Dr. Patty Khuly's Dogs

Take it from me: Cohabitating with an incontinent dog can be very frustrating.

We're talking about unexpected slippery puddles, the smelly messes in the corner, all that shampooing and — in the worst cases — the various health problems that can arise when dogs chronically leak urine and stool onto their skin and fur.

But we love them so much, so we muddle through with whatever ministrations our veterinarian recommends, along with the products that online pet catalogs describe as the newest miracle cure for house soiling. Anything to beat the stress of the mess!

And I should know: I live with three incontinent dogs.

Now, technically, only one suffers from true medical incontinence, as a result of spinal cord disease. My other dog's congenital hydrocephalus renders him incapable of understanding where he needs to urinate or defecate — in fact, 75 percent of dogs with this disease can never be housebroken. And my third dog's old head trauma means that I tend to give him a pass whenever he marks the other dogs’ messes.


In the end, dealing with soiling on a chronic basis comes down to lots of patience — and a good bit of help from those whose job it is to design, manufacture and recommend products that can reduce your daily burden.

And since I’m beset with my own band of not-so-continent brothers, I’m perhaps better suited than most to evaluate these products on their own merit. That said, I offer you this brief list of useful items.

DIY Urine-Wicking Accessories

Each year, I’m treated to a new crop of “innovative” designs for wearable incontinence protection. And while some products may be a tad more durable or more effective than others, they’re all pretty much the same.

In the end, their subpar effectiveness always comes down to less-than-stellar absorbency and wicking ability, which is why I’ve taken to making my own.

All you need is some sturdy cloth (old jeans are great), a Velcro fastening kit (available at any craft store) and a box of super-absorbent sanitary napkins, baby diapers or adult incontinence pads with which to line them. Bonus: Scissors can do all the work, so no sewing machine is needed! Google “DIY diapers and belly bands for dogs” for ideas. 

It's key that the band fit snugly — and that you use the highest-quality, most appropriately sized absorbent product to meet your dog’s needs.

Bedding for Bed Wetters

A large number of afflicted dogs will only leak while sleeping, so good bedding is serious business — no one wants to go through three expensive orthopedic foam cushions a month.

Those large, padded diaper sheets can be great, but I’ve also found them to be a tad unreliable, especially for pets who circle before lying down. And covering a dog bed with a plastic bag has proven to be ineffective for me because my dogs either rip it or refuse to lie down on it.

Enter the SleePee-Time Bed, which is designed with comfy but porous fleece through which urine can pass and collect in a plastic tray, leaving a pet's body as dry as possible. One of my clients swears by it, but I’ve yet to try it on my own bedtime pee-ers. Stay tuned!

Must-Have Cleanup Supplies

I’m not a great cleaner, in general, but I do have two tricks up my sleeve when it comes to eliminating evidence of pee and poop, which only serves to beget more messes.

1. Buy a black light. Knowing where the urine is located is half the battle. And since urine lights up when you point a black light at it, getting an inexpensive black light wand is a great investment.

2. Stock up on enzymatic cleaners. By breaking down the proteins in urine and stool, you limit the area’s future reuse as a potty spot.

Behavior Modification

This post wouldn't be complete without offering a brief note on the subject of prevention and veterinary intervention, especially if inappropriate house soiling is occurring.

Behavior modification and the treatment of potential underlying diseases — this includes kidney disease, bladder stones, hormone-related incontinence and arthritis — must be a component of any multipronged approach to improving the quality of life for both you and your pet.

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