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Dog Peeing in Sleep? Causes, Solutions, and Prevention - PawSafe

Dog Peeing in Sleep? Causes, Solutions, and Prevention

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

dog peeing in sleep

Discovering that your dog has wet their bed while sleeping can be a puzzling and concerning experience for any dog owner. Are they experiencing a medical issue or is it simply a one-time accident? To keep your dog healthy, it’s important to understand what causes dog incontinence and how to solve it when your dog is peeing in his sleep.

One common reason for dogs peeing in their sleep is urinary incontinence. This can occur for various reasons, such as age, weakened bladder muscles, or even certain medical conditions. To improve your dog’s quality of life, learn about the causes and how to deal with this issue.

This article will provide answers to the problem of incontinence. We will use advice from experts, including Dr. Carlos Martinez from Mckinney Animal Hospital. In this article, we will explore why dogs have accidents while sleeping and how to treat it. This friendly guide will help you to better understand your canine companion’s needs and how to address them.

Reasons dogs pee while they aren’t awake are quite different from when a dog pees on objects while awake, for example, peeing on your bed out of fear, from excitement, or to mark territory. It’s crucial to know the possible causes of this behavior, which is a clear sign of incontinence.

Dogs leaking wee in their sleep usually have some kind of incontinence. This can happen for many reasons, like hormones, neurological disorders, or anatomical abnormalities.

Perhaps the most common reason is age. As dogs grow older, they may develop weaker bladder control, making it harder for them to hold their pee while asleep. In some cases, the issue may stem from a medical condition, such as a UTI. A UTI could cause your dog to experience discomfort and frequent urinating. If you suspect your dog has a UTI, here are some ways to treat it at home.

If your dog pees while sleeping, talk to a vet to find out why and get treatment. By doing this, you can make your pet happier and keep your house cleaner.

12 Common Reasons Dogs Pee While Sleeping

A puppy peeing on their blanket while sleeping

In general, urinary incontinence in dogs can be attributed to neurogenic or non-neurogenic factors, meaning it can either be due to nervous system problems or other issues. In medical terms, micturition the process of emptying the bladder. Urinary incontinence is when the bladder empties at an inappropriate time, like when the dog is not awake. So, this means a dog bedwetting is typically because of some kind of incontinence.

Since the incontinence we’re discussing occurs when a dog is asleep, factors like excitement or stress can be ruled out. However, some nervous system disorders can still be the cause.

1. Hormones & Urethral Sphincter Mechanism Incompetence (USMI)

A common cause of dogs experiencing urinary leakage during sleep can be attributed to Hormones & Urethral Sphincter Mechanism Incompetence (USMI). This is most common in older, spayed female dogs. This is also called spay incontinence. Other factors could also be responsible, including urinary tract infections or even stress.

It’s important to understand that low estrogen levels can affect a dog’s bladder control. This condition is more common in overweight, large breed dogs, resulting in decreased muscle control in their bladder sphincter.  

In short, the lack of estrogen means that the dog loses muscle tone as they age.  The lack of muscle tone on the valve that closes the bladder means that when your dog falls asleep and relaves, the sphincter opens, letting the bladder leak. 

Consequently, these dogs are more prone to bladder leakage during sleep. However, at least one study found no difference between spayed and non-spayed dogs when it came to losing bladder control as they got older. So, this issue can still affect your older, intact female dog.

2. Age Factors

When it comes to dogs peeing in their sleep, the age factor plays a major role. In fact, age is the most common reason that male dogs urinate when sleeping. There are several reasons for this.

Puppies are more likely to leak in their sleep compared to adult dogs for two main reasons:

  • Puppies have smaller bladders and weaker muscles. It naturally takes time for puppies to gain better control of their bladder.
  • Puppies need time to learn how and when to eliminate. Sleep-time accidents are common in untrained puppies.

If your puppy constantly dribbles wee, even when they’re awake, they might have a bladder problem since birth. We will touch on that more below.

Senior dogs may also have trouble controlling their bladder while sleeping due to age-related factors. These include:

  1. As dogs age, their bladder muscles become weaker, making it harder to hold urine. This can lead to accidents during sleep.
  2. When a dog’s hormone production decreases, it can have trouble controlling its bladder.
  3. Older dogs with medical conditions may have trouble controlling their bladder during sleep. Some common conditions include UTis, diabetes, and kidney disease.

Dogs in their prime years have fewer problems with peeing during sleep. If a grown-up dog begins to have accidents during sleep, it may have a medical or behavioral issue that needs attention.

3. Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects a dog’s ability to produce or properly use insulin. Elevated blood sugar levels can lead to health issues like incontinence and urinary tract diseases or uropathy. It can also cause dogs to urinate in their sleep.

Symptoms of diabetes in dogs can vary, but some common ones include:

  • Excessive thirst;
  • Increased need to urinate;
  • Weight loss despite a normal or increased appetite;
  • Fatigue; and
  • Cloudy eyes (especially in older dogs).

If diabetes is detected early, it can be managed and prevent bedwetting and other complications.

To control a dog’s diabetes, you typically need to do a few things. To care for a diabetic dog, give them proper food, make sure they stay active, maintain a healthy weight, and possibly administer insulin shots. Here are some tips to help manage a diabetic dog’s condition:

  1. A good diet with less fat and more fiber can help control blood sugar and weight.
  2. Regular exercise – This will assist in weight management and improve insulin sensitivity.
  3. Discuss with your vet how to check your dog’s blood sugar at home.
  4. Insulin injections – Your veterinarian may prescribe insulin injections for your dog. Be sure to follow their instructions for administration and dosage.

4. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) & Kidney Disease

UTIs are a common cause of dogs weeing when they are lying down and napping. These infections occur when bacteria enter the urethra and multiply, causing inflammation. If it is severe enough, a dog may start to leak wee. 

According to Dr. Sam Silverman, dogs who widdle because of a UTI are not really incontinent. But because they need to piddle so often, they may have accidents when they sleep or in the house.

To identify a UTI, watch for the following symptoms in your dog:

  • Frequent weeing;
  • Straining or difficulty while urinating;
  • Blood in the wee;
  • Foul-smells; and
  • Licking the genital area.

A veterinarian will diagnose a UTI by analyzing a sample for bacteria, crystals, or abnormalities. Remember kidney issues are another common reasons dogs may become incontinent, especially as they get older.

5. Being Overweight

If a dog is overweight or obese, it can greatly affect their health and cause them to sleep-pee. Just like in humans, carrying extra weight puts strain on a dog’s body and may lead to various health issues.

Dr. Sagar Regmi explains that when a dog is overweight, it can strain their bladder and urinary tract, making it harder to hold their wee. Obesity can cause hormone problems like Cushing’s disease or diabetes, leading to more urination. Sometimes, the extra weight can cause inflammation. This can lead to infections and bedwetting.

Here are some warnings signs that your dog may be overweight:

  • Ribs are not easily felt;
  • No visible waistline; and
  • Abdominal sagging.

6. Lower Motor Neuron Disorders

Think of your dog’s lower back and tail area as a intricate system of nerves, like wires in a high-tech machine. If something goes wrong in this area, like a sacroiliac luxation or cauda equina syndrome, it’s like damaging wires. The sacral spinal cord, which plays a key role in controlling the bladder, gets affected by these issues.

This is where it gets tricky for your canine companion. The damage affects nerve signals and causes lower motor neuron disorders. These disorders mess up the communication between the bladder and the brain. Think of it as a phone line going dead. When this happens, your dog’s bladder muscles and the muscles that control the urinary tract don’t work properly. They become underactive, or hyporeflexive, in technical terms.

There are various causes of lower motor neuron disorders in dogs, some of which include:

  • Trauma or injury to the spinal cord;
  • Degenerative diseases;
  • Infections affecting the nervous system; and
  • Congenital disorders.

The result? Your dog ends up with a bladder that’s not only bigger than usual but also can’t tell when it’s time to go. It’s a bit like a balloon that keeps getting filled with air but can’t sense when it’s full. Accidents can happen, such as wetting the bed, when the bladder releases its contents unexpectedly. It’s not your dog’s fault; it’s just a result of the disrupted nerve signals in their lower back area.

7. Upper Motor Neuron Disorders

Upper motor neuron disorders are diseases that impact the nervous system. These disorders can cause issues with a dog’s bladder control, leading to bedwetting. In dogs, there are two common upper motor neuron disorders: Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) and Intervertebral Disc Herniation. We’ll also discuss Fibrocartilaginous Embolism. Let’s briefly discuss these conditions and how they may lead to incontinence.

IVDD is when the discs in the spine degenerate, causing herniation or rupture. This can put pressure on the spinal cord. It can cause neurological issues, like trouble controlling bladder function.

Common signs of IVDD include:

  • Pain and stiffness;
  • Reluctance to move or jump;
  • Weakness in the limbs; and
  • Loss of bladder control.

Intervertebral Disc Herniation is like IVDD and means the disc moves out of place. This can happen suddenly from an injury or gradually from degeneration over time. When a disc herniates, it can press on the spinal cord and nerves. This can cause trouble controlling the bladder and other problems.

Fibrocartilaginous Embolism (FCE) can also affect a dog’s bladder control. In this situation, a piece of fibrocartilage usually blocks the blood flow to the spinal cord. In other words, it’s a kind of spinal stroke. Due to this, certain parts of the spinal cord may not get enough blood, causing nerve problems.

8. Detrusor-urethral dyssynergia

Some dogs have a urinary condition called Detrusor-urethral dyssynergia (DUD). It causes them to release their bladder while they are sleeping. When the detrusor muscle and the urethra do not coordinate properly, this condition occurs.

There are four primary causes of DUD in dogs:

  1. Neurological disorders;
  2. Urethral obstruction;
  3. Inflammation or infection; and
  4. Idiopathic causes (unknown).

In order to diagnose DUD in a dog, veterinarians will typically perform a series of tests, such as:

  • Urinalysis;
  • Bloodwork;
  • Bladder ultrasound;
  • Neurological examination.

When it comes to tackling DUD, treatment varies depending on the specific cause.

9. Dysautonomia

Dysautonomia is a disorder that can manifest in various ways in dogs, including mydriasis (dilated pupils), cherry eye, or constipation. As the condition progresses, it may also lead to weakened bladder muscles, which can result in a dog experiencing incontinence during sleep.

There are several factors associated with dysautonomia in dogs:

  • Age: Young dogs are at a higher risk of developing this condition.
  • Breed: While dysautonomia can affect any breed, some breeds may be more predisposed than others.
  • Environmental factors: Exposure to toxins or infections can play a role in the development of the disorder.

It’s important to recognize that dysautonomia may coexist with other health issues, making diagnosis challenging. 

10. Congenital Abnormalities

Ureteral ectopia is a congenital abnormality in dogs that can cause them to widdle in their sleep. In this condition, the dog’s ureters, which are the tubes that carry waste from the kidneys to the bladder, are misplaced. 

This means that they are not properly connected to the bladder, resulting in inadequate control of the bladder. Some common congenital abnormalities associated with ureteral ectopia include:

  • When a dog has an intrapelvic bladder, it means the organ is inside the pelvis instead of the abdomen. The dog may have trouble emptying its bladder, leading to urine leakage while sleeping.
  • A urovaginal fistula is a small opening between the bladder and vagina. A patent urachus is a persisting connection between the bladder and umbilical cord. These abnormalities can make dogs pass urine without meaning to, especially when they are asleep.
  • Vestibulovaginal stenosis is when the passage from the vagina to the vestibule is narrow or blocked. A vestibulovaginal septal remnant is a thin piece of tissue that separates them. Improper bladder emptying can happen with both conditions and cause unwanted urination during sleep.

11. Detrusor Overactivity

Detrusor overactivity is a common cause of this issue. It’s a condition where the bladder muscle contracts on its own, even when it’s not full. This can lead to involuntary urination, often during sleep. Dogs of all ages may exhibit detrusor overactivity, but it is more prevalent in older dogs.

There are several factors that can contribute to the development of detrusor overactivity in dogs:

  1. Age;
  2. Neurological problems; and
  3. UTIs or bladder infections can lead to irritation and overactivity of the detrusor muscle.

12. Overflow Incontinence

When a dog’s bladder can’t fully empty, urine builds up, causing overflow incontinence. This results in involuntary leakage during sleep. There are various factors that contribute to overflow incontinence in dogs, such as:

  • Neurological disorders affecting the nerves responsible for bladder control.
  • Hormonal imbalances, particularly involving estrogen and testosterone.
  • Urinary tract infections that can cause inflammation or blockages.

When trying to determine the cause of a dog’s overflow incontinence, you’ll want to consider their age, breed, and medical history. Certain dog breeds may be more likely to have certain health conditions. Older dogs have a higher chance of developing age-related problems. Keep an eye out for any other symptoms that could indicate an underlying problem.

It’s essential to keep your dog’s sleeping area clean and dry during this time. Make use of waterproof bedding or absorbent pads to prevent damage to furniture or floors. Don’t forget to talk to a vet about your worries. They can create a special plan for your dog.

Symptoms to Look For

Old female dog lying next to a pee stain on bed while sleeping

Dogs piddling in their sleep may not be noticeable at first, especially if the wetness dries up quickly or the dog is lying on absorbent bedding. However, there are some symptoms and signs pet owners should be aware of that could indicate their furry friend is experiencing this issue.

Firstly, look for inexplicable wet or damp spots on the dog’s bedding or sleeping area. Sometimes, the pet may even smell of urine despite regular bathroom breaks and cleanings. If the canine companion has not had an accident elsewhere, it’s crucial to keep an eye on them during sleep to observe whether they’re doing it unconsciously.

Additionally, pet owners should observe their dog’s behavior while they are asleep. Dogs who wee in their sleep may look uncomfortable or restless. They might change positions frequently or wake up suddenly, appearing disoriented or upset.

Here is a table summarizing some symptoms to look for in a dog who might be peeing in their sleep:

SignDescription
Wet or damp spotsAppearing on the sleeping area with no apparent cause
Unusual odorThe dog smells of urine despite regular cleanings
RestlessnessThe dog shifts around, appearing uncomfortable during sleep
DisorientationThe dog wakes up suddenly, looking disoriented or upset

Consulting Your Veterinarian

Before visiting the veterinarian, it’s helpful to gather some information about your dog’s sleeping habits and wee incidents. Keep a log of the following details for a few days:

  1. Dates and time of the accidents;
  2. Your dog’s sleeping schedule;
  3. Any changes in diet or daily routine; and
  4. Any unusual behaviors or signs of discomfort.

Having this information handy will enable the vet to better assess the situation and offer the most appropriate advice or treatment for your canine companion.

Diagnosis

Upon arrival at the clinic, the veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination of your dog and ask you questions about the symptoms. They may suggest various diagnostic tests including:

  • Urinalysis: to check for UTIs and other issues;
  • Blood tests: to evaluate kidney function and check for possible hormonal imbalances; and
  • Imaging studies: such as X-rays or ultrasounds, to identify abnormalities in the urinary system.

Once the tests are complete, your vet will review the results and provide a diagnosis. They will then discuss the treatment options and any necessary lifestyle adjustments to help manage your dog’s weeing-in-sleep issue.

Treatment Options

When dealing with a dog that is peeing in its sleep, there are several treatment options to consider. Here are three main categories: medication, natural remedies, and behavioural training.

Medication

In some cases, medication may be necessary to help your dog regain control of its bladder function. Some commonly prescribed medications for this issue include:

  • Phenylpropanolamine (PPA): This drug helps strengthen the urethral sphincter, making it less likely that urine will leak out during sleep.
  • Estrogen: In female dogs, a decrease in estrogen levels can lead to weakened bladder control. Estrogen supplements may be beneficial in these cases.
  • Antibiotics: If an underlying infection (UTI) is causing the problem, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to clear the infection.

Always consult with your veterinarian before administering any medication to your pet.

Surgery

Surgery can be a viable option for dogs that are experiencing urinary incontinence, particularly when this issue is caused by specific physical abnormalities or conditions. For instance, if the bed wetting is a result of structural issues within the urinary system or problems related to the spinal cord that can be surgically corrected, then surgery might offer a long-term solution. 

In such cases, veterinarians would first conduct thorough diagnostic tests to identify the underlying cause and determine the feasibility of surgery. The goal of surgical intervention would be to repair or modify any anatomical defects or relieve pressure on the spinal cord, thereby restoring normal bladder function. 

However, it’s important to note that surgery comes with its own risks and recovery process, and it may not be suitable for all dogs or all conditions. Consulting with a veterinary specialist is essential to understand the best course of action for each individual dog’s health and well-being.

Natural Remedies

There are also a number of natural remedies that can be explored to help your dog with its bladder control issues. Some of these options include:

  • Crate training: Ensuring that your dog has a comfortable and secure sleeping area can minimize the chances of accidents during the night.
  • Dietary changes: Feeding your dog a healthy and balanced diet can help improve overall health and bladder function.
  • Herbal supplements: Some pet owners have found success with natural supplements, such as corn silk or marshmallow root, which are believed to have mild diuretic effects. Cranberry extract can help your dog with UTIs/

It’s crucial to consult with your veterinarian before implementing any natural remedies.

Behavioural Training & Management

Finally, behavioural training can be an effective way to address the issue of a dog whittling when they are not awake. Some strategies include:

  1. Take your dog out at regular intervals and reward them for using the appropriate toileting area.
  2. If your dog is incontinent, it’s best to take them outside more often for longer to encourage them to fully empty their bladder before they rest.
  3. Avoid giving your dog too much water in the hours leading up to bedtime, but ensure they have adequate hydration throughout the day.
  4. Praising and rewarding your dog when they successfully use their designated bathroom area can encourage good habits.

Always be patient and persistent when using behavioural training, as it may take time for your dog to learn new routines and habits.

Prevention Measures

Incontinent old dog sleeping next to pee stain wearing diaper

When it comes to preventing this issue, there are various approaches one can take. It is valuable to understand that different dogs may require different strategies. However, the focus should remain on finding the underlying cause and taking essential steps to address it.

Regular vet check-ups are highly recommended as they can help identify any health issues early on. This can potentially prevent UTIs, diabetes, or other conditions that could lead to involuntary urination. Don’t hesitate to consult a veterinarian regarding your dog’s situation.

Creating and following a bathroom schedule can be helpful for your dog. By establishing a routine, you can prevent accidents from occurring. Consider these points when creating a schedule:

  1. Morning and evening times are crucial.
  2. Take them out an hour after each meal.
  3. Maintain regular intervals between breaks.
  4. Consider the age, breed, and specific needs of your dog.

Managing your dog’s water intake is another important aspect of prevention. Be aware of the following:

  • Provide fresh water throughout the day.
  • Measure daily intake and adjust according to the dog’s size and activity level.
  • Encourage water consumption during daylight hours.
  • Remove the water bowl a few hours before bedtime.

Additionally, make sure to keep your dog’s sleeping area clean and comfortable. Maintaining a hygienic and dry space can prevent infections and irritations. Investing in a waterproof or washable bed is a practical solution.

Lastly, positive reinforcement plays a significant role in training your dog. Avoid punishment, and instead, reward them for successful bathroom breaks. With patience and consistency, your dog will likely improve over time. Combining these preventive measures can help ensure your furry friend stays healthy and reduce the problem.

Living with a Dog with That Pees In Her Sleep

If your dog is experiencing urinary incontinence during sleep, it is important to remain patient and understanding. It can be challenging for both you and your furry friend. Here are a few helpful tips to make life easier for you and your pet.

  1. Designate a sleeping area – Choose an easy-to-clean area in your home for your dog. Place pee pads or washable beddings as a precaution. Make sure to regularly wash and replace the pads as needed. You may also consider using waterproof mattress protectors.
  2. Keep your dog clean – It’s essential to maintain proper hygiene to prevent infections and rashes. Gently clean your dog’s fur and skin around its genital area using mild pet shampoo, and pat dry after each accident. You can also use doggy diapers, but make sure to change them often to prevent infections.
  3. Visit your veterinarian – Schedule regular check-ups with your vet to monitor your dog’s condition and determine potential causes. Follow your vet’s recommendations for treatment and management practices that might help.
  4. Keep track of food and water intake – Be mindful of your dog’s diet, and avoid giving it large amounts of water right before bedtime. However, do not restrict water access, as hydration is crucial to their overall health.

Example feeding schedule for your dog:

Breakfast: 7 am

Lunch (if applicable): 12 pm

Dinner: 5 pm

Last water access: 9 pm

Bedtime: 10 pm

  1. Train your dog to follow routines – Establish a consistent daily schedule and maintain it, including walks, playtime, and potty breaks. This might help your dog to develop better bladder control over time.

Living with a dog with urinary incontinence might require extra care and attention, but with proper management and a supportive environment, your pet can continue to live a happy and healthy life.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is sudden urinary incontinence in dogs an emergency?

Sudden urinary incontinence in dogs may not be an immediate emergency, but it should not be ignored. If the incontinence is acute and accompanied by other symptoms like pain, fever, or vomiting, it could be indicative of a more serious illness. Regardless, consult your veterinarian as soon as possible to discuss the situation.

Should I be concerned about my older dog peeing in sleep?

Older dogs can sometimes experience age-related health issues that cause them to wee in their sleep. It could be due to weak bladder muscles, cognitive decline, or another age-related ailment. If your older dog starts whittling while snoozing, consult your veterinarian to determine the best course of action.

Are kidney issues related to dog peeing in sleep and vomiting?

Kidney issues can cause increased urinating and, in severe cases, vomiting. If dog weeing in sleep is accompanied by vomiting, it’s essential to consult a veterinarian to rule out kidney issues or other medical problems. Early detection of kidney issues increases the chances of successful treatment and a better quality of life for your dog.

Conclusion

Keeping our furry friends healthy and comfortable is a top priority for pet owners. With all the information provided, prevention and awareness are key factors in addressing the issue of dogs peeing in their sleep.

There are several possible causes behind this behavior, including:

  • Urinary tract infections;
  • Bladder stones;
  • Hormonal imbalances;
  • Kidney disease;
  • Spinal cord injuries; and
  • Age-related incontinence.

Remember to closely monitor your dog’s behavior and health, seeking veterinary assistance if necessary. Proper care, such as regular check-ups, a balanced diet, and adequate exercise, can contribute to managing this issue effectively.

References:

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.