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Why Is My Puppy Incontinent? Vet-Reviewed Canine Health Facts

Written by: Ashley Bates

Last Updated on May 15, 2024 by Dogster Team

dog lying near or urine spot at home

Why Is My Puppy Incontinent? Vet-Reviewed Canine Health Facts

VET APPROVED

Dr. Chyrle Bonk Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Chyrle Bonk

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Potty training a puppy can be frustrating all on its own. What makes it even worse is when complications come along with it. Some dogs learn very quickly, others take longer to catch on, and some dogs never quite seem to get the concept.

If you have noticed that your dog can’t seem to hold it at all and seems to leak urine everywhere, you may wonder if they are incontinent. Sometimes what is perceived as incontinence is simply a puppy that can’t hold their bladder for as long as we think they can. However, there are some cases where a puppy is actually incontinent. For these pups, an underlying health condition is usually to blame, so be sure to discuss any concerns with your veterinarian.

But how common is puppy incontinence? At what age does it usually strike in life? What are some methods to reduce problems related to incontinence? We have all the answers for you.

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What Is Urinary Incontinence?

Most dogs are in control of when they release urine and when they hold it in. Dogs with urinary incontinence release urine involuntarily. They have no control over letting the urine out or holding it in. Typically, incontinence affects older dogs that are slowing down and may be losing some muscle control.

Puppies, on the other hand, may be perceived as incontinent simply because they can’t hold their bladder for very long. As a general rule, a puppy can only hold their urine for as many hours as they are months old. This means that a two-month-old puppy can hold their bladder for about two hours. If we don’t let them out often enough, they can appear incontinent because they just can’t hold it in any longer.

But that does not mean that urinary incontinence doesn’t exist in puppies. It absolutely can, so if you notice any of the following signs, speak to your veterinarian.

Dog peed on the carpet
Image Credit: Olimpik, Shutterstock

Signs of Urinary Incontinence in Puppies and Adult Dogs

Here are the general signs of incontinence in dogs:
  • Pooling of urine during relaxation
  • Wet spots where the dog sits/lays
  • Dribbling urine while walking
  • Prolonged dribbling after voluntary urination

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What Causes Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is usually a sign of an underlying health issue. There can be several causes of this, ultimately leading to different treatments. Here is some information on some commonly seen issues.


1. Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections can be very problematic and irritating for your puppy. If they have a urinary tract infection, you can expect them to need to go to the bathroom often, potentially in the house.

Other signs of UTIs in dogs include:
  • Straining to urinate
  • Posturing to urinate with only dribbles or no urine coming out
  • Licking genitals
  • Foul-smelling or cloudy urine may contain blood

Urinary tract infections happen when bacteria travel up through the urethra and potentially into the bladder. It requires a urinalysis to diagnose and is treated with antibiotics.


2. Congenital Defects of the Urinary Tract

The growth and development of a fetus is an incredible thing, but it is not one that always goes as planned. For some pups, this may mean improper development of the urinary tract that happens before birth. This can lead to incorrect placement of the tubes leading from the kidneys to the bladder, called ectopic ureters. This condition can cause urinary incontinence because the setup doesn’t allow for normal muscle control of urine flow.

Your vet will be able to diagnose ectopic ureters and potentially correct them with surgery.

Beagle puppy beside dog pee urine on white tile floor
Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock

3. Neurological Conditions

Certain neurological conditions can affect the way that your dog holds their bladder. Some examples include spinal injuries, injuries to the bladder nerves or issues that affect the brain, such as an abscess, injury or tumor.

An underlying genetic health problem or physical injury can cause neurological conditions. So, see your vet if you notice that your puppy doesn’t seem to have control of their bladder.

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Treatment for Urinary Incontinence

Most cases of urinary incontinence in puppies are going to stem from a urinary tract infection. This means a course of antibiotics often does the trick. For puppies that are suffering from a neurological dysfunction, treatment may focus on decreasing inflammation and helping the nerves repair. Puppies that have ectopic ureters may require surgery to regain continence. No matter what the cause, seeing a vet is the first step.

vet holding a puppy
Image Credit: Friends Stock, Shutterstock

What Is Submissive Urination?

You’ve no doubt seen a puppy that leaks urine when confronted with something scary. Whether it’s a stranger approaching, a loud noise, or fear of punishment, submissive urination is leaking of urine when fearful.  Dogs may also crouch or roll over, tuck their tail, or avoid eye contact as well.

Even though it is in a different spirit, excitable urination is often lumped into the same category. It’s caused by an overstimulation of some type of emotion, which causes loss of bladder control. So, in a sense, excited and submissive urination, though caused by different emotions, can be categorized in a similar fashion.

How Does Submissive Urination Differ from Urinary Incontinence?

Submissive urination is a type of urinary incontinence, but not all urinary incontinence involves submissive urination. Submissive urination usually happens in anxious dogs as a response to fear of something in the environment.

This behavior is more common among females that are roughly at the age of sexual maturity. It can taper off, and the whole issue could disappear with age, training, and patience.

Urinary incontinence often happens due to an underlying health condition or loss of function due to age, not due to environmental triggers. Submissive urination usually doesn’t require any kind of medical treatment, but urinary incontinence caused by an underlying health condition does.

Puppy peed in bed
Image Credit: cunaplus, Shutterstock

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Other Reasons for Inappropriate Urination

Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to health-related questions. So, while we have covered some of the more likely issues, here are some other problematic areas of dog care that can lead to inappropriate urination.


1. Incomplete House Training/Regression

Puppies that were once seemingly housetrained can regress due to a number of factors. It could be that you became more lax or inconsistent with their training, or they became fearful or otherwise stressed by the process. Either way, a regression in house training can lead to accidents in the house.


2. Separation Anxiety

Our dogs can suffer quite a bit when we’re away. Separation anxiety is an incredibly common issue among domesticated canines. They can get so attached to their family companions that being apart can make them very stressed and anxious. Separation anxiety can show itself as destructive behavior, obsessive behaviors like licking their paws, or as potty accidents in the house.

Sometimes, environmental modifications can reduce, if not eliminate, all of these behaviors. But often, separation anxiety is tough to manage, and there’s a huge reason many people enroll in professional training to help.

Puppy pee indoor
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

3. Marking/Territorial Urination

When your dog reaches the age of sexual maturity, they may develop many physical and behavioral changes that can be complicated to manage.

One of those behaviors is marking their territory with urine to show other dogs what is theirs. This is an instinctual behavior and can be to ward off other dogs of the same sex or attract mates. Unfortunately, it can also ruin your furniture and carpets.

Getting your dog spayed or neutered before they reach sexual maturity can help prevent this type of urination, so be sure to speak to your vet about the best time to have your dog fixed.

Cleaning Up Dog Urine

If you are in search of products that can help keep your puppy fresh and urine-free between baths, you will want to check out pet wipes that you can use to clean your puppy. You will also need an enzyme cleaner to clean up accidents on your floor and fabrics. Enzyme cleaners are important to remove all traces of the accident to prevent future accidents from happening in the same place.

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Conclusion

No matter what, if your puppy’s bathroom habits change, it warrants a vet visit. Even if it is just the normal course of potty training, it’s best to report a change if you think something might be wrong. In the best-case scenario, the potty training has had a minor setback.

But, it could be a sign of an underlying health condition. Your vet can easily rule out serious health conditions with a few simple tests. So, make an appointment as soon as you can.


Featured Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock

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