The Water Bowl
Breed & Health Resources

Tips for Coping with Incontinent Pets

By Roxanne Hawn

old black dog with bathroom issues

One of my dogs has been entirely incontinent – both ways – for nearly eight months. Through trial and error as well as from the wise counsel of friends, I’ve discovered a few strategies that may help if you find yourself in a similar situation.

Pet Diaper Options

  • Washable diapers / belly bands: If your dog or cat is merely leaky, washable dog diapers or belly bands (for male pets) probably absorb enough to protect your home from leaks.
  • Washable diapers + incontinence pads: If your pet is fully incontinent, then you’ll need something much more powerful on the diaper front. I’ve settled on a combination of a washable dog diaper with a women’s incontinence pad stuck inside.
  • Adult diapers / incontinence briefs (especially for larger dogs): Some people use binder clips or even a little duct tape to get these adult disposable briefs to fit better.
  • Baby diapers (especially for cats, smaller dogs, or pets who are paralyzed): Some people use two diapers at once for male dogs to protect both “ends” at the same time.
  • Boys’ underwear turned backwards with the fly hole serving as the tail hole: Again, you’ll need to line the underwear with an absorbent incontinence pad. Since you can purchase whole packs of boys’ underwear for much less than dog diapers, this can be a good, affordable solution – particularly if the incontinence is short lived.

Diaper Caution

If your incontinent pet requires steroids for medical reasons, be careful. Since steroids often cause pets to feel crazy hungry, some – like my dog – decide to eat their diapers. We were lucky and never faced a true digestive blockage, but it’s definitely possible, depending on how much of the diaper a pet eats and how absorbent it is.

For this reason, my dog does not wear a diaper when she is home alone or when she sleeps at night. We’ve created an x-pen bedroom, including her crate (door off) and other bedding options, in a spot with impervious floors. She stays there when she cannot be supervised.

Pet Bedding

Living with an incontinent pet means doing a lot of laundry. To ease the burden, use inexpensive fleece blankets or other bedding that dries quickly and can tolerate whatever cleaning products you use to get the stains and stink out.

At our house, bedding options include:

  • Pet bed wrapped in a trash bag, then covered with blankets
  • Old towels
  • Old bathmats (great because of rubber back lining)
  • Cheap fleece fabric / blankets

Check local garage sales and thrift stores for inexpensive items for pet bedding. Sometimes you can also find fleece fabric on sale. Buy several yards, and cut it into bed-blanket size.

Washable Pee Pads

I also highly recommend getting several washable “pee pads” from a medical supply company. In nursing homes or hospitals, they often refer to these pads as “chucks.” They feature a top fabric that wicks moisture away from the skin to help prevent sores and a bottom material that keeps leaks from getting onto bedding or furniture.

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