Pet Wellness Guides > Stress Incontinence in Dogs: Treatment and Prevention - Pet Insurance Review

Stress Incontinence in Dogs: Treatment and Prevention

Posted: 01/02/2024 | BY: Jenna Bruce | Categories: Dog , Health problems , Pet care

Stress incontinence in dogs is a common issue and one that is hard for pet parents to navigate. It’s important to determine if the incontinence is truly a result of stress/anxiety, or if there is an underlying health condition going on.

In this blog post we’ll cover some of the most common reasons a dog experiences incontinence, breeds most prone to incontinence, and solutions for the problem.

stress incontinence in dogs

Symptoms of Incontinence in Dogs

When your pup is leaking urine, it’s not only a cleanliness issue, but often a symptom of an underlying health issue. Stress can absolutely be a cause as can overexertion. Before we get into the full list of causes of incontinence in dogs, let’s take a look at some of the symptoms:

Sores or Inflammation 

When urine repeatedly makes contact with skin around your pup’s hind legs, it can eventually cause skin irritation that can lead to sores. The hair around their genitals is often damp as well.

A Strong Odor

A dog suffering from incontinence definitely gives off a strong odor, as does their bedding or any carpet/furniture they may sleep on. You’ll also find their bedding is often damp.

Constant Licking

Incontinent dogs will frequently lick around their genital area.

Accidents in the House

When incontinence strikes, even house-trained dogs will suddenly begin having accidents in the house. If your pup suddenly begins peeing in the house, don’t yell and scold them as they most likely have an issue going on.

Causes of Incontinence in Dogs

When your house-trained dog suddenly begins experiencing incontinence, it’s important not to make any assumptions. Instead, be extra mindful and observant to recognize the context of the situation.

Pups who are suffering from genuine urinary incontinence typically pee while resting or sleeping. There are no obvious triggers. A dog that cannot hold their urine while a rest or sleeping is usually showing signs of an underlying health issue such as age-related incontinence, diabetes, or a urinary tract infection. 

Context is also important to determine if you have a behavioral issue on your hands. If you suddenly start seeing puddles around the house, your dog may be acting out for some reason and not have an underlying health issue. As an example, dogs with separation anxiety may pee in the house while their humans are gone. Dogs afraid of fireworks or thunder may pee when they hear loud noises. 

So, context really is everything. It’s important to play detective and first find the dots then connect those dots.

With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most common causes of incontinence in dogs:


So let’s start with a big one and that is stress. As we mentioned, stress incontinence in dogs is very common, particularly with young pups and senior dogs. When a dog is stressed or anxious, they have a hard time regulating muscle control, hence they dribble some urine. 

Dogs may become stressed for different reasons. Those loud noises we discussed, will surely make some dogs instantly let loose. Dogs can be stressed because of a move, when there are strangers in the house, or because of the presence of another, more intimidating dog. In general, fearful or timid dogs are more prone to stress incontinence. If that describes your dog, and you can easily pinpoint the trigger(s), then it’s probably safe to say your pup does have stress incontinence.

If your dog is house-trained and has never really been a fearful or timid dog, but they are suddenly having accidents, you’ll want to bring them into your vet to have them checked out.

Here are some other reasons a pup may experience incontinence. 


While spayed female dogs are more likely to experience what is called ‘hormone-responsive incontinence,’ neutered male dogs can also experience incontinence. Symptoms of hormone-related incontinence typically develop months, but sometimes even years, after the pup has had the procedure. 

Separation Anxiety

As we mentioned, separation anxiety often causes a dog to pee inside the house when left alone. Dogs with separation anxiety will usually show other signs such as pacing, panting and even drooling as their humans are getting ready to leave the house. Anxious dogs will often become very destructive when left alone for long periods. It is not uncommon for their human to come home and find furniture completely torn apart.

If you think your dog may be suffering with separation anxiety, speak with your vet. Sometimes working with a behavioral therapist can help to reduce the anxiety. For more severe cases, medication may be required.

Physical Abnormalities

Some dogs are born with a defect called ‘urinary ectopia.’ This is where one or both ureters enter the bladder incorrectly. As an example, they may instead enter the urinary tract or vagina. Dogs with this birth defect will experience incontinence from the day they are born. It is not something that develops over time. 


Dogs with diabetes insipidus (DI) excrete large amounts of very diluted urine. Dogs with diabetes drink a lot of water, but they end up peeing so much of it out so quickly, that they can still become dehydrated. 

Medication Side Effects

Certain medications are notorious for causing dogs to leak urine. If your dog is on Prednisone – a derivative or cortisone, or furosemide – they may be drinking more, which is then causing them to have accidents.

Urinary Tract Infection

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common cause of incontinence. In these instances, the bladder and sphincter become inflamed, causing urine to leak when relaxed. UTIs are tricky because they tend to cause incontinence, but dogs with incontinence are more likely to develop UTIs. 


It is very common for older dogs to begin losing control of their bowel and bladder because muscles become weaker with age. Some pups may only have a few mishaps here and there, while others may quickly lose full ability to control their bladder. It can be very heartbreaking and stressful for pups and their parents when this happens.

Breeds Most Prone to Urinary Incontinence 

While all dog breeds can experience incontinence, there are some that seem to experience it more than others. This is because line breeding can cause more genetic issues. With this in mind, the following breeds are more prone to incontinence:

  • English Sheepdogs
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • German Shepherds
  • Rottweilers
  • English Springer Spaniels
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Weimaraners
  • Bulldogs
  • Dalmatians
  • Bearded Collies
  • Collies
  • Boxers

Treatment for Incontinence in Dogs

Can urinary incontinence in dogs be treated? The good news is yes, in many cases it can be. Often, when no specific cause can be found for incontinence, a vet can prescribe medication that can help strengthen bladder muscles. Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) is often used because it is well-tolerated.

When it comes to stress incontinence in dogs, you’ll need to determine the triggers that are stressing them, and make the necessary changes to the environment or your daily routine to remove these triggers. For example, if you determine that your friend’s dog is bullying your pup, you’ll have to ask that she leave her dog at home when she comes for a visit. 

Here are some other ways you can try to reduce the stress your pup feels:

  • Give anxiety supplements specifically for dogs
  • Play soothing music
  • Use pheromone dispensers (DAP)
  • Engage in massage and touch therapy
  • Use behavior modification training to teach your dog coping skills when faced with stressors

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Final Thoughts

Stress incontinence – any kind of incontinence – is very stressful and can negatively impact the relationship pup parents have with their fur baby. Before jumping to any conclusions as to the cause of your pup’s incontinence, be sure you monitor closely to determine if the cause is physical or behavioral. And as always, speak to your vet who can guide you further on getting your dog the help they need.

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The information contained on this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's health care or treatment plan.

The authors of this blog are not veterinarians and do not claim to be experts in pet health. The information provided here is based on our own experiences and research, as well as information from reputable sources. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information.

We encourage you to do your own research and consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions about your pet's health.

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