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My Pet World: Urinary incontinence in dogs can be frustrating to manage

By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

I have a problem with Buster, my 2-year-old Jack Russell Terrier. Buster loves attention, especially from new people or people he doesn't see often. The problem is, he pees when he gets excited. I'll let him out beforehand if I know someone is coming over. I also have unexpected guests go to the back door when they come in. This has been effective.

My real problem is when company comes over for a few hours. Buster gets so excited and focused on playing with guests to the point where he will start leaking on the floor without warning. It's like he lets out a little urine to relieve the sensation of a full bladder and keeps playing like it never happened. Other times, when he realizes has to go, he will run to the door, possibly leaking. Either way, I let him out to empty his bladder.

This can happen again in as little as 10-15 minutes. I am constantly asking Buster if he needs to go out because I don't want anyone or anything getting peed on. I understand he's amped up, but Buster doesn't do this when it's just us around. Even if he's rowdy, Buster will let us know if he needs to go out. On regular days, he holds it normally and can sleep eight hours at night without any issues.

Any advice besides avoiding people? He's neutered if that makes any difference. -- Sean, New York, NY

Dear Sean,

If Buster did this all of the time, I would say he suffered from urinary incontinence and that you should see a veterinarian, since there are medications out there that can support bladder health. He still may benefit from such medications, so a vet visit should be in your plans. But the fact that Buster can hold his bladder when there are no guests around suggests he may be showing signs of submission urination.

Submission urination is basically an insecure dog letting people around him know he is not a threat. Some dogs do this when they meet people and once they calm down are fine. Others may do it when they feel intimidated or, in Buster's case, over excited. It can be difficult to manage.

Buster doesn't have to give up people. Instead, continue letting guests greet Buster in the yard and ask them to keep their interactions low-key -- no high baby voices or overenthusiastic greetings, just calm soothing voices. Also ask guests to not bend over him to pet him as this is a dominant posture that can trigger submissive urination. Instead, train Buster to sit and let guests offer him a treat, which puts him in a more positive posture, which may reduce these occurrences.

These tips, however, may not halt the problem entirely, so you may consider using reusable (washable) doggie diapers when guests come over.

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