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Canine Bowel Incontinence

Canine bowel incontinence can be caused by spinal cord injuries, old age, or digestive problems. No matter what causes your dog to be incontinent, it is NOT his fault so DON'T punish him for soiling his bed! This page looks at some of the common causes of canine fecal incontinence, and ways to deal with bowel incontinence in dogs.


Bowel incontinence in dogs, aka canine fecal incontinence, is the inability of a dog to control his bowel movement, resulting in defecation in inappropriate places. The feces may be loose, watery, or solid.

Canine bowel incontinence is a headache for dog parents, to say the least.

However, remember that fecal incontinence, like urinary incontinence in dogs, is a symptom that indicates something is wrong with the dog's health. Therefore, the dog should not be punished or yelled at. It will not fix the problem and it is unfair to the poor dog.

The proper way to deal with canine fecal incontinence is to find out and, if possible, treat the underlying cause. Some causes (such as old age) may not be fixed, in which case arrangement has to be made to accommodate the situation.

Causes of Canine Bowel Incontinence

Common causes of canine fecal incontinence include:

  • Diarrhea

    Occasional bowel incontinence may be due to diarrhea which understandably can lead to "accidents". Digestive problems that can cause diarrhea include food poisoning, inflammatory bowel disease, colitis, gastritis, etc. Other problems that cause diarrhea include allergies, pancreatitis, bacterial and viral infections such as distemper and parvovirus, intestinal parasites such as worms, giardia, etc. Certain cancers such as stomach cancer can also lead to diarrhea. Addressing the underlying cause of diarrhea will also solve the problem of bowel incontinence.
  • Spinal Cord Injuries

    Spinal cord injuries are usually caused by accidents such as gunshot wounds, car accidents, or falls from great height. These injuries result in ruptured disks and fractures and dislocation of the vertebrae. These types of injuries often result in the nerves being damaged, leading to urinary and/or fecal incontinence. Other signs and symptoms of spinal cord injuries include limping or weakness of the legs, neck or back pain, and in serious cases, paralysis.
  • After Effect of Certain Surgeries

    Because of the many nerves in the anal area, sometimes surgeries that involve that area may cause complications such as bowel incontinence. One such surgery is treatment for perianal fistulas, which are chronic and progressive lesions that occur around the anus in dogs, especially those with tails that set low and carried close to the body (e.g. German Shepherds).
  • Old Age

    Older dogs are more prone to canine bowel incontinence - the sphincter muscle may have got weakened and total control of defecation is lost, leading to occasional fecal incontinence.

    Another possibility is that, some senior dogs suffer from a condition known as "canine cognitive dysfunction" (CCD), which is similar to Alzheimer's disease in people. Common symptoms of CCD include confusion and disorientation. The dog does not know where he is and he may have a bowel movement in the house thinking that he is outside! If you have an older dog who is incontinent and shows symptoms such as lethargy, staring at walls, not noticing family members, etc., he may have CCD.

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Treatment of Canine Bowel Incontinence

Treatment of canine fecal incontinence involves identifying and if possible treating the underlying cause. For example, if diarrhea is causing your dog to be incontinent, finding the root cause of diarrhea and eliminating that cause will eventually solve the problem of fecal incontinence.

However, causes such as old age or nerve damages are irreversible. In these cases, dog owners will have to accept and find ways to cope with the situation.

Dealing with Canine Bowel Incontinence

If your dog is "temporary incontinent" due to a bout of diarrhea, try, if possible, to make arrangement so that it is easier for him to go outside to relieve himself.

Add fiber-rich foods, such as canned pumpkin or flaxseeds, to your dog's food. The fiber can absorb a lot of water in the digestive tract, thereby bulking up the stools and stopping the diarrhea. For dogs under 15 pounds, you can give half a teaspoon of flaxseeds or canned pumpkin with every meal. Dogs 15 to 50 pounds can take a teaspoon of high-fiber foods, and larger dogs can take up to a tablespoon.

You may also want to try some other home remedies as suggested in our page on Dog Diarrhea Cures.

If the cause of bowel incontinence is irreversible, consider getting some doggie diapers for your dog. Be sure to keep the dog's rear end clean to prevent bacterial infections.
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