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Home > Dogs > My Dog Is Urinating While Lying Down – 6 Causes & Vet Approved Solutions

My Dog Is Urinating While Lying Down – 6 Causes & Vet Approved Solutions

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Dr. Nia Perkins

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Urinary problems in dogs are not unusual, but when you see a dog leaking urine while it’s lying down, it’s time to visit the veterinarian. A random dribble is typical with untrained puppies and seniors. Urinating while sleeping or resting may indicate a medical issue that requires immediate treatment to prevent worsening of symptoms.

There are several causes of incontinence.  The severity of the condition can’t be determined until a urinalysis or other tests are conducted. We’ll examine the possible reasons for incontinence, but only a veterinarian can provide an accurate diagnosis and effective treatments or procedures.

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Veterinarian Examination

Before administering tests for incontinence1, your vet will give your dog a complete checkup for any signs of additional symptoms or possible causes. A urinalysis can determine if your dog has an infection, but blood tests will rule out other medical conditions like Cushing’s Disease 2 or diabetes 3. Further tests may include radiography to detect urinary stones, or an ultrasound to identify tumors in the bladder. You can also help your vet by mentioning any recurring symptoms, giving the date of the first leakage incident, and estimating how often leakage has occurred.

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Image Credit: Zivica Kerkez, Shutterstock

The 6 Possible Causes of Incontinence

We’ve listed some of the most severe causes at the top of the list. Keep in mind that even with treatment, incontinence may still persist in some cases.

1. Bladder Obstructions

A blockage in the urethra or bladder can occur from bladder stones, cancerous tumors, blood clots, or urethral plugs. Immediate veterinary care is required to remove the blockage. An untreated blockage can be potentially fatal if the bladder ruptures. But you may notice symptoms when the urethra is only partially blocked. According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS), dogs may experience these symptoms from a partial obstruction.

  • Urinating in tiny amounts
  • Taking longer than usual to urinate
  • Straining while urinating
  • Urinating in unusual places in the house
  • Urinating in small drips instead of a stream
  • Bloody urine

Treatment of a urinary obstruction may include surgery, dissolving the stones with a special diet, or breaking up the stones using ultrasonic waves or lasers. Your veterinarian will decide which method is best to use.

2. Anatomic Abnormalities

Another possible cause for leakage is an anatomic defect. A birth defect, injury, or even surgery, can damage the bladder and reduce its efficiency. In younger dogs, anatomic problems are often caused by ectopic ureters. Healthy ureters transport urine from the kidneys to the bladder, but a ureter in an abnormal position can redirect urine to the vagina or urethra and lead to leaking. Some anatomic issues can be treated with medications, but veterinarians may have to perform surgery to treat an injury or prior surgery.

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3. Neurological Issues

Damage to the spinal cord, lumbar lesions, and brain diseases can affect the nerves connected to the bladder and lead to leaking while lying down and sleeping. A veterinarian will perform tests, including perennial sensation, tail and anal tone examinations. They will also check spinal reflexes to diagnose a neurological condition. Although some diagnoses, such as lower lumbar lesions, may cause permanent incontinence, dogs with thoracolumbar spinal injuries have regained continence after treatment. Caring for a dog with a neurological problem causing incontinence requires a sympathetic owner willing to endure frequent trips to the vet and a significant amount of cleaning.

4. Urethral Sphincter Mechanism Incontinence (USMI)

Also referred to as “spay incontinence,” urethral sphincter mechanism incontinence (USMI) occurs when falling estrogen levels weaken the sphincter around the urethra. This weakening reduces the bladder’s storage capacity. The dogs who are most vulnerable to USMI include spayed females, specific breeds, medium and large dogs, canines with docked tails, and overweight dogs. Some of the dog breeds who are at greater risk of USMI include:

Veterinarians can sometimes treat spay incontinence with hormone replacement medications. In some cases, they may need to prescribe more than one to alleviate the symptoms. An estimated 70% of cases respond well to the medications.

Dog peeing on the floor
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5. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common causes of leakage, but thankfully, minor infections can be treated with antibiotics or diet changes. UTIs occur when bacteria move through the urethra and reach the bladder. Healthy urine is sterile, but the bacteria can reproduce quickly and contaminate the urine. Symptoms of a UTI may include blood in the urine, frequent genital licking, foul-smelling urine, and leakage. Although Escherichia coli is a common pathogen in UTIs, the infection can come from several types of bacteria. After examining a urinalysis, a veterinarian may detect other troubling signs such as crystals in the urine and order X-rays or ultrasound to check for bladder stones.

6. High Anxiety

UTIs can make dogs urinate more, but a condition brought on by anxiety or fear can cause the dog to retain its urine for long, uncomfortable periods. The animal may feel threatened by a wild animal that it saw during its last bathroom break or fearful of the backyard after hearing fireworks. Urine retention can cause the pressure in the bladder to build up considerably and lead to leaking. Since dogs are more relaxed while resting and sleeping, you’re more likely to see evidence of leakage when they lie down. Veterinarians can treat anxiety with medications and diet supplements, but you also must locate the source of the stress to reduce the likelihood of future accidents.

scared dog hiding in grass
Image Credit: Isa KARAKUS, Pixabay


Tips for Living With an Incontinent Pet

Pets recovering from incontinence require special care to ensure they stay healthy and comfortable. Leakage problems can be traumatizing for dogs and their owners, but you can make a few adjustments to your home and routine to make the recovery process less disruptive for your pup and family.

Frequent Bathroom Breaks

Taking your dog outside more often may help minimize leaking incidents, and being outdoors can also help your dog’s mental health. Suffering from incontinence and enduring several tests at the vet’s office can be stressful, and several breaks in the fresh air may reduce anxiety levels. Dogs wait several hours after their last nighttime break to relieve themselves in the morning, but you can set an alarm to let your pet out every 2 to 3 hours depending on the severity of the condition.

Cleaning and Grooming

Urine stains on fur can irritate the dog’s skin and cause “urine scalding” if the urine contacts the skin for too long. Check your pet for leakage several times a day and use a gentle microbial soap or pet wipe to clean the fur. If your dog has several accidents, you’ll have to bathe them more often with a dog-safe shampoo to remove stains and odors.

Absorbent Pads

Since leakage can occur while the dog sleeps, you can insert absorbent pads in the animal’s bedding, also called puppy training pads, to absorb more moisture at night. Bedding will need to be washed more frequently, and you might consider purchasing a dog bed with a waterproof inner lining that blocks liquid from damaging the foam core.


Diapers are a temporary solution, and can keep you from cleaning the urine-soaked carpet and furniture 24/7.  But some dogs dislike the sensation of having their genitals confined and may try to remove the diaper. Watch your pup closely while wearing the diaper to ensure it does not restrict mobility or irritate the skin.

Report Any New Symptoms

Depending on the diagnosis, treating a urinary problem can take several days or weeks. To ensure your dog is recovering properly, contact your veterinarian if you notice any new symptoms or acceleration of prior symptoms.


Final Thoughts

When dogs leak urine while lying down or sleeping, they require prompt veterinary assistance. Early diagnosis can accelerate recovery, and prevent the problem from developing into a life-threatening condition. Several factors can cause incontinence, but veterinarians have tests to determine the reasons for leakage. Caring for an incontinent animal can be challenging for dog owners, but they can help their dogs get through this trying time with proper sanitary practices, love, and patience.

Featured Image Credit: Mylene2401, Pixabay

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