Help! My Dog Is Peeing Inside

Updated June 6, 2021

‘At A Glance (Details Below)’ What To Do

If A Dog Urinates In The House

  1. Urinating in the bed is almost never a behavioural issue
  2. Most cases are an easily treatable form of incontinence
  3. A loss of toilet training in an older dog is often caused by urinary infection, excessive thirst and mobility or cognition problems

Now dive deeper…

Let’s set the record straight: a lot of people have got dogs peeing inside all wrong. To me, never more spectacularly wrong than in the above example. Blaming dogs for something they can’t control? In reality, absolutely nothing could be further from the truth.

The easiest way to illustrate this is to talk about puppies and crates. Crate training is basically a ‘puppy toilet training hack’ built entirely around the knowledge that the last place a dog will choose to pee is in their own bed. Literally the very last place on Earth.

If you have a dog that urinates inside, it’s important to work out whether it’s by choice or accident.

  1. Dogs that used to be toilet trained but now wet their bed, leak drops of urine or leave puddles where they lie down usually have a problem. This page is to help those dogs and their owners.
  2. Dogs that choose to urinate inside when it’s easy to get out usually have problems with their toilet training. If that’s your dog, read our three steps to toilet training but you also need to know it’s very hard to stop some undesexed males.

Bedwetting is usually the most obvious difference between these two groups.

Why Dogs Pee In Their Bed

So if wetting the bed isn’t behavioural, what causes it?

Urethral Sphincter Mechanism Incompetence

USMI is when the bladder’s closing pressure gets low enough that urine begins to force its way out. This especially happens during sleep when there’s no longer any conscious part of urine control.

If a mature female dog is leaking puddles or wetness where she sleeps, USMI is usually the reason. We used to call this disease Hormone Responsive Incontinence. Although USMI occurs in all dogs, read here how the risk of incontinence increases with desexing.

Treatment is usually easy and successful using the following drugs either alone or in combination:

  • Synthetic oestrogens
  • Phenylpropanolamine, a smooth muscle stimulant
  • Deslorelin implant (not licensed for this application and less effective)

To diagnose USMI we must first rule out the other causes…

Urinary Tract Infection

In my view, the biggest mistake vets can make is assuming an older female dog has USMI just because she’s leaking urine. It just so happens that a UTI is also common in female dogs and the angry, reactive bladder can mimic the signs. That’s why all incontinent dogs should have urine testing before a diagnosis.

Recurrent or repeated signs of urinary problems can be caused by a bladder stone, or a structural problem with the bladder like ectopic ureter. These are easily recognised via an ultrasound examination.

Overflow Incontinence

Just the other day I was nearly fooled when an older female dog who started wetting her bed turned out to have overflow incontinence. That’s when dogs drink more than they used to and the extra urine causes them to start having trouble getting out in time. I discovered the problem by noticing that the urine was excessively dilute and ordered a blood test. If you suspect your dog is drinking more, read our guide on how much a dog should drink and why dogs drink too much.

Read here how Millie’s wetting in the house was linked to a toxic jerky treat.

Mobility Problems

It’s obvious but easily overlooked. When dogs have arthritis, they are slow to get out of bed and therefore urine leakage is more likely. If we suspect painful joints, a short antiinflammatory trial is a great way to answer the question.

Cognitive Dysfunction

Very old dogs (usually over 15) can start to forget their toilet training or get confused or lost in the house. The best solution is to start taking them out to the toilet, just like you might for an elderly relative. However, just because a dog is old doesn’t mean they are going senile and the other causes of incontinence still need to be ruled out first.

Read more about cognitive dysfunction syndrome here.

Neurological Diseases

Although a rarer cause, anything that interrupts the nerve supply to the urinary tract can cause incontinence.  All the diseases listed on our disk or spinal problems page can possibly cause loss of control. Most of these diseases should show other signs as well.

Excitement Incontinence

Several readers suggested adding dogs who leak urine when excited. In puppies, this is very common and often confused with toilet training problems. There’s not much that can be done except to hope they grow out of it. If they don’t, all you can do is not get them too excited (if it bothers you) and accept that they can’t control it.

In summary, you can see that incontinence isn’t so simple. To a vet, it’s not too complicated either. By the time your dog has had a physical, blood and urine test, the diagnosis and treatment are usually clear. The common causes of wetting the bed are easily treated, and even if they aren’t, isn’t it so much better to know it’s not your dog’s fault?

Have something to add? Comments (if open) will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here. The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.

14 Replies to “Help! My Dog Is Peeing Inside”

  1. My 3 yr old Irish wolf hound female mix on two separate occasions we have found her laying and a puddle of urine by her and then drips when she gets up and is walking away. Not sure what to do bc it happened on 2 separate occasions 2 months apart. Could it be a UTI? Could she have a UTI for that long? Is it something different all together?

    1. Hi Katrina. It’s very possibly a UTI, as the signs can be subtle to non-existent for a long period. Therefore, this should definitely be checked first. However, in a large breed dog, it’s more likely to be USMI.

  2. My 2yrs old female irish wolfhound mix wet OUR bed while sleeping. The first time was when she had surgery due to grass spike on her neck, and wet while sleeping.. we thought because of the heavy drugs, but again 4 weeks later it happens again being complete recovered. Should I be worry? Not sure what would be the best to do next, wait? Vet? Please help!

    1. Hi Lorena. It’s likely that the drugs from the anaesthesia unmasked a tendency to incontinence, which is common in large breed female dogs. That explains the latest episode, but I would certainly get a urine test done just to be sure you’re not missing anything else.

  3. Hi Andrew my female daschund who is 6 and half has started pawing in the house at night as soon as it go dark I let her out heaps but she is stubborn doesn’t do anything then comes in a and sneakily pass on a rug somewhere Thankyou

    1. Hi Alison. That’s a strange one. Definitely start with a checkup and urinalysis but there could be a behavioural cause such as anxiety. Good luck.

  4. Hi,
    Our now 16.5 yo Jack Russell has wee’d on her bed intentionally for years, 10 years maybe. Thought it was accidental, then during the middle of a normal warm summer day I saw her walk to her bed, hop on, squat and wee on it. We have tried this and that, nothing works. She will go wee on out other dogs bed too ( we have 2 beds and they just switch at will ). She will go on her bed, run off barking as if she heard a cat, the other dog follows…only for the bed wetter to come back and jump in the dry bed.
    So now old, with winter it would be nice to keep her inside at night, but with I am not having the house smell like dog wee. Her coat smells like wee, we can’t wash her every day… So kids won’t pat her…just goes on.
    So what do we do? She has fatty lumps, the cold makes her stiff and appear older… I dont want to take her to be euthanized but its getting to that stage.

    1. Hi Ro. The real problem is that your JRT has trained herself into thinking a bed is a toilet. You’re not alone; in fact it’s the biggest drawback to poorly conducted crate training. At 16 years of age, she’s very unlikely to ever change her habits so if you want her inside you need to provide dog beds that are different enough that she doesn’t classify them as ‘toilet’. A trampoline-style bed should do it, or no beds are fine if you have carpet. Certainly a lot better than being outside!

  5. My 4 year old Maltese X has just started excessive licking of her vulva and it wets the top sheet. I called a Mobile Vet and he said she had Urinary Incontinence and commenced her on Stilboestral on the 7th November. It has not fixed the problem. Am disabled and am finding things hard.

    1. Hi Elizabeth. It’s essential that you get a urine sample (I promise if you persist you WILL get one eventually!) and get it taken to a vet to check for a urinary infection. Urinary incontinence is uncommon at 4 years of age and should have responded to stilboestrol.
      Other thoughts are that there could be a local skin issue called perivulval dermatitis. Again, a second opinion is required to confirm this.

  6. Hi Andrew,
    My puppy of 10 months I took in as a hospice foster care with me until I adopted her. Her name is MS LULU, I did not pick the name anyway she came to me with a very weak, Congenive heart failure. Ms Lulu is on atenolol that my vet put her on after an an echocardiogram was done and it was recommended to help with her symptoms. Now my Lu has always gone out to go potty through our doggy door. The last two three days she has had accidents in bed. I have been prepared for “THE DAY” so I had the pads and layer and layer of blankets… just a little confused what is going on. She had what I think was a seizure last week. Plz help any suggestions? I think I will try diapers but I do not want to stress her out. One last thing she just came out of being in heat.

    1. Hi Doris. I’m so sorry to hear about your unlucky puppy. Generally speaking, when dogs with heart disease start wetting the bed or having seizures, they are usually having faints or blackouts. This is a very bad sign if that is true. There’s probably nothing more you can do to stop them but it’s a good idea to talk to your vet again.

  7. Hi Andrew. My Vet says my 5 year old Maltese x has cataracts. She is almost completely blind and quite scared. The vet also says it’s $4000 per eye for cataract removal. Is this so?

    1. Hi Diann. Yes that is mostly true. I believe the second eye is substantially cheaper if done at the same time. It’s perfectly okay to just have one eye done.

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