What Causes Fecal Incontinence and What You Can Do About It

You may have never heard of fecal incontinence, but it is a very real issue for some dogs. A result of such things as spinal injuries and intestinal disorders, fecal incontinence causes a dog to lose control of his bowel movements. Needless to say, this medical issue is very distressing for both the dog and the owner.


A dog with fecal incontinence will experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Scooting on the floor. This may indicate a condition involving the anal sacs/glands
  • Defecating where they shouldn’t such as inside the home
  • Bloated abdomen
  • Tenderness or aversion to being touched near tail, loss of tone and voluntary movement of the tail

 What Causes Fecal Incontinence?

 There are numerous things that can cause fecal incontinence:

  • Diseases can sometimes decrease the capacity of the rectum to function properly
  • Nerve damage, spinal cord disease, or neural disorder that disables the sphincter's ability to function
  • Infection or abscess of the anal sacs
  • Muscle damage – anal reflex is absent or weakened
  • Parasites – intestinal worms
  • Diet or medications
  • Perianal fistula


It’s important to mention that gastrointestinal diseases may also cause your pet to defecate and is not necessarily an indication of fecal incontinence. Gastrointestinal diseases often cause weight loss, vomiting, spasms of the urogenital diaphragm and a desire to evacuate the bowel or bladder. If your dog or cat has any of these symptoms, take them to your vet.


Your veterinarian will need a full history of your dog or cat’s health, including a history of symptoms. If you think you may know what is causing your dog’s incontinence, for example a recent back injury, share this with the vet.

Along with a proper physical examination, with a focus on the muscles of the anus and sphincter, your vet will want to run a complete blood profile, a complete blood count, a urinalysis and a fecal analysis. If an infection or parasite is present, it will most likely turn up through one of these diagnostic methods.


Once your vet has discovered the underlying cause of the fecal incontinence, he or she will opt for a treatment to resolve it if possible. For instance, if parasites are the culprit, medication will be administered to rid your fur baby’s GI tract of the parasites.

If it has been determined that your dog or cat has food allergies, you may try alternating their diet.

Some pets with rectal abnormalities will benefit from surgical reconstruction. For those suffering from back end paralysis, there are a couple of strategies you can try. Once outside, you can try and induce defecation by pinching the tail or pelvis, or by applying a warm washcloth to the anus.

Those dogs who are incontinent because of a behavioral issue will need proper training, along with a low stress environment in which your dog feels safe and non-threatened.

And finally, there are also drug treatments such as opiate motility-modifying drugs and anti-inflammatory agents that can help as well.

As we mentioned earlier, this condition can be very trying and stressful on everyone involved. Understand your dog is not trying to “be bad” or upset you. They can’t help it. Many owners become fed up and banish their fur baby to the back yard or garage. But this is often a stressful situation to the animal, particularly if it is too cold or hot outside.

A much more humane solution, and one that can keep the family together under one roof, is to use durable and washable dog diapers. Pet Parent’s diapers fit dogs and cats, from the biggest to the smallest and everything in between. They also come in a variety of colors.

Dog Diapers

Fecal incontinence isn’t necessarily fun to deal with. But luckily there are treatments and options available.