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Dog Bowel Incontinence – Symptoms & Treatments of Dog Fecal Incontinence

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Dog bowel incontinence is less common than urinary incontinence.
  • Bowel incontinence can be caused by diseases of the colon and rectum, traumatic injuries to the anus, or problems with the nervous system.
  • Symptoms of bowel incontinence include involuntary defecation, sudden urges to defecate, and leakage of stool.
  • Diagnosis of bowel incontinence is based on a physical exam and may involve further diagnostic procedures such as X-rays or ultrasounds.
  • Treatment options for bowel incontinence include addressing the underlying cause, prescribing a special diet, medication, and using products such as dog diapers and odor neutralizers.
Written by Jay
BsC (Hons) Animal Behaviour & Welfare graduate with a passion for advocating for misunderstood animals.
Zoo and wildlife doctor in veterinary medicine passionate about animal welfare and preventive medicine.
Published on
Saturday 3 July 2021
Last updated on
Wednesday 28 June 2023
dogs with incontinence
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Dog bowel incontinence is not as common as urinary incontinence, but it’s essential to recognize the signs and symptoms. This condition can affect any of our beloved furry companions. Whether your pet has been diagnosed with bowel incontinence or you’re concerned about their health, it’s crucial to understand how to manage and treat this issue for every pet owner.

Managing bowel incontinence in dogs can be done at home with guidance from your veterinarian. There are various measures you can take to assist your pooch, such as using dog diapers, odor removers, and feeding them a low-residue diet. With some extra effort, your dog can still enjoy a good quality of life. Are you curious to learn more? Keep reading!

What Is Dog Bowel Incontinence

Incontinence refers to the involuntary passage of feces or urine. If your dog has bowel incontinence, it will involuntarily pass feces. Bowel incontinence can be categorized into two types: reservoir incontinence and anal sphincter incontinence. These types have different symptoms and causes. It’s important to seek a diagnosis from a veterinarian instead of assuming the cause on your own.

What Causes Dog Bowel Incontinence

Fecal incontinence in dogs is caused by several diseases. Resovoir incontinence, for example, is the result of diseases of the colon and rectum, including irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, and cancer. Diarrhea may also overwhelm the storage capacity of the colon, leading to temporary reservoir incontinence.

Anal sphincter incontinence may be caused by deep infection of the skin around the anus, such as that seen in perianal fistulas. Traumatic injuries to the anus such as bite wounds and abscessed anal sacs may also cause incontinence. On the other hand, anal sphincter incontinence can be caused by problems with the nervous system. Degenerative myelopathy, spinal dysraphism, spina bifida, cauda equina syndrome, and diskospondylitis are just a few of the spinal cord diseases that may cause fecal incontinence.

How to Tell if Your Dog is Incontinent

Identifying whether your dog is incontinent can sometimes be challenging. Initially, it may seem like your dog has forgotten their housetraining or is having accidents due to anxiety. In the case of reservoir incontinence, your dog may experience a sudden urge to defecate that they can’t control. Accidents may occur near the door or in their bed, indicating that your dog is unable to hold their stool long enough to reach an appropriate location. Dogs with reservoir incontinence generally don’t dribble or leak feces but struggle to hold their bowel movements for an extended period.

With anal sphincter incontinence, your dog’s symptoms may vary. They may leak small amounts of stool unknowingly. Additionally, they might dribble stool when barking or getting excited. If physical trauma or inflammation is causing sphincter incontinence, you may notice inflammation, redness, or fluid drainage from the rectum. Your dog might also lick their bottom excessively. If sphincter incontinence is caused by nerve damage or a spinal cord disease, your dog may experience difficulty walking normally and carry their tail differently.

How Is Dog Bowel Incontinence Diagnosed

To identify the underlying cause of your dog’s incontinence, your veterinarian will conduct a comprehensive physical examination. They will thoroughly inspect your dog’s anal area for any masses, inflammation, or rectal lesions. Since physical trauma to the anus can cause fecal incontinence, ruling out this possibility will be the initial step. Further diagnostic procedures may include radiographs and electromyography.

Addressing Dog Incontinence

As a doting pet parent, you already do everything you can to keep your dog healthy and happy. But how exactly does a vet treat dog bowel incontinence? And is it preventable in some cases?


If possible, your vet will identify and treat the underlying cause of your dog’s bowel incontinence. Your dog’s incontinence may resolve when the underlying cause receives treatment. In some cases, however, long-term supportive management may be best for your pet where the underlying cause is not curable.

Your vet may prescribe your pet a special diet, or give recommendations on how to manage your pet’s diet. For example, your dog’s fecal volume can be reduced by giving them a low-residue commercial diet. You may be advised to avoid high fiber diets as they will increase fecal volume and bowel movements. It also helps to feed your dog at set times each day to control the times that they need to defecate.

Medication may be given to control your pet’s incontinence. For example, drugs like diphenoxylate hydrochloride or loperamide hydrochloride are sometimes given to slow the passage of fecal material through the bowels. This increases the amount of water that the intestines take up from the stool. If your dog has inflammatory bowel disease or colitis, anti-inflammatory agents like steroids or sulfasalazine help to control these symptoms.

treat incontinence in dogs
Medication for bowel incontinence in dogs.


Some cases of bowel incontinence may be preventable. For example, regularly de-worming your pup can protect them from diarrhea caused by intestinal worms. Diarrhea may lead to reservoir incontinence if your dog’s rectum cannot contain the feces. Similarly, anal sac problems can lead to bowel incontinence, so be sure to empty your pup’s anal sacs regularly.

Unfortunately, not all cases of bowel incontinence are preventable. While anal sac problems can are manageable when caught early, congenital problems with the spine are not something that owners can prevent. As a breeder, however, you are responsible for health testing your dogs before you breed them. Breeds like the German Shepherd are at a greater risk of spinal diseases than others, so it’s your responsibility to test them for diseases like degenerative myelopathy before breeding. This can help to prevent bowel incontinence in your puppies.

Products to Help with Fecal Incontinence

Depending on the cause of your dog’s bowel incontinence, your vet may recommend some products to help manage it. You may need to change your dog’s diet, fit them with dog diapers, and arm yourself with pet-safe odor neutralizers to manage your dog’s accidents.

Low-Residue Diet

Your vet may recommend a low-residue diet for your dog. But what is low-residue dog food? In short, low-residue dog food is highly digestible and low in fiber. This differs from most commercial dog foods because these are typically made with grains, corn, and wheat, which can be difficult for some dogs to digest. These ingredients may also be allergy triggers for some dogs. Because of this, low-residue foods are often given to dogs with digestive health problems such as inflammatory bowel syndrome, chronic vomiting, and diarrhea. A low-residue diet is easiest to digest, and since your dog absorbs more of the nutrients from their food, less waste will come out.

Doggie Diapers

Dog diapers are essential for any pet parent of an incontinent dog. Firstly, dog diapers help to control mess around the home. Not only does this give you peace of mind, but it keeps your pet’s sleeping quarters more hygienic, too. With less mess in your dog’s bed they can rest much more comfortably. Dog diapers can also help to keep your pooch safe as they venture around the home. If your dog is older, with failing eyesight, or a lack of balance, they may slip on any accidents they have on the floor. Eliminate this risk by fitting them with a diaper and cleaning up their accidents right away.

Washable dog diapers are a valuable resource for dog incontinence. While disposable dog diapers help to contain accidents, washable dog diapers are more environmentally friendly, tend to be more comfortable, and last much longer! The material of washable dog diapers is less noisy, too. Overall, it’s best to keep dog diapers at hand for your pooch to keep messes at bay. Just be sure to regularly change them to prevent diaper rash and discomfort.


Hygiene is crucial, not only for your dog but for you too. Make sure to use a scooper to pick up your pet’s accidents. This is especially important if your dog has intestinal worms! Severe worm infestations can cause reservoir incontinence in dogs, and consistently re-infecting your dog by touching them after handling their feces is a possibility. Make sure to wear gloves, too.

Odor Neutralizer

Accidents in the house are unpleasant for you and your dog, especially when it comes to the smell. It’s critical that you remove the odors from your carpet or pet’s bedding before cleaning them. Missing this step guarantees that the odor will linger even after cleaning! However tempting it may be, don’t reach for your regular carpet cleaner. Instead, opt for a bio-product that won’t harm your pup. Be sure to follow the instructions that come with your product.

You can also use vinegar and baking soda to remove odor and stains. Simply mix two cups of vinegar, two cups of warm water, and four tablespoons of baking soda. After mixing the solution, apply it to the area and allow it to soak for at least 10 minutes. For persistent stains and odors, you can apply baking soda directly to the area and leave it overnight.

incontinence in senior dogs
Older dogs are more prone to bowel incontinence.

Dog Bowel Incontinence: FAQ

Have any more questions about dog bowel incontinence? Feel free to refer to our Frequently Asked Questions section for more details. If in doubt about your pet’s health, always ask your vet for advice.

Should I leave fecal incontinence be?

Fecal incontinence is not a light matter. Any number of diseases can cause this problem, so it’s important that you get your pup to the vet as soon as possible. Often, the underlying cause is treatable, and your pet can go back to their usual toileting habits. When the cause is not treatable, your vet can offer supportive measures for your pet. These might include a special diet and medication. Without treatment, fecal incontinence can make your dog uncomfortable and more prone to painful skin lesions around their bottom. It’s also important to clean up your dog’s accidents as quickly as possible. When left, feces can cause foul odors and increase the risk of bacterial infections. It’s especially uncomfortable for your pup to lay in a wet, soiled bed.

Are there home remedies to keep fecal incontinence at bay?

There are no home remedies that will specifically prevent fecal incontinence. The best prevention is to monitor your dog for signs of anal gland impaction, diarrhea, and intestinal parasites. Do not rely on home remedies to treat bowel incontinence, either. Your dog’s incontinence may be the result of a serious spinal problem or injury that needs veterinary treatment. Lastly, always ask your vet before adding any medicines to your pet’s treatment plan. Certain medicines and foods may interact with your dog’s prescribed medicine, making it less effective.

Are certain dogs more prone to incontinence than others?

Some dog breeds are more prone to incontinence than others. For example, breeds like Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, and Boxers are most prone to developing urethral sphincter mechanism incompetence (USMI). Other breeds are more prone to spinal disorders than others. This is important to note because spinal problems can cause fecal incontinence in dogs. The German Shepherd, for example, is most vulnerable to degenerative lumbosacral stenosis, degenerative myelopathy, and tumors of the spine. This can make them more vulnerable to incontinence problems later on. Overall, however, any dog can develop incontinence problems. Whether your dog is young, old, or a generally healthy breed, the risk of bowel incontinence is still there. Any dog can suffer from a spinal injury or injury to the bottom, so stay aware of the signs and symptoms of bowel incontinence.

Is Incontinence a reason to put down a dog?

If incontinence is the only major health problem that your dog has, it is not an acceptable reason to put them down. In some vet clinics, this might be called “convenience euthanasia.” Convenience euthanasia happens when an otherwise healthy animal is put to sleep because it interferes with the owner’s lifestyle. If your dog has bowel incontinence but no other major health problems, there are other options to think about, first. Also, if you cannot care for your dog with their condition, consider reaching out to a rehoming center or speaking to your vet about your options. If incontinence is not your dog’s only health problem, however, you must consider their quality of life. You can do this by consulting the quality of life scale before coming to a more informed decision.

What is the best way to clean dog feces in their bed?

Make sure to remove the stain and odor before washing your dog’s bed. You can do this by using a bio odor remover, or by mixing vinegar, baking soda, and water on the stain. Then, you may follow the instructions on the label of your dog’s bed. Most dog beds are machine washable. Just be sure to use a pet-safe detergent in the wash! Some dog beds come with removable covers, too. When your dog has bowel incontinence, it’s best to have spare covers at hand so that your dog can have access to their bed whilst their soiled cover is cleaned.

Dog bowel incontinence is manageable with some help from your vet. Be sure to follow your vet’s advice and treatment plan. Your dog can still have a good quality of life, despite their bowel incontinence, with some extra care from you!

One comment on “Dog Bowel Incontinence – Symptoms & Treatments of Dog Fecal Incontinence”

  1. Morehappawness

    My dog ​​had diarrhea and vomiting again a few days ago. After taking the medicine, the condition does not improve, what should I do?

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