Bowel Incontinence in Dogs

As a doting pet parent, one of the crucial training you give your pup is proper potty usage. You do not want to scoop poop around the house or find it in the most inappropriate places.

However, bowel incontinence in dogs is unforeseen, and your dog cannot manage it independently. So what is bowel incontinence, how is it diagnosed, and how is it treated?

Read on to discover what you should know about this irritating dog disease.

What is Bowel Incontinence in Dogs

a doodle thinking
a doodle thinking

Also known as fecal incontinence, bowel incontinence is the loss of bowel control in dogs. Your dog may be aware of the involuntary passing of feces, and you will notice this by finding poop near its potty.

On the other hand, your furry friend may be unaware of their bowel movement, and you will notice poop droppings in your dog’s sleeping area. Besides, your dog may leave poop droppings in areas it usually lays. Whichever happens, avoid scolding or punishing your pet and instead identify the root cause of this behavior. 

What Causes Fecal Incontinence

a small dog with bowel incontinence pooping on grass
a small dog pooping on grass

Two ailments primarily cause anal leakage in dogs; anal sphincter incontinence and reservoir incontinence.

Sphincter Incontinence

This is where the anal opening cannot stay closed. It is caused by anal wounds or mass growing around the opening, as seen in perianal fistula. Spinal injuries that also cause sphincter incontinence include;

  • spina bifida, 
  • degenerative myelopathy, 
  • discospondylitis, 
  • spinal dysraphism, 
  • and cauda equina syndrome.

Reservoir Incontinence

This incontinence occurs in the rectum, the large intestine ending, where feces are stored before excretion. It is caused by irritable bowel syndrome, cancer, colitis, and recurring diarrhea. Reservoir incontinence leaves your pet unable to control its urge to defecate, as its rectum cannot hold any volume of poop.

Another common cause of bowel incontinence in dogs is old age. As your furry friend ages, it will likely lose the ability to control its bowel movement control.

The anal sphincter muscles weaken, leaving your canine prone to fecal incontinence. Other anal leakage causes in old-age pets include osteoarthritis and dementia.

How to Tell Your Pet Has Bowel Incontinence

Determining bowel incontinence in dogs at home is the first step to realizing your pet is not well. Moreover, since you spend the most time with your canine, you will quickly notice any changes in behavior.

The primary indicators of reservoir incontinence in your dog are poop droppings in inappropriate places. These can include near the door, potty, or dedicated poop areas.

This indicates your canine knows its bowel movement but cannot hold the poop. You should also look for mucus or blood in the stool.

If your furry friend has sphincter incontinence, you will notice your pet has started licking its anal region more frequently than before. Your pet can also drop bits of stool when barking or excited. 

Additionally, signs of redness around the anal opening, urinary incontinence, and trouble walking are visible indicators. If you observe any of the mentioned behaviors, you should take your pet to the vet for a checkup.

How Vets Diagnose Bowel Incontinence

vets checking a dog
vets checking a dog

The specialist will start by asking you questions regarding your pet. It would be best to share all the information as this can significantly help the dog specialist determine your canine’s health history.

The specialist will examine the animal’s anal region for lesions, rectal prolapse, and trauma. This will help identify and rule out sphincter incontinence. If the veterinarian rules out sphincter incontinence, they will request a further diagnosis.

The specialist can request blood analysis, tissue biopsy, and radiographs to check whether the pet has inflammatory bowel disease. Other examinations include checking the animal’s perineal sensation, tail carriage, and anal tone to rule out spinal issues. 

Fecal analysis can also be critical in determining the root cause of bowel incontinence. If all these examinations do not show the need for a medical approach, the vet will rule the cause as behavioral. In this case, they will recommend you seek help from a certified animal behavior specialist.

How to Treat Bowel Incontinence in Dogs

Dogs’ bowel incontinence causes vary, so no specified medication is set aside for this medical issue. That said, it is better if your vet successfully identifies the underlying cause of your pet’s bathroom accidents. 

They will subject your pet to medication to help eliminate the issue. Furthermore, sphincter incontinence can be treated by surgical procedures. 

Instances where the specialist cannot rule out the issue as a medical problem allow pushing it to the management stage. This includes moving the pet outside if the problem is unbearable. You can also confine the canine to a dedicated space if moving your dear pet outside does not go well with you. 

Another fecal incontinence management approach is inducing bowel movements. Moreover, Dr. Padgett recommends giving incontinent dogs a frequent urge for excretion to avoid stool overflow.

But how do you induce bowel movement? You will need a spray bottle filled with warm water, a soft cloth or a wet wipe, petroleum jelly, and a latex glove.

  1. Hold your pet into position and spray the warm water around the dog’s anal opening.
  2. With your latex glove, scoop some petroleum jelly and rub it on the anal region.
  3. Rub the jelly deep into the opening and circle the finger to induce bowel movement.
  4. With your forefinger and thumb, gently spread and squeeze the anus.
  5. If the dog is ready to excrete, you will see poop coming out of the opening.

Additionally, your vet may recommend a special diet to reduce the feces the dog produces. If the specialist determines the incontinence is a behavioral issue like anxiety, they may recommend retraining or changing the environment. 

You can also manage anal leakage by getting dog diapers for your pet. These come in various sizes and can be ideal if you want to continue snuggling with your canine. Dog diapers will help keep your pet happy and free while easing your cleaning job since you put on the dog diaper, remove, machine wash, and recycle.

Can You Prevent Bowel Incontinence in your Dog

The answer is yes and no. This is because instances causing uncontrollable bowel movements, like diarrhea, are controllable. You can control intestinal worms which cause diarrhea by regularly deworming your dog.

Additionally, you should express your pet’s anal glands often to avoid infections like anal sacculitis. This is the buildup of fluid within the anal sacs, which, when left unattended, causes discomfort to the animal. 

As much as you want to prevent fecal incontinence, other causes are unpreventable. For example, a dog with spinal diseases is more likely to suffer from anal leakage.

Research shows that the following dog breeds have a higher risk of suffering intervertebral disk degeneration;

  • German Shepherds
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Australian Shepherds
  • Dalmatians
  • Great Danes
  • Border Collies
  • Boxers
  • Irish Setters
  • Rottweilers
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs

So before buying a dog from a breeder, it is essential to ensure they have tested the animal for signs of genetic diseases. A legitimate breeder will have a comprehensive report of your pup’s parents and their medical history.

Do Incontinent Dogs Recover?

You have no reason to panic if your family veterinarian diagnoses your pet with bowel incontinence. When the specialist identifies the root cause, they can treat the canine accordingly.

Moreover, you also have a significant part to play in your pet’s recovery journey. In that case, you must follow your vet’s advice to the tiniest detail. If in doubt, do not hesitate to ask for help because your furbaby depends on you.

You can also take frequent walks with your pet to help its body exercise its muscles. Such walks can promote bowel movement, so carry a poop bag.


  1. What are the First Signs of Bowel Incontinence?

The first sign of bowel incontinence in dogs is fecal matter in inappropriate places. Such areas include the dog’s bed, furniture, and near the doors.

  1. Which is the Best Dog Food for Bowel Incontinence?

The best dog food for bowel incontinence is a low-residue diet. Your vet will likely recommend the best food for your dog during incontinence.

  1. How Do You Stop Bowel Incontinence in Dogs Naturally?

You can naturally stop fecal incontinence in dogs by feeding a low-residue diet to minimize feces quantity. A long walk with your pet outdoors can also help induce bowel movements, avoiding a fecal accident at the house.

  1. How Do Vets Deal With Bowel Incontinence in Dogs?

Vets deal with bowel incontinence in dogs through diagnosis and medications. The vet recommends the best method to deal with the disease depending on its root cause.

  1. Why Would an Older Dog Start Pooping in the House?

Your pet will likely suffer from muscle weakness and canine cognitive dysfunction as it ages. The best way to handle its accidental anal leakage is to consult with your vet and get dog diapers.


Bowel incontinence in dogs can be irritating, especially when dealing with a house-trained canine. The last thing you want to find on your carpet and furniture is your dog’s poop droppings.

However, it is essential to know that your pet may be unaware of this behavior hence the need to consult your vet. So make the best decision to solve your pet’s bowel leakage problem.


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