How to Deal With Nocturnal Enuresis in Dogs

By Maura Wolf

Canine incontinence, the primary cause of nocturnal enuresis or night urination, is a treatable condition. Do not assume night urination is the result of bad behavior or that it is a transient issue that will resolve itself. A veterinarian should examine your dog to rule out serious illness and to help you create a plan for dealing with this problem. Nocturnal enuresis “can be effectively managed, and a dog can enjoy a happy, high-quality life,” according to The Senior Dog Project.

Definition

Urinary incontinence in older dogs is seldom behavioral.

sleep dog image by Angelika Bentin from Fotolia.com

The dog’s bladder holds urine, which passes through and exits from a small membranous tube called the urethra when a dog urinates. Urinary incontinence may be caused by weakness of urethral muscle, also known as sphincter mechanism incompetence, notes Medi-Vet.com. Nocturnal enuresis is involuntary night urination. Sleeping dogs are relaxed, as is the sphincter muscle, which allows urine to leak in varying amounts out of the bladder. Aging dogs are deep sleepers, and, because their urethral muscle may weaken over time, this condition occurs more frequently in elderly dogs.

Symptoms and Signs

Signs of nocturnal enuresis include wet spots or puddles on a dog’s bed and the floor or carpet where a dog sleeps. Symptoms include irritated skin and stained fur around the dog’s genitals and constant licking and cleaning of the vulva or penis. Urine scald is similar to diaper rash and just as uncomfortable, so it’s important for pet owners to keep their dogs and dog sleep areas clean. Whole Dog Journal author Mary Straus suggests using baby wipes to clean urine off the skin and fur. She recommends aloe vera gel combined with witch hazel to soothe irritation and provide antiseptic protection.

Causes

Nocturnal enuresis may result from aging, hormonal insufficiency or more serious medical problems in both male and female dogs. As some female dogs get older, nighttime urination may be triggered by a condition called estrogen-responsive incontinence or spay incontinence. The natural production of estrogen is reduced in aging female dogs, especially spayed dogs, and can weaken sphincter muscles, leading to incontinence. A thorough exam by your dog’s veterinarian can determine whether the diagnosis is hormone-related nighttime incontinence or another medical condition, such as a urinary tract infection, diabetes, kidney disease, bladder stones, Cushing’s disease, neurological problems or abnormalities of the genitalia, according to the ASPCA.

Medication

Over the years, many drugs -- with varying levels of success, safety and side effects -- have been used to help control nocturnal enuresis that is not caused by a serious illness. The most common medications for treating nighttime incontinence are hormone replacement therapies with estrogen or testosterone, including estradiol, a more natural form of estrogen, and phenylpropanolamine, a drug that strengthens the urethral sphincter muscle and reduces uncontrolled urination. Also helpful are smooth muscle relaxants and Imipramine, an antidepressant that aids in urine retention. Your veterinarian is the best person to diagnose the cause of your dog's enuresis and prescribe the appropriate medication. Do not give your dog any drugs, supplements or remedies before consulting with your veterinarian.

Palliative Care

Products created especially for households dealing with canine nocturnal enuresis can make life more comfortable for dogs and their families. For example, it is not healthy for a dog to sleep on a wet, urine-soaked bed or sleeping surface, so special dog beds are available for dogs with nocturnal enuresis. Other products include urine cleaning supplies, dog diapers and training pads that soak up urine but leave a dry surface for your dog to sleep on.