Critter Culture
How to Manage Incontinence in Older Dogs

How to Manage Incontinence in Older Dogs

Critter Culture Staff



Your buddy isn't a puppy anymore. Sure, you still have playtime, walks, and plenty of snuggles, but as dogs mature, there's often a gradual physical decline. Incontinence is one of these signs of aging, and it's not uncommon in older canines.

If your pooch is prone to having accidents, learn to compensate for this annoying problem. Understanding incontinence and its treatments will keep your home protected while providing cleanliness and dignity to your senior dog.


Understanding canine incontinence

Incontinence is uncontrolled bladder function. Loss of bowel control isn't quite as common but is another form. Both can be due to a number of reasons, especially as a dog gets older.

Yes, it's a sign of the natural aging process, but incontinence is demonstrating underlying conditions. More of a nuisance than anything else, the condition itself is not a serious problem. What's causing it very well could be, though.

senior dog lying on the floor Oksana Restenko / Getty Images


Common signs and symptoms

You have to differentiate between an intentional release and incontinence. If a dog stares at you while going to the bathroom in an improper location, this isn't an accident. But if you notice shy or uncomfortable behavior, visual evidence, strong odors, and excessive grooming, your dog may be incontinent. Incontinence can be just a dribble or a full release. It may occur when they're sleeping, walking, standing, or sitting. If you notice these signs, make a vet appointment immediately.

Old Golden Retriever Searsie / Getty Images


Types of incontinence

There isn't a root cause of incontinence. It can occur in any animal at any time. Puppies, for example, will need training to develop proper bathroom habits. Incontinence in younger and adult dogs can stem from a number of issues, including trauma and anatomical defects. These situations are fairly rare, however.

Senior canine incontinence has the highest prevalence. Pups most affected by it are large-breed spayed females. Males of any size can develop prostate problems as they age, too. With the increased amount of contributing factors for incontinence in older dogs, it may require multiple vet visits to figure out the exact cause.

Senior Yorkshire Terrier lying on his bed and wearing a diaper for urinary incontinence. Baldo / Getty Images


Causes: organ and system issues

It's not your dog's fault if they're suffering from incontinence. There are a host of causes that could be making your pet relieve themselves uncontrollably. The most common are urinary tract infections. Additionally, tumors and stones can spur accidents. Kidney disease and gastrointestinal disorders also have a high potential to make an animal incontinent.

elderly pug dog Evgenia Glinskaia / Getty Images


Causes: bone problems

Arthritis is a typical cause or contributing factor of incontinence in senior dogs. Since it makes mobility difficult, your pup may lose proper bathroom habits. There's a chance they could be holding it till they have an accident because their bodies are hurting too much to go outside to relieve themselves.

Spinal injuries are another incontinence culprit. If your little buddy had an injury to bone, discs, or nerves, controlling their bodily functions may not be possible.

Dachshund Dog Walking With Wheelchair Elena Popova / Getty Images


Causes: mental disorders

Dementia, brain tumors, and infections can cause incontinence in canines. These conditions lead to behavioral changes, including memory lapses. An early sign of mental disorders in dogs is forgetting housetraining. Not only should you monitor them for their own safety, but you'll need to take them outside after every meal, nap, and drinking session.

It's important that your pup keeps their dignity. Never make them feel like they did wrong for having an accident: they won't understand the situation or why you're mad. Overall, whenever an animal is suffering from a physical or mental decline, the last thing you want to do is berate them or show anger. These are their golden years, so they deserve unconditional love, affection, understanding, forgiveness, and acceptance.

old black and white dog DebraCarrPhotography / Getty Images


Medication options

The first line of medical defense against canine incontinence is medication. If there's a suspected infection, your vet will provide antibiotics. Drugs that strengthen nerves and muscles could control accidental urination. Pain medication relieves symptoms of arthritis. In female dogs, hormone replacement therapy is a potential resolution: administering estrogen doses might be the key to eliminating incontinence.

dog being given medication Victor Lima / Getty Images


Surgical treatment

Surgery may be an option if there's a defect or damage to the urinary tract or other areas. This requires a specialist because it's a complicated operation, so your vet will provide a referral and help you every step of the way. Just remember that this procedure may not entirely stop incontinence, but it will greatly reduce the problem.

dog at the veterinary clinic with the doctor and their owner fpphotobank / Getty Images


In-home adjustments

Having an incontinent pet can be disastrous to a home. You'll need to be adaptable if you don't want to spend your days cleaning up accidents. Take measures to improve your dog's dignity and quality of life while keeping your residence tidy.

Always use an enzyme cleaner to detract your pooch from frequenting the same area to relieve themselves. Puppy pads placed in popular areas will save time, money, and your carpets. Using waterproof covers wherever your pet sleeps is also a good idea.

og is lying on the couch with an orange blanket on the diaper NATALIA ANDREEVA / Getty Images


Doggy care

Vitamin C and cranberry supplements may potentially help by acidifying the animal's urine, which is often beneficial to treating or preventing various problems, including incontinence. Yet there are times when this natural remedy can have the opposite effects, so check with your vet before going this route.

Dog diapers are advantageous in extreme cases of incontinence. When using them, make sure to change the diapers often. Clean and dry the covered areas to reduce infection, irritation, and overwhelming smells. Keeping the fur trimmed around the site will make for easier cleanup. But only use this as a last resort if increased potty breaks and walks aren't helping the situation.

senior dog with diaper on smrm1977 / Getty Images


What Is Cushing's Disease in Dogs?

What Is Cushing's Disease in Dogs?

Get your paws on the latest animal news and information