Your dog was house-trained years ago, but you’re suddenly beginning to find a few drops of urine in their dog bed, or puddles around the house. Many pet parents think their old dog peeing in the house is a normal sign of canine aging, but it can also be a symptom of an underlying problem—one that should never be ignored.
Old Dog Incontinence: Accident or Illness?
“Dog incontinence, by definition, is the involuntary leaking or dribbling of urine,” says Julie Buzby, DVM, CAVCA, CVA and founder of Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips. “However, sometimes a senior dog has ‘accidents’ in the house, which seems like the same thing. They are essentially two different [problems], though sometimes the same underlying issue can cause both of them.”
A senior dog peeing in the house could be caused by medical dog incontinence, or an emotional issue such as stress or a change in routine. You should see your vet to rule out a medical issue if your old dog is peeing in the house.
“Senior dogs are often walking a tightrope of health that we need to keep in balance; they’re walking the line. If an owner notices a change—in water consumption, appetite and certainly dog incontinence—it warrants a veterinary visit,” Dr. Buzby advises.
Common Health Issues That Cause Old Dog Incontinence
Though you won’t be able to diagnose your dog on your own, you should be aware of the possible medical issues behind your older dog urinating in the house. This is important so you know what other symptoms to potentially look out for, which will help your vet pinpoint the underlying issue.
- Diabetes, Cushing’s Disease and Kidney Disease: These diseases cause your dog to drink more water and urinate more frequently, which can lead to your housebroken older dog urinating in the house.
- Thyroid Disease: Thyroid disease can cause dog incontinence, as well as lethargy, weight gain, hair loss and oily skin.
- A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI): UTIs can also cause old dogs to start peeing in the house. Your dog may frequently pass small amounts of urine, which may be cloudy or tinged with blood. Urethral or bladder cancer can cause similar symptoms.
- Arthritis or mobility-limiting conditions: These conditions don’t typically cause dog incontinence, but they make it more difficult for your dog to get outside in time to do their business—and that can lead to your older dog peeing inside.
- Neurological conditions:
Some problems in the brain and nervous system can lead to a dog who can’t control their bladder and sphincter (outflow gate).
- Estrogen deficiency: A lack of estrogen can cause dog incontinence, particularly in older, spayed females.
Diagnosing Old Dog Incontinence
When you take your dog to the vet for their exam, your vet will begin collecting samples for a minimum database. “This is baseline lab work necessary to assess systemic health, including, of course the urinary system,” Dr. Buzby explains.
It’s best to provide your veterinarian with a first morning urine sample, if possible.
“This first morning sample is important because it will demonstrate your dog’s best renal concentrating ability, since he or she has likely not been drinking overnight to dilute the sample,” Dr. Buzby says.
You should avoid letting your dog urinate before the vet visit in case the veterinarian needs to take a sterile urine sample directly from your dog’s bladder using a needle to test for bacteria growth.
“It sounds intimidating, but is very simple, fast and easy,” reassures Dr. Buzby.
To determine why your senior dog is peeing in the house, your vet may run additional tests, such as a complete blood test (CBC), which gives vets more information about the number, size and shape of your dog’s red and white blood cells; a blood pressure test, or biochemistry panel that may include a thyroid check.
“I would recommend not feeding your dog breakfast the morning of your appointment, though water is fine,” Dr. Buzby says. “It will decrease the likelihood of lipids in the blood sample, which can affect results.”
Reducing Messes When Your Senior Dog Is Urinating in the House
As you work with your vet to determine why your senior dog is peeing in the house, you will need to find ways to keep your home clean. Cleaning soiled areas promptly and thoroughly reduces the chance that your dog will have recurring accidents in the same places. An odor-neutralizing urine spray like Nature’s Miracle Dog Stain & Odor Remover is great to have on-hand.
Even though your senior dog is urinating in the house, it’s not OK to limit their water intake, even at night or when you are at work. Particularly for a senior dog with health issues, limiting access to water could cause serious harm.
Instead, if your older dog is peeing inside, you can use Wee Wee Disposable Doggie Diapers to absorb urine and keep your floors clean. You can also bring the bathroom indoors, so to speak, for dogs who can no longer wait to be let outside. You can use disposable Frisco Training & Potty Pads, or the reusable Wee Wee Patch Indoor Potty.
If your senior has never been trained to use dog potty pads or an indoor potty, it can help to soak up some of their urine with a paper towel and place it over the new potty area so they will be attracted to their own scent. Praise and reward your dog for using the new potty area, just as you would when you first house-trained them.