Incontinence is loss of voluntary control over the act
of voiding. This medical condition must to be differentiated from a
housetraining problem and/or submissive urination, especially in young dogs. Incontinent dogs wet
their bed or the floor where they are sleeping, urinate inappropriately in the
house, sometimes dribble urine, and may void more frequently than normal. There
may be an ammonialike odor about the dog’s bedding. The skin around the
penis or vulva may be scalded.
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This common incontinence is seen most often in middle-aged and older spayed
females, and less commonly in young females and older neutered males. It is
caused by a deficiency of estrogen in females and testosterone in males. Both
these hormones are important in maintaining muscle tone of the urethral
Hormone-responsive incontinence is much like bedwetting. The dog urinates
normally, but wets when relaxed or asleep.
Treatment: Hormone-responsive incontinence in spayed females is treated by
giving phenylpropanolamine, a drug that increases the tone of the urethral
sphincter. Diethylstilbestrol (estrogen) can be given if phenylpropanolamine is
not successful. However, diethylstilbestrol is no longer the first choice for
treatment because of the risk of bone marrow suppression. Phenylpropanolamine
is periodically taken off the market, because it is also used in human diet
supplements and can be abused. If it unavailable, your veterinarian will work
with you to use the lowest dose possible of estrogen to control your dog’s
Incontinence in neutered males responds well to giving the dog testosterone.
Phenylpropanolamine has also been used successfully in males.
This is another common problem, characterized by the release of urine caused
by contraction of the abdominal wall muscles along with relaxation of the
muscles that support the urethra-the normal voiding process. The dog passes
small amounts of urine when she is upset or in a stressful situation. It has
also been called stress incontinence. This is most common in young puppies in
their new homes, and many will simply outgrow it.
Treatment: Submissive urination can be treated with phenylpropanolamine
and/or other drugs that increase urethral tone while behavior modification
techniques are applied. Keep stress-provoking interactions low key and brief,
and avoid bending over the dog or making direct eye contact with her. Do not
punish the dog, as this makes the incontinence worse. Working with a dog
trainer or canine behaviorist is recommended to address this behavioral