Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

Animals Affected



Hormone-based urinary incontinence is a common problem in middle-aged and elderly spayed female dogs.  The syndrome occurs less frequently in male dogs.

In affected individuals, an imbalance of hormones in the body causes urine to leak from the bladder.  Affected dogs usually are not aware that urine is escaping from their bodies.

Most cases of urinary incontinence are manageable with a medication called PPA.


Dogs with the syndrome leak urine.   Dogs are generally unaware of the urine loss.   Urine loss is most common when dogs are sleeping or relaxed.  Urine usually is lost in small quantities, but in some instances the volume of urine that leaks from the bladder is substantial.  Dogs with hormone-based urinary incontinence do not purposefully void urine in the house.

  • Finding urine in the house is the leading symptom of urinary incontinence.  Owners often notice that their dog’s bedding is damp or smells of urine.   Urine may also be found on the floor or on furniture where the dog has rested.
  • Dogs with urinary incontinence may have hind ends that are wet with urine.
  • Dogs with the syndrome often have an offensive odor due to contamination of their hair with urine.

Risk Factors and Prevention

  • Urinary incontinence is most prevalent in middle-aged and older spayed female dogs.  Some studies indicate that dogs that are spayed when less than three months of age may be at particular risk.
  • Neutered male dogs suffer from urinary incontinence infrequently.  Male dogs that are neutered at an advanced age appear to be at increased risk.
  • Urinary incontinence is most common in dogs that weigh over 40 pounds.
  • Several breeds of dogs have high rates of urinary incontinence.  Predisposed breeds include Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, Giant Schnauzers, Irish Setters, Old English Sheepdogs, Rottweilers, Springer Spaniels, and Weimaraners.


  • Damage to household property due to contamination with urine is the leading complication.
  • Dogs with urinary incontinence may suffer infection or irritation of the skin due to frequent contact with urine.
  • Dogs with urinary incontinence suffer increased rates of urinary tract infections.


Diagnosis is based upon symptoms and response to treatment.  Urine tests, blood tests, and X-rays often are run to ensure that syndromes such as urinary tract infections and diabetes are not involved in the problem.


Most cases of urinary incontinence respond to a medicine known as phenylpropanolamine, or PPA.  PPA may be given one to three times daily.  Some dogs require daily treatment with the medication.  Many others require only intermittent medication.

Sex hormones (estrogen or testosterone) sometimes are used to treat urinary incontinence.  Because these medications may cause severe side effects, most veterinarians use them only if PPA fails to treat the problem.


As mentioned above, many dogs with urinary incontinence do not require medication every day.  Many owners experiment with PPA dosing to determine the frequency that is necessary for their pet.  The goal of treatment is to use the minimum effective dose.

Some dogs experience periods of incontinence lasting several days or weeks, interspersed with periods during which no treatment is necessary.

Dogs that receive PPA regularly should undergo periodic blood testing to ensure proper liver and kidney function.

Copyright © Eric Barchas, DVM. All rights reserved.
The contents of this page are provided for general informational purposes only. Under no circumstances should this page be substituted for professional consultation with a veterinarian.