Senior dogs and incontinence

Written by amanda thompson
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Senior dogs and incontinence
Urinary incontinence is sometimes confused with inappropriate urination. (Dog image by FaithBuffy from

Senior dogs often suffer from many health problems, including incontinence, the inability to control their stool or urine. As a result, they may eliminate at inappropriate times and unwanted places. Urinary incontinence differs from inappropriate urination. According to Pet Place, "Inappropriate urination often is a behavioural problem."

Senior Dog Symptoms

As dogs age they tend to have behavioural issues. A senior dog may suddenly experience separation anxiety. When his owner leaves he may become disruptive, bark, and urinate or defecate. He may also experience vision or hearing loss, which will make him anxious, especially when his owner is not around. In addition, older dogs may become aggressive as well. This may be a result of a medical problem that causes pain, such as arthritis or dental disease. Additional symptoms of old age in dogs are sensitivity to noise, increased barking or whining, changes in sleep patterns, confusion, decreased activity level, and loss of housetraining abilities. A dog may forget what he has learnt during housetraining and eliminate where he normally would not.


Treatment of incontinence depends on the underlying cause. There may be several treatments to correct the problem. According to Pet Place, "Examples include correction of an anatomic defect, removal of a neurologic lesion, relief of partial obstruction, and effective treatment of bacterial urinary tract infection."


The most common form of incontinence in dogs is called primary sphincter mechanism, which is caused by weakness of the urethral muscle. Although incontinence is common in older dogs, this type of incontinence is found more often in middle-aged, medium- to large-size, spayed female dogs. Neurogenic causes of incontinence can include abnormalities of parts of the nervous system, which involves regulation of urination. Non-neurogenic causes of incontinence include abnormalities at birth, hormone-responsive incontinence, and urinary tract infections.


Dogs cannot control incontinence, which is why it's important to watch for the signs. Symptoms of incontinence are dribbling of urine or finding wet spots or faeces where the pet was sleeping. If your dog drinks a lot of water or is rarely taken out it may cause him to urinate or defecate in the house.


Other diseases such as bacterial urinary tract infection, urolithiasis or prostatic disease will show similar symptoms to incontinence. A diagnosis to confirm incontinence may be performed through tests. Tests include a physical exam to include a briefing of the dog's medical history, urinalysis, urine cultures, blood counts, serum biochemistry tests, and abdominal X-rays.

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