If Your Old Dog is Peeing In the House, It is Time to Euthanize?

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This article was updated on February 13th, 2024

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 questions to consider if your senior dog is incontinent

Before you make the decision to euthanize, you should consider the following:

1. Is there a veterinarian treatment that can prevent your dog from peeing inside?

Note: If you already know why your senior dog is incontinent (for example due to a cancer or an ongoing health situation), skip to the next section.

Accidental indoor peeing by a senior dog is usually due to a medical issue, and your vet can likely help, as Dr. Whittenburg explains:

“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.”
Dr. Jamie Whittenburg

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.
Dr. Linda Simon, Veterinarian

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 solve the issue, would these doggie incontinence products 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.

Dr. Linda Simon explains: “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.”

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.

dog in a diaper

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.

waterproof car seat cover

Learn about managing old dog incontinence or find other recommendations for the most helpful dog incontinence products.

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, as Linda Dr. Simon explains:

“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.”
Dr. Linda Simon, Veterinarian

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.

Helpful Links

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:

Related posts:

dog peeing inside What to Do if Your Old Dog Suddenly Started Peeing Inside Because of Emotional Reasons - We have reviewed in depth the reason causing old dogs to suddenly start peeing inside the house. Most of the… [...]
Old Dog Incontinence - Old dog incontinence is more common in spayed females, but leaky plumbing can affect dogs of both sexes. It also… [...]
dog pee on the floor Old Dog Peeing Inside: Our Veterinarians Explain What to Do - When a previously house-trained older dog is peeing in the house, and it's not just a one-off 'accident', it's easy… [...]
Best Dog Incontinence Products - Dog incontinence products are designed to make life with a leaky-dog easier for everyone. It doesn't matter whether your dogs'… [...]

Author

  • Dr Whittenburg, Hospital Director

    Dr. Jamie Whittenburg is a Veterinarian Director at 'Senior Tail Waggers' and Director and Owner of Kingsgate Animal Hospital, a full-service animal hospital in Lubbock, TX. She graduated from Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) and has over 17 years of experience working as a veterinarian & hospital director.

    View all posts https://www.vet.k-state.edu/ https://www.usatoday.com/money/blueprint/author/jwhittenburg/

Disclaimer: This website's content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian for healthcare decisions. Read More.

6 Comments

  1. Anyone that would put their dog down because of incontinence is a MONSTER. Would you euthanize your elderly parent if they start wetting themselves, or if they have dementia??? I think not! Why is it okay to take a dog’s life for such silly reasons? There should be some sort of law in place to protect these animals from being euthanized for ridiculous reasons. Unless your dog is in excruciating pain that cannot be managed, or is in the end stages of an incurable disease such as cancer or liver disease and is suffering, you should NOT have the right to take his or her life indiscriminately! A dog being “old” is NOT a reason to take his or her life. So what he can’t get around like he used to. That happens to almost all elderly peopole. Does that mean we should eliminate them? Why is that okay to do to our pets???

    • I’m in that situation at the minute, just had new carpet laid all over the house. My dog is 13 and peeing everywhere, I’ve put some puppy pads down, I don’t want to let her go at all (I couldn’t give a fiddlers about the carpet it can always be cleaned) she is fine in every other aspect eating sleeping playing etc, but she gets so stressed when she pees in the house as she knows it’s wrong. I know the time I’d coming and it’s breaking my heart but I will be holding onto her as long as possible.

    • I hope that when I am old and have dementia and am peeing and pooping myself on a daily basis, someone would be kind enough to me to take me out of my misery.

  2. My baby girl Adea is 15yrs old now. She’s blind, losing her hearing. I recently noticed that she has been having small seizures. Sometimes she loses her balance of her hind legs. I’m sorry that I don’t want her to suffer but I don’t want to be selfish and keep her here for me if she’s suffering. Man…this is hurting me so bad to even think about putting her to sleep but I know I need some help with this decision. Please help with comments.thanks

    • Hi there. I’m so sorry you’re going through this with Adea, and know how hard it is to watch them aging and to consider they could be suffering or in any sort of pain.

      It may be useful for you to look at things objectively, by filling in this questionnaire that focuses on quality of life: https://journeyspet.com/pet-quality-of-life-scale-calculator/

      It is rare that a pet owner will come to me and are certain with their decision that ‘it is time’. More often than not, there is an internal struggle. It does not seem natural to make that decision for an animal that we love and that is part of our family. I think it is important to focus on what is best for them. If Adea is deteriorating rapidly, we need to consider what her future might look like.

      I’d encourage you to book a check up with your vet who can assess her in person. It may be she would benefit from some medicine that can increase her quality of life e.g. some anti seizure medicine or pain relief if she has got some joint disease.

      “The information on this website is not a substitute for in-person veterinary care. Always seek advice from your veterinarian if you have concerns about your pet’s medical condition.”

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