If your dog is leaking urine while lying down, you may be at your wit’s end. Dog urinary incontinence can ruin bedding, furniture, or your hardwood floors. More importantly, it can be a sign of several health conditions that need urgent attention.
Luckily, when it comes to a weak bladder in our canines, PawSafe has you covered with our specialized dog urine stain remover. But treating the stains and odor of urine is only one part of the problem, as we also need to understand the medical implications.
So let’s look at the most common answers to the question “why does my dog leak urine while lying down,” and dog owners can treat the problem.
Why is my dog leaking urine while lying down?
Dogs leak urine when lying down when their muscles relax so much that the bladder urethra loosens and fails to hold in the pee. This is usually a sign of losing muscle tone due to age or hormonal problems. But it could also be from diabetes, UTIs, or anatomic abnormalities.
Most common reasons that dogs pee while lying down and resting
This article only talks about dogs losing control of their bladders while they are relaxed, resting, or sleeping. So we will not be addressing dogs that pee because they are marking territory, have anxiety or stress issues, pee from excitement, or can’t get outside to potty in time.
You may also want to check out the smell dogs hate to pee on.
1. Old dog urinating while lying down? How old age causes urinary incontinence
Aging is the most common reason that older dogs pee when resting. Some dogs may only pee a little as they age, especially when resting in their bed or sitting, while others may completely lose control of their bladders. This is just because the muscles in the urethra get weaker as the dog ages.
When these muscles get weaker, we call it urethral sphincter mechanism incompetence (USMI). This lack of muscle tone that a dog needs to control their bladder is due to several factors. This includes genes, weakening in the vagina, a lack of estrogen in spayed dogs, or an incorrectly positioned bladder.
2. Hormones and urinary incontinence
One of the major reasons for a female dog urinating while lying down is her hormones. All dogs naturally lose muscle tone as they get older. Since the sphincter that keeps the bladder closed is a muscle, if it gets too weak, females struggle more to hold their bladder.
However, this is a much bigger problem for spayed female dogs. A female dog needs estrogen to keep her urinary tract functioning. As spayed dogs get older, they have very little estrogen in their body, which causes their urinary tract muscles to become weaker.
Female dog incontinence while sleeping is extremely common. If this is the case for your senior, spayed dog, you can speak to your vet about hormonal estrogen treatments to help fix the problem.
But low estrogen in spayed female dogs is not the only reason that a dog’s sphincter will relax so much when they sleep that they pee accidentally.
According to one study, another reason that causes dogs to pee while they are asleep is their weight. Obesity stops the urethra from functioning properly and causes the muscles to atrophy (become weaker).
And as we’ve established, as soon as those muscles get too weak, they relax too much when the dog relaxes (called valve laxity). This means the bladder opens, and pee leaks out.
4. Genetics and size of the dog
Purebred dogs, and specific breeds are more likely to suffer from urinary incontinence than others. You may have more issues with dogs peeing while lying down if they belong to one of the following dog breeds or types:
- Sheepdogs and Collies
- German Shepherds
- Doberman Pinschers
Many of these breeds are more prone to kidney issues as well, which could lead to leaking urine.
But the size of the dog matters too. Research shows that large-breed dogs are seven times more likely to develop incontinence over time than smaller dogs.
5. Urinary tract infections
Another extremely common problem for our poor female dogs is urinary tract infections (UTIs). Because female dogs have shorter urethras, a bacterial infection in the bladder (or vaginitis) is far more common than in male dogs. This causes the sphincter to inflame and open far too much when the dog relaxes.
So female dogs who pee on their beds while sleeping often have a UTI. However, dogs that have incontinence problems for other reasons are also more prone to UTIs, so these two issues are interlinked.
6. Diabetes may cause a dog to dribble pee
Another issue linked to a dog’s weight, diet, lifestyle, and genetics is diabetes. Dogs with diabetes may become extremely thirsty and drink tons of water, leading to a nearly constantly full bladder. This can cause problems holding in their pee, especially if locked inside and crated.
They may also start to pee while they are asleep.
7. Medications that cause dogs to lose control of their bladders
Certain medications, like Prednisone and Furosemide, can either make a dog more thirsty or act like a diuretic, so they need to pee far more often. This can lead to or worsen any issues with incontinence or losing bladder control.
8. Congenital defects
Some dogs are born with defects in their urinary system that make it difficult to hold their bladders. A common issue is bladders in the wrong position or bladders that are an unusual shape. This can make it difficult for a dog to hold their pee.
Another abnormality could be with the urethra. Ectopic ureters are birth defects where the urethra does not correctly link to the bladder. These dogs will be incontinent from early puppyhood and will never have bladder control unless they undergo surgery to fix the problem.
Dog breeds that could carry the gene for this defect include:
- West Highland White Terriers,
- Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier,
- and the Entlebucher Mountain dog.
9. Neurological problems
Occasionally, a dog may develop problems with controlling their bladder and bowel either because of a disorder in the brain or, more likely, because of spinal cord injury.
The nervous system tells the bladder and bowel muscles when to contract and relax. When a dog has damage to their nervous system, the muscles that control their bladder and bowel may stop working. If you are struggling with this, see our article on how to massage a dog to poop.
10. Kidney and bladder stones
Most of the time, bladder and kidney stones in dogs will cause the opposite of incontinence. You may see your dog straining to urinate because they form an obstruction. But it can also cause your dog to have accidents and urinate more frequently.
It’s vital to remember that there are several kinds of stones in dogs; each has a different cause regarding a dog’s diet, metabolism, urinary PH, and other factors. One example is the male Dalmatian that can have trouble metabolizing animal protein and develops urea stones as a result.
Sadly, the ideal conditions for one kind of stone, like the struvite, can cause another kind like calcium oxalates. So while increasing a dog’s urinary PH may help dissolve some stones, it can create a different kind of stone. This is why a vet must always find out what kind of stone a dog has before deciding on treatment.
Never rely on home remedies for dog bladder or kidney stones because they need proper analysis.
When it comes to dogs peeing while sleeping or lying down, perhaps the most common stone you will see is the struvite stone is connected to recurring UTIs.
11. Kidney disease
If you notice your dog constantly leaking urine, whether lying down or otherwise, ask your vet to check their kidneys. Life-threatening conditions such as Chronic Kidney Failure (CHF) can cause incontinence and are an emergency.
Reasons for a male dog leaking urine when lying down
Most of the abovementioned conditions affect female dogs more than male dogs. But what about a male dog leaking urine while resting?
Male dogs who pee while sleeping may have a congenital defect, kidney disease or stones, UTIs, diabetes, prostate disease, or be on medications that cause them bladder control problems. A male dog may also get bacterial prostatitis (an infection in the prostate) that can spread to the urinary tract and cause incontinence.
If you have a male dog leaking urine all of a sudden, or even just a dog dribbling urine while walking, pay attention. Some conditions like Chronic Kidney Failure are life-threatening and they should see a vet immediately to look for underlying health conditions.
Treating dogs who are peeing while lying down, resting, or asleep
If you find your dog leaking urine while lying down, you can take the following steps to deal with the problem:
- Immediately see a vet to look for any underlying causes that may need treatment. This could include kidney stones, UTIs, diabetes, side effects from medication, kidney or prostate problems, congenital defects, or more.
- When your vet identifies the reason, they can choose a treatment option. This could be corrective surgery for abnormal urethras or to tighten the bladder sphincter muscles.
- Your vet may also prescribe medications such as Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) for incontinence, although you may want to keep an eye on the side effects.
- Your dog may need chronic medication for conditions like diabetes, or they may need a new diet to help with kidney issues or UTIs. This will usually be a prescription diet meant to adapt the PH of a dog’s urine.
- Spayed female dogs may start hormone therapy to help improve their muscle tone and control.
- Not all doggy incontinence can be fixed. Sometimes you will need to deal with the issue by using doggy diapers, placing waterproof sheets where your dog sleeps, and investing in plenty of pet urine removers. You also want to make sure that you take your dog out to potty as much as possible so that have less urine in their bladders to leak when they are resting.
Home remedies for dogs who struggle to control their bladders while asleep
If dogs are losing control of their bladders while resting or asleep, seeing a vet is non-negotiable, as their could be serious health issues involved. However, there are some things you can do at home to help your dog with problems like UTIs that may be causing incontinence.
Assess your dog’s nutritional & hydration needs
Not every dog does well on the same diet. Some dogs may thrive on a high-protein raw diet, but other dogs may physically not be able to metabolize all that protein, like many male Dalmatians or dogs with liver shunts. These can cause severe liver and kidney issues that may cause urine leakage.
Similarly, dogs with kidney stones or UTIs may need a prescription diet to change their urinary PH.
Keeping your dog hydrated also helps keep their urinary tract healthy and flush out bacteria. So this is essential.
Don’t forget exercise, as using their body helps a dog maintain muscle tone and could help them control their bladders.
Other home remedies for dogs that pee while lying down
- There is some promising research that cranberry extract, or D-mannose, can help stop UTIs. The research is mixed, but if you do give it to your dog, give a reliable supplement. Dog foods that advertise cranberries in their food tend to have far too little to be effective, and it is primarily a marketing gimmick.
- A possible new supplement is corn silk. It seems that it contains something called mucilage that coats the bladder and helps to prevent bacteria from taking hold.
A dog that is peeing while lying down and relaxed is a sign of a medical problem. Inappropriate peeing is mostly due to a lack of potty training, marking territory, separation anxiety, and other stress disorders or excitement. But if a dog is peeing in their sleep, then there is something physically wrong with their urinary system.
It is most common in older, spayed female dogs, but it can happen to any dog, as anything from infections to underlying diseases and birth defects may be to blame. Always take your dog to the vet to decide on the best course of treatment.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
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.
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