When a previously house-trained older dog is peeing in the house, and it’s not just a one-off ‘accident’, it’s easy to get frustrated…. and normal to worry. You’re definitely not the first owner to wonder what is going on, and what you can do to stop it.
There are several reasons why an adult dog might begin to pee indoors, most of them are physical, but some can be due to emotions or stress. His inappropriate behavior isn’t the cause of the problem, it’s a symptom of one.
Why Is Your Old Dog Peeing Inside the House?
If you have an adult dog who’s been potty trained for years but suddenly starts to urinate indoors, then it’s a good idea to get him check-up with your veterinarian.
The medical causes of this behavior issue can be something simple, or a more serious condition.
Here are some of the most common causes for this behavior:
Sometimes this issue is simply age-related because as your dog gets older, he loses muscle tone, and his body systems aren’t as efficient as they once were.
- Urine leaks, dribbles or floods
- May happen when dog is sleeping
- Poor muscle tone due to old age: Muscles around the bladder/sphincter lose elasticity with age and that means Fido isn’t able to control the flow of urine properly.
- Hormone induced incontinence
Dropping hormone levels
Dropping hormone levels are most often seen in senior spayed female dogs, but it can happen to male too. Estrogen is needed to maintain the tone of the sphincter muscle, which keeps the urine in the bladder. A drop in hormones can cause urinary incontinence and/or thyroid dysfunction.
There are several different treatment options for this problem, and your veterinarian can diagnose and treat it.
Urinary Tract Infection
- Frequent & urgent need to pee: he/she needs to ‘go’ a lot more often than normal… and that the urge to pee seems to be… well… suddenly extremely urgent! Plus, Fifi may only pass a few drops of urine even though she’s been dancing around in circles as if her bladder was bursting.
- Cloudy urine
- Traces of blood in urine
- Frequent licking at genitals
Urinary tract infection: Any dog can get a urinary tract infection, although it’s most often seen in females. Urinary tract infections are usually cured pretty easily, but you NEED to get the right antibiotic prescription from your vet. Although they’re obviously uncomfortable (even painful) for your dog, and inconvenient for everyone, UTI’s are generally not serious to begin with.
However, repeated UTI’s can also be caused by diabetes, kidney problems and bladder/kidney stones. If you leave the problem untreated it can become serious and affect other organs such as the kidneys. If you think that your dog (or pup) may have a bladder infection like this, get her examined by your vet right away.
Kidney Infections / Disease
Kidney infections can occasionally show only the symptoms of urinary tract infection, but more often there are other symptoms as well:
WATCH: 3 Important Tips To Care For an Old Dog [VET VIDEO]
- Excessive thirst
- Increased urination
- Kidney ‘insufficiency’
- Kidney stones
- Kidney failure
Many senior dogs have ‘kidney disease’ (this means that their kidneys aren’t filtering out toxins efficiently). Two of the most common symptoms of failing kidneys is excessive thirst and increased urination. But you’re likely to see both of these as symptoms of several other conditions, so don’t jump to the conclusion of kidney disease just based on this.
It is MORE common to see additional symptoms when the kidneys are involved, but this doesn’t ALWAYS happen.
Only your veterinarian can make an accurate diagnosis after a full exam. Kidney disease can be treated with many different medications, which your vet will choose based on your individual dog. Your dog may also need intravenous fluid therapy to flush out excess urea in the blood. But your veterinarian is the best person to determine the most appropriate treatment.
- Excessive thirst
- Increased urination
- Increased appetite
- Weight loss
- Repeated UTI’s
Diabetes: Two very common symptoms of diabetes in dogs are increased thirst, and increased urination. So, if your older dog is peeing in the house and seems to be extra-thirsty, this is something you need to rule out.
This is a condition that you need to get under control otherwise it can cause serious health problems for your dog, so if you notice these symptoms get your old dog to your vet asap.
Diabetes needs to be treated with insulin, which will probably require twice daily injections, as well as a diet change.
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
- Increased appetite
- Thinning coat/hair
- Swollen belly
- Loss of muscle tone/strength
- Cushing’s Disease
Cushing’s disease happens when your dog’s adrenal glands aren’t functioning, and his body if flooded with the natural steroid cortisol. This can produce all kinds of different symptoms, including increased urination.
Again, these signs could point to several different problems, so you need to get Fido a checkup so that your vet knows what to treat.
There are two types of Cushing’s disease: pituitary dependent and adrenal dependent. Pituitary dependent Cushing’s disease can be treated medically with either trilostane or mitotane, whereas adrenal dependent Cushing’s disease is better treated with surgery.
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
- Sleep disruptions
- Loss of appetite
- Behavior changes
- Shaking, trembling, panting
An older dog peeing in the house frequently, especially a ‘senior’ dog (and large or extra-large breeds can be considered seniors as early as seven years old), might be suffering from this condition.
It’s also known as ‘Old Dog Syndrome’ and is very similar to human Alzheimers Disease or dementia. In this case, the physical cause for the unusual peeing isn’t located in the bladder/kidneys, but in Fido’s brain.
The changes that are going on there make him confused, and he might be urinating indoors because he’s ‘forgotten’ that he’s supposed to do his business in the yard. Sometimes old dogs with this condition seem to be unaware of their surroundings, or actions, and he might not even realize he’s peeing (or pooping) at the time, or afterwards.
There are lots of different symptoms of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, and urinary incontinence is just one of them.
Although this all sounds worrying, there are things you and your veterinarian can do to help your senior dog if he does turn out to be experiencing old dog syndrome.
Sometimes these symptoms can come on very slowly and owners think it’s just that their pooch is getting old. But normal aging doesn’t make a dog upset, anxious, miserable or confused! Your vet can make a diagnosis and make sure Fido gets the right treatment. There are medical options available to improve the functioning of the brain.
Emotional Causes of Inappropriate Pee Habits
There can be emotional triggers for your older dog’s sudden incontinence. These include:
If your dog is male, and he hasn’t been neutered, then when he reaches sexual maturity or adulthood he might begin scent-marking.
This is a normal territorial behavior and has nothing to do with house-training!
A dog who is lifting his leg to urinate on door-frames, furniture legs, wall corners and so on could simply be staking his claim. He’s basically saying ‘this is mine!’.
Older adult dogs who have never shown this behavior before can suddenly start to if a new dog joins the family, or a new person moves into the home.
Once a dog is fully mature and has started to scent-mark or spray, neutering is very unlikely to change that behavior.
Consistent correction (a firm ‘No’ and redirecting Fido’s attention), often reduces the problem over time, it might even eliminate it.
Failing that, belly-bands can be used to ‘catch’ the urine so that your furniture, carpets and home aren’t constantly being sprayed.
When you combine these two methods, that’s when you most often get the best results, because the belly-bands protect your home while your dog is learning that this behavior is a no-no in the human world.
Anxiety Or Stress
Dogs of all ages can get nervous or stressed when there are big changes in their lives (or sometimes even small ones).
Plus, some dogs are naturally just more anxious than others.
But some older dogs become especially fragile emotionally as they age, and loud noises, strange people, car rides, storms…. even things they were previously fine with are suddenly scary for them.
This kind of anxiety can lead to all sorts of nervous behaviors, including urinating indoors at odd times.
Submissive urination happens when your dog fears the person/dog/object he’s being confronted by, or if that person/dog is seen as the ‘alpha’ or superior.
Separation anxiety happens if he suddenly becomes terrified when you’re not within sight, or when you leave the house.
If he gets hysterical, he could quite easily lose control of his bladder and bowels, no matter where he is.
ANY significant change, especially big ones like a new dog/pet in the family, a new baby, a house move, someone moving in, or moving out…. can destabilize your older dog’s emotional balance.
This can cause physical symptoms such as urinating indoors, acting ‘clingy’, refusing to eat, depression and so on.
And physical changes such as hearing or vision loss, canine dysfunction syndrome, or chronic pain can all make Fido ‘jittery’ or worried, which makes everything more difficult for him to handle.
Check out this page to learn all about the causes, symptoms and treatment of anxiety in senior dogs…. Old Dog Anxiety
Incontinence products that can help….
There are doggie diapers, waterproof dog beds and urine clean up products which can help make your golden oldies’ weak bladder less uncomfortable for him/her – and less stressful for you!
Click here to find the best dog incontinence products….
Collecting A Urine Sample From Your Dog
In most cases, your veterinarian will need to test a sample of your dog’s urine to find out what’s causing the ‘peeing’ problems.
Sometimes he/she will ask you to collect a sample and bring it in.
This means you need to ‘catch’ the urine while Fido or Fifi is urinating – easier said than done!
I recommend that your helper be the ‘catcher’ because if you do it, your dog is more likely to turn around and try to figure out what’s going on. That can make the whole procedure messy.
If you’re keeping his attention at the ‘head’ end, the ‘business’ end will be less likely to move!
The best way to do this is to ask someone else to help you, because it’s very tricky to do all by yourself.
With your dog on a leash, take him to his potty spot and while you keep his attention, your ‘assistant’ needs to use a very CLEAN container to catch the urine, mid-stream if possible.
Remember, never use a jar which has had something sweet in it at one point, as residual sugars may lead to an incorrect diagnosis of diabetes.
You don’t need a whole jar of urine, most tests only need two or three milliliters.
Once you do have your sample, make sure to refrigerate it until it’s time to get it to the vet’s office.
When an infection is suspected, your veterinarian will often want to take a sample of urine directly from your dog’s bladder (this is called a ‘cystocentesis’ sample).
This isn’t nearly as difficult as it sounds and is the most accurate way to find out exactly what type of bacteria or infection is causing the problems!
How To Handle Your Old Dog Peeing Indoors
Having your old dog peeing in the house is messy, disruptive, frustrating and sad… for everyone.
But, you don’t have to just put up with the puddles and pee spots, there are ways to keep your golden oldie dryer and more comfortable… and protect your carpets and furniture too.
To Wrap It All Up…
Okay, so we’ve covered all the most common reasons for an older dog peeing in the house and now you know what each group of symptoms could mean.
If there are signs of a physical problem, please do get Fido examined by your veterinarian just as soon as you can.
The quicker you get a diagnosis the easier it will be to treat the problem!
Related Article: Our Top 5 Tips to Care for Your Senior Dog
by Veterinarian Alex Crow.