This article was updated on November 9th, 2023
We get a lot of questions from dog owners who are worried about their senior dogs peeing in the house and suddenly becoming incontinent. It can be a frustrating situation for owners who now need to clean up after their pets and, naturally, for their senior friends who are no longer able to control their bladders.
Several owners have asked our veterinarians if incontinence is a sign that they should humanely euthanize. We know how deeply owners agonize over the decision to put their old dogs down, so our expert veterinary team has come together to guide you through this tough decision. In this article, keep an eye out for valuable advice from Dr. Linda Simon and Dr. Jamie Whittenburg.
3 essential factors to consider if your senior dog is incontinent
Before you make the decision to euthanize, you should consider the following:
1. Accidental indoor peeing by a senior dog is usually due to a medical issue
Note: If you already know why your senior dog is incontinent (for example due to a cancer or ongoing health situation), skip to the next section.
Otherwise, Dr. Whittenburg recommends the following:
“If your old dog has suddenly started peeing in the house and you don’t know what is causing this, you should know that an old dog peeing in the house is often the result of a serious medical condition: decreasing hormone levels, urinary tract infections, stress, or doggie dementia can all be conditions that can cause incontinence.”
Veterinarian Director at SeniorTailWaggers.com
Your veterinarian might be able to put a treatment in place to help your senior dog, as advised by Dr. Linda Simon:
“In most cases, your veterinarian will be able to come up with a treatment plan that can help your dog. If you have not done so yet, visit your veterinarian to identify the cause of your dog’s incontinence. You might be able to solve the situation for your canine friend to ensure a long and happy life and avoid having to euthanize simply because of incontinence.”
Veterinarian at SeniorTailWaggers.com
Common reasons behind incontinence
Let’s take a closer look at the most common medical reasons why your senior dog may be experiencing incontinence:
Old age: Accidental indoor peeing may be due to old age when urine leaks or dribbles out. Your older dog may not even be aware that this is happening. Leaks are often due to poor muscle tone in the urinary sphincter. This may happen when your dog is resting, and you may notice your dog’s bed getting wet spots.
Stress: Your dog may squat to urinate because of stress or to mark the territory. A dog can get stressed for a number of reasons. This could be when a new pet comes to the house or when there is a significant change in the environment.
Dropping hormone levels: This is often seen in senior spayed female dogs. Hormones are needed to maintain the tone of the sphincter muscle, which keeps the urine in the bladder.
Urinary tract infections: If your senior dog has a frequent and urgent need to pee, it might be due to a urinary tract infection. Other symptoms often include cloudy urine, traces of blood in urine, or frequent licking at the genitals.
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD): CCD is very similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. Senior dogs may be peeing indoors because they have ‘forgotten’ that they are supposed to do business outside. Old dogs with this condition can be unaware of their surroundings and actions and might not even realize they are peeing.
2. If a treatment plan can’t help your dog, doggie incontinence products might help
If your vet does not think that there is an effective treatment plan to help prevent your senior dog from peeing inside the house, there are incontinence products and solutions that can help you manage this challenging situation:
“There are many things you can do to help manage your old friend’s incontinence. For example, using dog diapers, waterproof beds or blankets can make life with an incontinent dog a lot easier.”
Veterinarian at SeniorTailWaggers.com
Here are five helpful, at-home solutions suggested by our veterinarians:
1. Dog Diapers: Dog diapers will help protect your carpets, bedding, and furniture from constantly being dripped on or flooded when your old dog is peeing in the house. Read more about dog diapers.
2. Dog Urine Clean-Up Products: Having the right urine odor and stain removal products at hand can make it a lot less frustrating. We have tried just about all the most popular products and have included the ones that have passed in-home testing in our list of recommended urine cleaning products.
3. Waterproof Dog Beds: If your old dog has accidents while sleeping, a water-resistant bed (or crate pad) can make life easier for you and more comfortable for your dog. Learn more about waterproof dog beds.
4. Waterproof Blankets: If your old dog is using your couch, bed, or expensive area rug, consider additional protection. Waterproof or rubber-backed sheets or blankets can protect your furniture. View our recommended waterproof blankets/sheets to protect your home.
5. Waterproof Car Seat Covers: If you take your old dog with you in the car, think about adding a waterproof seat cover. You can buy one for less than $40-50 and it might save you a lot of trouble. See our recommendations for waterproof car seat covers.
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3. Is it time to euthanize your dog if treatments or incontinence products can’t help?
Incontinence in itself is not a reason to euthanize your dog.
“There are definitely other factors you should consider (beyond your old friend’s incontinence) to make this challenging euthanasia decision. Unfortunately, incontinence can be a part of the aging process, but is not in and of itself, a reason to end your dog’s life. Check out our 6-point scale below.”
Veterinarian at SeniorTailWaggers.com
The key questions in our “Quality of Life” scale are:
- How easy is it for your dog to eat?
- How easy is it for your dog to drink?
- Is your dog in pain?
- Does your dog seem happy? (Do they show excitement and are they responsive to their environment?)
- Does your dog need assistance to move?
- Can your dog potty easily?
If you’d like to know more, you can take our quiz: Is it Time to Put Your Old Dog to Sleep? You’ll answer each question on a scale of 1 to 5 and then get our personal opinion on the situation. Remember, though, that, as the dog owner, you are in the best position to make the decision that is right for your best friend.
There’s often a relationship between a dog and its owner that is more ‘sixth sense’ than it is physical communication. Your gut instinct may well guide you when it comes to choosing the right, or best, time to help them reach the Rainbow Bridge.
There’s no single way to make this difficult decision, as every dog, every owner, and every situation (and combination of these three) is different. We have also put together a list of helpful links in the next section.
We encourage you to view our page: Putting Your Dog To Sleep – A Heart-Wrenching Kindness to help you with this challenging situation. We also have more resources to help you through the process linked below:
- Putting Your Dog to Sleep – A Final Act Of Love
- When Is The ‘Right’ Time? Signs To Put Your Dog to Sleep
- What Happens During The Euthanasia Process?
- How Do I Say Goodbye To My Dog?
- 18 Things to Do Before Putting Your Dog To Sleep
Disclaimer: This website's content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian for healthcare decisions. Read More.