unable to treat muscle weakness. In that case, surgical intervention is done to reinforce the strength of the muscle. In some cases, collagen injections are used in addition to surgery.

How to Manage Senior Dog Incontinence?

Your old pup may keep having accidents even after the treatment. In this situation, it becomes imperative to show a lot of patience and minimize the mess around your house. The following are some methods that can prove handy to cope with senior dog incontinence.

Ensure Extra Bathroom Breaks – You need to deal with your incontinent dog just like an untrained puppy. Therefore, you must immediately take him/her out for a walk (and potty break) after eating, drinking, and waking up.

Try Waterproof Dog Beds – Most incontinent dogs urinate (or defecate) when they are asleep. Hence, it’s important to have a washable dog bed that can be cleaned easily.

Old terrior mix laying on its back on a pillow and smiling

Use Senior Dog Diapers – This is an extremely convenient technique to keep your house clean and dog comfortable. Just make sure to wash your pup’s genital area regularly to prevent irritation and infection. You may need to try different products to find the most suitable for your canine companion.

Get Washable Furniture Protectors – If your dog likes to sit or sleep on your couch, you need to protect it with a waterproof cover. The combination of dog diapers and these protectors will keep your furniture safe in most cases.

Clean Soiled Areas with Enzymatic Cleaners – Dogs can smell their urine (or poop) and will come back to relieve themselves at the same spot. To counter that, you should clean the spot of every accident with an enzymatic cleaner.

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