Understanding Bed Wetting Problems in Dogs

Dog Great Dane lying on bed

Finding dog urine in your bed can be a frustrating discovery -- especially if you were in bed at the time. Your initial response might be to think your dog did this on purpose, but that's unlikely to be the case. If your dog is wetting the bed, it's most often either a medical issue or because they are not fully house trained. By understanding the most common causes of bed wetting problems in dogs, you can get your pet the treatment they need to resolve this messy issue.

Why Dogs Wet the Bed

There are several common reasons why dogs will urinate in your bed. In general, the cause is either medical or behavior-related. Certain medical problems can make a dog temporarily incontinent. In these situations, your veterinarian will prescribe medication to treat the condition. However, with more serious problems, incontinence may be a long-term or permanent symptom. If medication doesn't help, your veterinarian may advise you to work on management, such as wearing diapers and keeping your dog off your bed, as well as getting them a dog bed that's waterproof and easy to clean.

If your dog is peeing on the bed for behavioral reasons, you can work with a behavior consultant or qualified trainer to address the underlying emotional issue causing the urination. It's important to first have your veterinarian rule out a physical issue before considering behavioral solutions.

Medical Causes of Canine Bed Wetting

Multiple physical conditions could explain why your dog is wetting the bed, including anatomical abnormalities, chronic disease, or an infection.

Older Dog Incontinence

If you have a senior dog who has begun to wet the bed, this could be incontinence secondary to a disease or related simply to old age. If your elderly dog has canine cognitive dysfunction, they may also pee on your bed out of a general sense of confusion. Your veterinarian can run diagnostics to rule out conditions such as diabetes or kidney disease, then may prescribe treatments to address the incontinence. If there is no medical solution, you may ultimately need to control your dog's leakage using a belly band or diapers.

Spay Incontinence

If you have a spayed female dog who seems to leak a small amount of urine, often at night when she's sleeping, she may have urethral sphincter mechanism incompetence or "spay incontinence." This condition often happens to middle-aged or senior spayed females many years after their spay surgery, and larger dogs are at higher risk. Because spayed dogs do not have the same amount of hormones as intact dogs, the lack of estrogen causes the urethral sphincter muscles to "loosen," and urine can leak out. Your veterinarian may prescribe a long-term drug such as phenylpropanolamine (nicknamed PPA, or known by the brand name Proin) or Incurin to help tighten up the sphincter muscle. You'll need to give this medication continuously, or the bed wetting will return.

Dog in house wearing a diaper

Urinary Tract Infection

A urinary tract infection (UTI) occurs when bacteria enter the urethra and travel into the bladder. This is most common in female dogs, given their anatomical structure, but it can also occur in males. A dog with a UTI might hold their bladder because it's painful to urinate, then wet the bed due to overflow, or the irritation and inflammation of the bladder might cause them to leak urine. Appropriate antibiotics can treat the infection and stop the bed wetting.

Ectopic Ureter

An ectopic ureter is an anatomical abnormality that some dogs are born with. Instead of a dog's urine following a normal route from the kidney to the bladder, an ectopic ureter bypasses the bladder and directs urine to the urethra. Without the ability to stop the flow via the urinary sphincter, a dog with an ectopic ureter will simply leak urine. Female dogs are more likely to be affected by this congenital defect, and some breeds may be predisposed, including Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and Siberian Huskies. Treatment could involve minimally invasive laser ablation or surgery.

Bladder Stones or Tumor

Bladder stones or abnormal growth within the bladder can commonly cause a dog to wet the bed. In addition to accidents, you might also notice your dog straining to urinate, urinating small amounts more frequently, or blood showing up in the urine. Your veterinarian will perform an X-ray or ultrasound to better visualize your dog's bladder in order to determine the condition. Bladder stones can sometimes be treated with a dietary change, but surgery may be necessary to remove them. A tumor within the bladder is more complex and will probably require surgical removal and possible chemotherapy if the growth is malignant.

Prostate Disease

Male dogs may develop prostatic disease, which can result in urinary incontinence. Although intact male dogs are at a much higher risk for hormone-related prostate problems, neutered males can also develop them. Bacterial prostate infections, cysts, benign prostatic hyperplasia, and prostate cancer are among the problems male dogs can develop. Typically, neutering is recommended to resolve the problem, in addition to possible medical therapy or surgery.

Certain Medications

Specific medications can cause increased thirst or increased urine production, which may lead to bed wetting. Steroids like prednisone notoriously stimulate dogs to drink more water, as can phenobarbital, an anti-convulsive medication. Diuretics such as furosemide are designed to eliminate fluids from the body, so dogs on these medications will urinate in larger amounts. Your dog could exhibit urgency to urinate and may have accidents if they take any of these prescriptions. Be sure to let your veterinarian know about these signs, but, ultimately, you might have to adjust your schedule to let your pup out more frequently to accommodate this side effect.

Underlying Disease

Similarly, as with certain medications, dogs with some underlying diseases may experience an increase in thirst or high production of urine. Diabetes, kidney disease, and Cushing's Disease can lead to a very full bladder and accidents in the bed. However, with proper treatment, you can minimize and even resolve these symptoms.

Behavioral Reasons for Urinating in the Bed

If your vet has ruled out any medical reason to explain why your dog is wetting the bed, it's time to consider behavioral issues.

Incomplete Housetraining

Some dogs simply pee on the bed because they're not truly house trained and don't understand where they should and should not go. In this case, go back to "housetraining 101" and work on training your dog positively until you are absolutely sure they are done having accidents in the house. Crate training is also a great option to use in these cases. Dogs typically do not want to urinate in a space where they sleep; therefore, this technique can train them to hold their bladder for the appropriate length of time, which can minimize accidents. Some small dogs are notoriously difficult to house train, and you may want to try a belly band in these cases while working on your training program.

Marking

Alternatively, your dog might be intentionally urinating in the house as a way to mark. Intact male dogs are more likely to engage in this behavioral problem, although neutered males and females can also mark. Your dog might be marking out of sexual arousal, to mark their territory in a new environment -- if you've moved to a new space or have new furniture, people, pets or other objects in the house -- or due to stress.

If your dog is not altered, the first step to address marking is to have them neutered or spayed. Next, deep clean any soiled areas with an enzymatic cleaner to remove any stimulating smells. If your dog is urinating as a result of new items or people, create a positive experience with these things through positive words and treats.

Excitement

Sometimes, dogs can pee on the bed out of intense excitement, which is usually an involuntary response. In this case, your dog is not able to control their bladder and is not peeing out of spite or on purpose. If you are able to anticipate these exciting events, like the introduction of a new person, try to bring your pet outside to urinate prior to the situation. This way, their bladder will be empty. Approach your dog with a relaxed demeanor and calm voice to minimize the exciting energy surrounding the greeting. You can also try distracting them with a treat.

Fear

In other cases, a dog that is anxious and afraid may urinate on the bed or other surfaces as a reflex reaction. If your dog is constantly in a state of stress or fear, your veterinarian may recommend anti-anxiety medication or another solution that can help your dog feel more comfortable. A canine pheromone diffuser may also be beneficial. Should they urinate out of fear during specific events such as during thunderstorms or fireworks displays, a ThunderShirt is a non-invasive, calming solution that many dogs benefit from. Ultimately, you may need to keep your dog in areas without carpet or off the bed during these stressful events.

Pet dog asleep on bed

Proper Cleanup Is Important

If your dog is urinating on your bed, it's important to clean the sheets and mattress thoroughly. If they smell the urine residue, this could encourage them to continue urinating there. Use a special cleaner designed to break down urine, as simple soap and water may remove the smell for you but not for your dog's highly tuned senses.

Dogs Peeing on the Bed

Having a dog urinate on your bed is definitely unpleasant, but it's not uncommon, especially for older dogs. The best course of action is to rule out a medical issue with a veterinary exam, then work to solve the underlying issue. Remember, dogs do not urinate to "get back" at you, but instead do so because they are either ill, untrained, or have an emotional reason such as fear or excitement.

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Understanding Bed Wetting Problems in Dogs