Bladder Weakness in Dogs

Canine bladder weakness is actually urinary incontinence, and it causes urine to leak uncontrollably from the bladder. The incontinence is problematic both for the pet and the owner and is often a symptom of an underlying medical condition. However, it's generally simple to treat and manage. Dogs of both sexes can be affected by this condition and older dogs are more susceptible.

Canine Urinary Incontinence

Healthy dogs can control urinary leakage by using the muscle tissue at the base of the bladder. This ability is compromised in dogs with weak bladders. The hormones estrogen (for female dogs) and testosterone (for male dogs) strengthen the muscle tissue and incontinence can result when these hormones are produced in lesser quantities by the body. Female dogs that are spayed when they are too young produce reduced amounts of estrogen, and this adversely affects their ability to control the valve at the opening of their urinary bladder.

Causes of Urinary Incontinence

One of the most common causes of urinary incontinence is urethral sphincter mechanism incompetence (USMI). Congenital defects, damage to nerves leading to the bladder and tumors can also lead to urinary incontinence. Ectopic ureter is a common congenital defect and in this condition the ureter bypasses the bladder and causes urine to drip. Serious diseases such as kidney disease, bladder infections, diabetes, bladder stones and Cushing's disease can contribute to bladder control problems.

Breeds Affected by Congenital Defects Include:

  • Siberian huskies
  • Miniature poodles
  • Labrador retrievers
  • Collies 
  • Welsh corgis


If your dog is losing control of his bladder, you should conduct a vet check in order to identify the cause of the problem. The vet will perform a physical exam, take a medical history, run blood and urine tests, perform an endoscopy and take X-rays to diagnose the problem and treat it accordingly.


If the cause of the problem is due to a urinary infection, antibiotics are prescribed for two weeks to clear up the infection. Estrogen for female dogs and testosterone for male dogs are prescribed for USMI. To resolve bladder problems caused by diseases such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, kidney problems and Cushing's disease, the underlying condition is treated.


Medications commonly prescribed for dog bladder control include alpha-adrenergic agonists, estriol, imipramine, gonadotropins, phenylpropanolamine, ephedrine or sympathicomimetics. You should accept the fact that these drugs will have to be administered for the duration of your pet's life, and it's important for you to know how to administer them to your pet. Some of these medicines are contraindicated in dogs with heart problems and blood pressure problems.

Side Effects to Medications:

  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Panting
  • Apathy
  • Restlessness 
  • Nervousness


If medicines are ineffective, surgery is carried out to correct the problem. Bladder stones are surgically removed. Other surgeries that resolve canine urinary incontinence are vasopexy, colposuspension, urethral sling procedure and cystourethropexy.

If your house-trained pet suddenly develops bladder control problems, you should first determine whether he needs reinforced training or treatment for a serious problem. You should seek medical care if the cause isn't behavioral so that the problem is resolved at the earliest.