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Coping with canine urinary problems

Little "accidents" around the house can be one of the most common and enduring frustrations for pet owners. Of course, many dog owners are familiar with the trials of housebreaking a new puppy, but many other problems, both behavioral and medical, can lead to puddles of piddle in places where they shouldn't be.

Luckily, with a veterinarian's help, urinary problems are often easy to solve and can be corrected by different training techniques or inexpensive medicines. In fact, beyond any minor, occasional accidents, you should consult with your veterinarian right away. Frequent urinary problems may be an indication of a serious, underlying health issue.

It's important to remember, too, that your dog is not having accidents to punish or purposely frustrate you; she is only following an ingrained behavioral instinct, or the accidents are occurring involuntarily due to a medical issue.

Urinary problems can be most commonly linked to issues such as:

  • Housebreaking problems
  • Excessive territoriality
  • Submissive urination
  • Weak bladder muscles
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Kidney disease
  • Urinary stones
  • Diabetes
  • Cushing's disease

Veterinarians classify these problems as behavioral or medical. If you suspect a problem, first consult your veterinarian, who might suggest performing a urine analysis and blood work to help diagnose any medical issues.

The veterinarian will want to know the circumstances of any suspected urinary issue. Besides the obvious problem of wet spots on the carpet, be sure to note things like:

  • How often the dog is urinating, how much and where?
  • Is the dog aware of what she is doing? For example, is the problem occurring at night while she sleeps?
  • Does urination appear painful?
  • Is she drinking more water than usual?

Behavioral issues

Your dog's urinary issue may be behavioral, such as problems with housebreaking, marking territory, submissive urination or, in the case of older dogs, senility.

If the issue is with housebreaking, the problem is usually apparent and may be resolved with further training or more frequent trips outdoors. Some dogs, especially un-neutered males, may be overzealous about marking their territory indoors, and overly submissive dogs may urinate when approached or frightened. Your veterinarian can point you to a number of resources for behavioral training techniques that can rectify these issues. In the case of an older dog, she may occasionally forget her housebreaking training as she gets older. These momentary bouts of confusion may be treated with a mix of behavioral training procedures and various medical treatments.

Note that inappropriate urination caused by behavioral problems is different from urinary incontinence, an involuntary leakage of urine often caused by a medical issue.

Once any behavioral issues are eliminated as a possible cause of inappropriate elimination, your veterinarian will conduct tests to see if any of the following medical issues that are commonly associated with urinary problems may be the cause.

Weak bladder muscles

Most often occurring in large breed female dogs, a weak bladder is actually caused by a weakening of the sphincter muscle that controls elimination. This condition can occur because of old age or other issues, such as hormone-associated urinary incontinence in spayed females. Fortunately, it's often very treatable. In most cases, your veterinarian can prescribe medicines, hormones or surgical treatments that help tighten the urinary bladder sphincter.


Infections of the urinary tract, including bladder infections, are a common cause of urinary incontinence in dogs. UTIs occur more often in female dogs. Besides puddles on the floor, watch for excessive consumption of water, frequent urination or urinating only small amounts. Diagnosis comes from a urine culture. UTIs often are easily treatable with a round of antibiotics prescribed by your veterinarian.

Kidney disease

Symptoms of kidney problems include drinking large amounts of water and excessive urination; as the disease progresses, the dog may later lose weight, eat less and have an unhealthy looking coat. Kidney problems, such as renal failure, may not be treatable, but your dog may be able to live with the disease for several months or years with medication and a special diet.

Urinary stones

Urinary stones form from minerals that accumulate in the urinary tract. The symptoms include inappropriate elimination and straining to urinate. Your veterinarian may perform a urinalysis to look for crystals in your dog's urine, which can be an early indication of a problem that might lead to urinary stones. They can be painful, but they're often treatable with diet, medicines that dissolve the stones or, in severe cases, surgery.


Symptoms of diabetes in dogs include excessive drinking, eating and urination accompanied by weight loss. Bloodwork can confirm the diagnosis, and your veterinarian may recommend home monitoring of your dog's urine and a combination of insulin injections and changes to the dog's diet and exercise patterns.

Cushing's disease

Cushing's disease is a fairly common hormone disorder that occurs in dogs. Symptoms include incontinence and excessive drinking, eating and urination. While bloodwork or urinary tests may indicate Cushing's disease, the presence of the disease can be confirmed by a specific test performed by your veterinarian. If diagnosed, Cushing's disease usually can be treated with different medications.

Help is available

Your veterinarian can help you get to the bottom of the problem, but you should know that you can also prevent puddles using doggie diapers or pads. These products have become more popular over the years and now even come in a range of stylish options.

Coping with urinary problems can certainly be difficult, but they don't have to mean turning your doggy friend permanently outdoors. If you have successfully helped your dog with this type of problem, share your story below!

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