Urinary Accidents

When your wonderful dog, who has always done his or her “business” outside, begins leaving puddles in the house, please do not default to the notion that this is a behavioral issue.  It is highly unlikely your dog is mad at you for sleeping in on Sunday mornings or jealous because you showed some affection to your neighbor’s dog.  Chances are, the inappropriate urination is a result of an underlying medical issue.

Well house-trained dogs would rather urinate anywhere other than inside their own home.  Several types of medical issues are capable of disrupting normal house-training.  Bladder infections, stones, and tumors create an urgency to urinate even when the bladder contains only a small amount of urine.  Prostate gland disease (more common in boys who have not been neutered) can disrupt normal urinary habits.  Increased water intake may overwhelm a dog’s normal eight to ten-hour bladder capacity.  Common causes of increased thirst include a variety of hormonal imbalances, kidney failure, and liver disease.  Commonly prescribed medications such as prednisone (a form of cortisone) and furosemide (a diuretic or “water pill”) typically cause increased thirst.

Some dogs develop urinary incontinence (involuntary urine leakage).  This is more common in females and is usually a result of relaxation of the muscular sphincter that normally prevents urine from flowing down the urethra- the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside world.  The urine leakage may be constant, but more commonly it occurs as the bladder distends during the night while the dog is soundly sleeping. In most cases, urinary incontinence can be successfully managed by correcting the underlying cause and/or treating with medications that “tighten up” the urethral sphincter.

If your dog has a break in house-training, please don’t respond with a reprimand.  Far better to schedule a consultation with your veterinarian.

Has your well house-trained dog ever urinated in the house?  Were you and your vet able to determine the cause?

Best wishes for good health,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

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17 Comments on “Urinary Accidents

  1. My 10 year old gsd is beginning to get a little incontinent, however i’d never consider having him put to sleep because of it. He’s not doing it to get at me, hes been a friend for life warts and all and i have to return the favour!

  2. @ Mitch – If a dog/pup is drinking, drinking drinking, there is probably a reason for it. Yes it has to come out and accidents do happen. But normally a dog/pup will drink what they need if they are thirsty. They normally don’t drink just for the sake of it. I don’t believe we should “moderate” the amount of water our dogs have access to. It’s just my opinion but I believe they should always have free access to fresh clean water. If they are drinking more than you think is appropriate and having accidents then a Vet visit is on order. I just cannot imagine wanting a drink but someone telling me I had all I can have, when I know I am still thirsty.

  3. My spayed 9 yr old Sheltie suddenly started leaking during her afternoon naps. My new vet wanted to put her on phenylpropanolamine to tighten the sphincter muscles, but Emma is already taking Prozac, prescribed by her doggie shrink, for “generalized anxiety.” I know these two drugs taken together was a bad combination in humans, even before PPA was recalled from the market. (It is apparently still safe to use in dogs.) Although she was not worried about the combination of these two drugs in dogs, the doggie shrink suggested I might consider Diethyl Stilbestrol (DES) insted, considering if lack of uterine hormone caused the problem, replacing it should solve the problem. I still worried about using TWO long term medications in a dog, who can’t tell me “Mommy, this may be working, but it makes me feel bad.”

    I tried reducing the Prozac before starting either DES or the PPA, but when I got down to 5mg every other day, I was breaking up dog fights on a daily basis. So I know the Prozac is working and necessary for her.

    However, I think I have solved the incontinence problem behaviorally–at least temporarily. I reasoned that maybe if her bladder weren’t so FULL when she is napping, she’d be better able to hold it. This dog rarely pees more than 1-2 times a day when left to her own devices, even though she had access to a doggie door 24/7. So I started going outside with her after breakfast, lunch, dinner and at bedtime, and rewarding her for peeing in my presence with her favorite treats. She will now pee on command (in response to my overt bribery) at least 3 times a day. For now the problem seems to have resolved itself.

  4. I am extremely empathetic to the problems older pets have with incontinence issues based on my own life experience. When I leak, it certainly isn’t to punish my family… it just happens, it’s part of life. Aging is difficult for any species.

  5. Hi Rachael,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond to my blog post. By all means, have a urine sample evaluated by your veterinarian just to be sure that your Mastiff does not have an underlying urinary problem. If testing is negative, you might want to consider a medication to control the incontinence- a Mastiff likely makes very large puddles!

    Best wishes,

    Dr. Nancy

  6. Hi…I think my mastiff just REALLY relaxes when she sleeps. She will leave a puddle where she sleeps (maybe 1-2 times a week, if that) She never goes in the house at any other time. Should I be concerned about a UTI?

  7. Thank you so much for using the term “house-training” rather than the often misunderstood “housebreaking”. We don’t “break” dogs (or horses) any longer. The old term reminds one of the “smack ’em with a newspaper” or “rub his nose in it” days. House-training implies that it is an ongoing process that the dog is usually successful at and sometimes may not be – for many reasons.

  8. For the 37 years that I have been working with behaviour problems I have been preaching to owners to take their companions to the vet FIRST, before they are convinced that the hapless animal is angry, spiteful, depressed, vengeful, lonely, doesn’t get enough attention (so they get a “buddy” for him and run the risk of doubling the problem). I keep explaning that if indeed, the problem is medical, it is not only impossible to change the behaviour, it is also unkind.

    WHAT can we do with people?

  9. My dog didn’t mess in the house, but recently when we were camping, he refused to go potty in the area we had set up for our campsite. I figured he must have been treating the camping area as his house and I had to walk him away from the campsite before he would relieve himself.

  10. We live with Aussie mix, who periodically will leak, when she is a sleep. We give her cranberry, powered form, small dose in her food or in some yogurt and the leaking stops. It happens infrequently.

    “If your dog has a break in house-training….”

    Also, consider what happened? Was the human not paying attention to the sometimes, subtle clues?

    Something change in the household? New baby? Moved? So many environment changes can upset the bathroom schedules.

    “Increased water intake may overwhelm a dog’s normal eight to ten-hour bladder capacity.”

    We advise adopters, especially of smaller dogs, if the dog drinks and drinks and drinks, it has to come out sooner or later, so the human has to moderate water intake, appropriate to the seasons.

  11. Hi Nancy,

    In the interest of balanced information you might mention that urinary incontinence is very common in spayed bitches as well as discussing the possibility of prostate infections of normal male dogs. A male dog’s infection can becleared up with antibiotics whereas an incontinent bitch may have to be on medication for he lifetime and the medication dos not always work.

  12. Hello Dog Lovers,

    Don’t forget also like my Sweet 13 year old Portuguese Water Dog who is filled with anxiety and stress during firecracker season which lasts at our house (we live on an 18 acre park) thur September. If I don’t let her out potty before she hears the first blast of firecrackers she won’t go potty outside and if I don’t leash her up to my arm which I found is the best remedy besides putting her on the ‘Cool Bed III-Doggie Waterbed’ to release the heat from her body she may tend to go potty in the basement to hide it from me. Her anxiety is so bad I now have to give her acepromazine so she can actually sleep for a couple of hours. I ordered the thundershirt two weeks ago which arrived one day before a horrible thunder storm and it did not work at all on my dog although Vets have said it works on 80% on animals. Luckily the Thundershirt has a 34 money back guarantee. I’m jealous of all the dog owners that don’t have to deal with their precious dogs anxiety and stress which affects the owners just as much. I never tell her it’s okay as I know that is telling the dog her anxiety behavior is okay to do. All I do is pray to God that my Sweet Sugar will survive thru the night. For now Sugar is my Miracle Girl who just survived a Grand Mal Seizure March 11, 2011

  13. Very timely, our elderly Corgi has been renamed Mr. Flood as a result of spine issues. We try to get him outside every few hours, don’t make a fuss, just a paper-towel/spray the floor event. He gets what I can only describe as a surprised reaction when he notices what’s happening back there. The other two dogs give him a wide berth when an error occurs. Calm is a great approach since in house-trained dogs they aren’t messing because they want to make your life more exciting.

  14. My well household mannered Toy Poodle has never had an indoor puddle
    issue but about 4 times a year he will leave a gift for us in the living room which is where the Dog door is. This happens when we are at home or out.
    He is a neutered 6 year old semi shy angel.
    We have never scoulded him unless we catch him turning circles than we tell him to go potty out side and he does!
    Should we take him to the Vet? We have a health plan so visits are no charge, I prefer to pass on a Vet visit unless I feel it necessary as it causes our little guy a lot of stress.
    Thank you and Happy Birthday America!

  15. This happened to me recently. My 14 year old lab mix Maggie urinated in the house for the first time since I adopted her 12 years ago. I immediately took in a urine sample and she had a urinary tract infection.

  16. When my late beloved Chow Lucy puddles in the house she looked mortified. Chows are naturally fastidious and virtually housetrain themselves as pups. I knew something was wrong. The only problem was capturing a fresh urine sample to take to our vet appointment. I got a clean paper dish – the kind French fries are sometimes served in – and leashed Lucy as if to go on our regular walk. I knew at what point she always squatted to relieve herself and sure enough she kept to her usual pattern. I quickly slipped the paper dish under her and caught sufficient urine to fill the clean glass container I had brought with me. Then it was off to the vet where she was quickly diagnosed with a UTI. Later in her life, she incurred urine burn where unknown to me gradual seepage kept the fur between her thighs continually damp. A daily dose of Proin solved that problem.

  17. Hi Nancy, my 11-year-old GSD is very healthy and happy but recently developed night time incontinence. At my vet’s suggestion we did 5 days of stilbestrol to be followed by one per week but she did go off her food on this regime. I have not spoken with him yet, but plan to. In the meantime a breeder friend who is very knowledgeable suggested soy wieners and cranberry pills as the soy will supply estrogen and cranberry for urinary issues. Does this sound reasonable? I prefer natural solutions if possible but will defer to meds if necessary. My old girl is a long-coated GSD so I have had to trim her coat. I’d like to keep her healthy and happy in her golden years. She’s an active tracking dog and enjoys walks and is quite bright though going a bit deaf too, sadly. And she maintains top dog status in my four-dog home. Thank you! Donna