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Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

Not all dogs that have pee accidents in the house are dirty dogs. Canine urinary incontinence is one of the most given reasons dogs end up in animal shelters. In fact, dog urinary incontinence is how we came to have Lilly.

Causes of canine urinary incontinence

There are several things that can cause urinary incontinence in dogs. It isn’t always a behavioral problem. Frequently, dogs with incontinence urinate involuntarily and are often unaware of what is happening. Some dog incontinence issues are chronic and long-term while others are acute and short-term. An acute issue is often caused by a urinary infection in the dog. Canine urinary infections are easily treated with antibiotics.

Another acute dog urinary incontinence issue can be caused by struvite crystals forming in the dogs urine. Struvite crystals irritate the urinary tract and cause frequent urination. Crystals can become bladder stones and a chronic issue if not treated. While your veterinarian can treat crystals, you can save money and treat the crystals yourself with a simple change to a high quality dog food.

Dog foods with a high ash content are known to cause struvite crystals. Dog foods with a high protein content can also present a problem with crystal formation. Even some high quality dog foods can present an issue. Lilly forms struvite crystals when we feed her Canidae. We no longer use Canidae due to the issues with struvite crystals in Lilly.

When to seek help from your veterinarian for your dogs urinary incontinence

If a change in diet to a high quality, low protein, low ash and mineral content dog food doesn’t cure your dogs urinary incontinence, it is time to see your veterinarian. It is possible your dog has formed bladder stones. Anytime your dogs urine is cloudy or blood tinged seek help. Also, if your dog appears to be having trouble or pain while urinating you need to contact your veterinarian.

Canine incontinence drugs

Sometimes your dog may require a prescription even with a high quality diet. Lilly is such a dog. Even though we feed her the best food possible, she needs her “peeps pill” for a 100% cure. Lilly is prescribed Proin (Phenylpropanolamine), also marketed under brand name Propalin, which improves the tone of the sphincter muscles, particularly the urethra and the bladder neck. This drug is very effective for dogs that leak urine. Lilly would frequently wake up with a small puddle near her hind end. This was obviously an issue where her muscles used to contain herself didn’t work properly. This drug strengthens those muscles.

The number one thought to keep in mind is not all dog incontinence problems are behavioral. A change in diet should be your first step in trying to tackle a dog urine issue. If the dog incontinence continues, contact your veterinarian to have the urine sampled for issues such as a urinary infection in your dog. With a little effort, canine urinary incontinence is treatable.

{ 6 comments… add one }

  • Lexie March 9, 2012, 6:43 am

    The number one cause of urinary incontinence is early spay and neuter. It is a well documented fact that as the dog reaches maturity the endocrine system begins to release hormones. In addition to the dog becoming sexually mature, these hormones signal the growth plates to close, and increases bone density and muscle tone.

    Spaying and neutering before the dog’s body matures causes lack of muscle tone, particularly in the female, makes it difficult for her to hold her urine, resulting in incontinence (uncontrollable wetting). Allowing the female to go through one heat cycle will not cause the development of breast cancer. However, early spay will cause a weakening of the bladder muscle resulting in the dribbling of urine, particular while asleep. These dogs wake up in a pool of urine and reek of ammonia. As a result, the once indoor house pet is banished to the backyard, or gotten rid of.

    • jen March 9, 2012, 12:41 pm


      No argument here. The purpose of this article was more along the line of showing incontinence isn’t usually a behavioral issue. We also wanted to point out there are solutions. Even if the cause is related to an early spay or a spay where the bladder was affected etc., treating with a change in diet along with medication can successfully mitigate the problem.

      Lilly, the dog in the post, was most likely a case of a spay gone bad. We certainly don’t want anyone not having their animal spayed due to the possibility of them becoming incontinent. We encourage everyone to have their animals spayed/neutered. The timing of the procedure is between the pet parent and their veterinarian.

      Even though Lilly’s issue was most likely due to a spay issue, diet has a direct effect on exacerbating her condition. She also will be taking medication for the duration of her life. It is a shame veterinarians aren’t taught enough about nutrition in school. What they are taught is frequently subsidized by Hills, the maker of Science Diet. Unfortunately, Science Diet doesn’t measure up compared to quality foods. Ash content of dog food has a direct effect on exacerbating incontinence. Any diet that is causing the formation of crystals will cause a relapse of incontinence issues as well.

      So, no matter what originally caused the issue, we stand by our treatment steps that include changing the dog’s diet first. We believe by changing to a truly high quality food, there will be far less pets banished to the backyard and/or dumped at shelters.

  • Jessica August 7, 2012, 2:03 pm

    I adopted Keiko at about 4 months old from a pound about 2 years ago. 🙂
    Keiko also has an incontinence problem, and thankfully I work part time a vet hospital. We have been trialing Propalin for a while now, and so far she still forms puddles or dribbles. The vets I work for are great and are really about quality vet brand foods like Medi-Cal. I give her a mix of Dental food and Urinary SO…Although I might try her only on the SO and Propalin TID because she is still having issues :'( Today I started a log of when I give the propalin and when she dribbles so I can present the info. to the vet. We have discused trying hormone if we have no results with this trial. Another trickier problem can be that Keiko’s anatomy in her vagina could be pooling the urine…if thats the case only surgery could either fix the problem or make it worse.

    But regardless, we absolutly LOVE her and that won’t change anything <3

  • juli March 29, 2013, 6:02 am

    I am having an incontinence problem with my 7 month old male doberman from 8 weeks old. I have had testing done. All negative.
    Ultrasound next week for suspected ectopic ureter. Currently on Proin.
    However, I do feel my recent change to a higher quality, grain free food has relapsed my dog terribly. I don’t think anyone, including the vet, believes me when I say this problem seems to be food related. The cause might not be food, but the food can make it much worse.

    What food do you have Lilly on?

    • Jen March 29, 2013, 11:39 am


      We cook for our furkids quite a bit. When we feed a commercial dog food we have Lilly on Infinity. We fed Solid Gold before they sold the company and moved their manufacturing to Diamond Pet Foods then had a recall.

      Food can make a HUGE difference, though. Unfortunately, you cannot even trust what is on dog food labels. Greed, along with a consumer shift toward a more healthy diet for their furkids has created companies out and out lying about the ingredients in their products.

      A food to AVOID with urinary incontinence is Canidae. Lilly had problems on Canidae and a web search will show other dogs have experienced urinary incontinence issues when being fed Canidae. So, if your “grain free” food is Canidae, I would say that could be your culprit. Usually, foods containing a high ash content can cause urinary problems. Canidae does not list ash, or did not last I saw, but their food causes symptoms as though there were a high ash content. And the previous link shows dog food labels cannot be trusted to be accurate. Ash can cause struvite crystals and stones to form. Struvite crystals are a cause of urinary incontinence. They are very irritating to the dogs system.

      Urinary incontinence can be food related. In fact, in my opinion, urinary incontinence is frequently food related.

      Best of luck to you getting this under control!

  • juli April 4, 2013, 2:26 pm

    Hi Jen,

    I looked for Infinity, but seem to be coming upon Infinia. Did the computer spellcheck that and change it for you or was it actually Infinity? Looking into buying new food. Which formula do you buy? Beef, turkey, etc? Also, I would like to cook for my dog to help him. He is not neuter incontinent, though. How did you find out what was good to cook for your Lilly? (I have a Lilly, too! She’s a Great Dane )

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