Canine Bowel Incontinence


"Canine bowel incontinence refers to a dog's inability to control the bowels. It is usually caused by illness, parasites or injury. It is treated by either removing the underlying cause or through dietary changes."


True bowel incontinence in dogs is rather rare and refers to an inability to control bowel or fecal (called canine fecal incontinence) movements. Sometimes dogs lose the ability to control their bowels due to an accident or injury, usually when they become paralyzed in their back legs. In these cases they can wear diapers for dogs that are made for such situations.

Most of the time, though, bowel incontinence is temporary and occurs when a dog is ill and has diarrhea, and cannot wait to go outside. The dog loses control of his bowels and has a bowel movement in the house.

Canine Bowel Incontinence Symptoms

When your dog experiences bowel incontinence, pay attention to the stool. Is it watery? What color is it? Try to get a stool sample to take with you to the vet. Also pay attention to any other symptoms your dog is having. Dogs experiencing incontinence may also be vomiting, may have gas, and may have bloated abdomens.

Diagnosing Bowel Incontinence in Your Dog

If your dog experiences bowel incontinence, he should be seen by a vet. Your vet will examine your dog and will also examine the stool sample you will be asked to bring with you. He or she may do some blood work and also order x-rays to look at your dog's stomach and bowels.

Parasites are a common cause, as well as viruses.

Please note that parvo virus, which can cause severe diarrhea and may cause canine bowel incontinence, can be prevented with annual vaccinations.

Bowel Incontinence Treatment

Treatment for canine bowel incontinence will depend in part on the cause of the problem. Most parasites are easily treated with medication. Antibiotics are given if a bacterial infection is suspected.

Viruses are a bit more difficult to treat. Sometimes you have to just wait those out and give supportive care. There is no cure for some viruses like parvo so only the symptoms can be treated.

Regardless of other treatments, supportive care will also be given. This may include IV or subcutaneous fluids so your dog does not become dehydrated. It will likely also include medication to stop diarrhea (anti-motility drugs). Other symptoms will also be treated. For instance, medication to stop vomiting may be given (anti-emetic drugs).

Diet Changes May Help Bowel Incontinence

Recent studies show that switching to a highly digestible diet can have a curative effect on incontinence such as diarrhea. There are two diets worth considering:

1. Hypoallergic Diet: 

  • Soy hydrolysate
  • Rice
  • Chicken fat
  • Fish oil
  • Soybean and borage oil
  • Beet pulp
  • FOS (fructooligosaccharides)

2. Intestinal Diet:

  • Dehydrated chicken protein
  • Rice
  • Cornmeal
  • Chicken fat
  • Fish oil
  • Soybean and coco oil
  • Chicken liver hydrolysate
  • Beet pulp
  • FOS
  • MOS (mannan oligosaccharide)
  • Zeolite
  • Cellulose

Your veterinarian can help you select a commercial dog food that replicates these suggestions. 

Canine Digestion: Dietary Supplements

Psyllium is a plant that is known for helping dogs with digestive disorders. A diet rich in psyllium helps dogs:

  • Slows down gastric emptying which assists with the proper digestion of proteins
  • Combats diarrhea by regulating the progression of chyme in the small intestine and fecal matter in the colon. Psyllium is used in food for sled dogs to prevent stress diarrhea
  • It reduces constipation by facilitating the elimination of stools

The supplement PetAlive Natural Moves for healthy digestion in dogs is a good source of Psyllium and other herbs such as Avena sativa (known to help with constipation) and Aloe Ferox (has a beneficial effect on digestive functioning).


Treating Acute Diarrhea and Chronic Diarrhea in Dogs
McCluggage, David DVM

Why Does My Dog, Cat, or Ferret Have Diarrhea?
Hines, Ron DVM

Gastrointestinal Motility Disorders of Dogs and Cats
Washabau, Robert J. DVM

The Most Common Digestive Diseases: The Role of Nutrition
A.J. German, Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, and
J. Zentek, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
University of Liverpool