Senior Dog Incontinence: Why Is My Old Dog Peeing in the House?

By: Chewy EditorialUpdated:

old dog peeing in the house
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Senior Dog Incontinence: Why Is My Old Dog Peeing in the House?

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Your dog finished potty training 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 could actually be a sign that something’s awry. In many cases, frequent urination in old dogs is actually a symptom of an underlying medical problem—one that should never be ignored.

Old Dog Incontinence: Accident or Illness?

Dog incontinence, by definition, is the involuntary passing or dribbling of urine. 

“However, sometimes a senior dog has ‘accidents’ in the house, which seems like the same thing,” says Dr. Julie Buzby, DVM, CAVCA, CVA and founder of Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips. “They are essentially two different [problems], though sometimes the same underlying issue can cause both of them.”

Senior dog incontinence or urinating in the house might be a sign of an underlying medical condition, or perhaps even an emotional issue such as stress or a change in routine. If your old dog is peeing in the house, your first step is to see your vet to help rule out a medical problem.

“Senior dogs are often walking a tightrope of health that we need to keep in balance. If an owner notices a change—in water consumption, appetite and certainly dog incontinence—it warrants a veterinary visit,” advises Dr. Buzby.

Common Health Issues That Cause Old Dog Incontinence

Though you won’t be able to diagnose your dog on your own, do make yourself aware of the possible medical conditions associated with an older dog losing control or urinating in the house. This is important so you know what other symptoms to potentially look out for, which in turn can help your vet pinpoint the underlying medical problem.

  • Kidney Disease: Poor kidney function causes your dog to drink more water and urinate more frequently, which can lead to frequent urination in senior dogs and breaks in potty training.
  • Hormonal Imbalance: Diabetes, Cushing’s disease, and thyroid disease are all associated with hormonal imbalances, which can cause incontinence or frequent urination in old dogs. Additional symptoms include increased thirst and urination, as well as hair loss.
  • Urinary Tract Infections: Urinary tract infections can make old dogs start peeing in the house. Your dog may frequently pass small amounts of urine that appear cloudy and/or tinged with blood. 
  • Tumors Within the Urinary Tract: Bladder cancer can cause many of the same symptoms as a urinary tract infection.
  • Arthritis or mobility-limiting conditions: These medical conditions don’t usually cause dog incontinence or frequent urination in senior dogs. However, they can make it more difficult for pets to get outside in time to do their business. 
  • Neurological conditions: Some problems in the brain and other parts of the nervous system can cause senior dog incontinence or urinating in the house.
  • Estrogen deficiency: A lack of estrogen can cause urinary incontinence, particularly in older, spayed female dogs.

Diagnosing Old Dog Incontinence

The quickest way to get a diagnosis for your sweet canine is to head to the vet ASAP. Once your veterinarian sees your dog, they’ll perform a physical examination and collect samples for a minimum database. 

The minimum database includes: 

  • Complete blood count (CBC): his gives your vet more information about the number, size, and shape of your dog’s red and white blood cells. 
  • Chemistry panel: This test can help uncover organ dysfunction. 
  • Thyroid Check: This can help determine why your senior dog is peeing in the house
  • A blood pressure test: Another way to check out what’s going on with your pup’s body. 

This baseline lab work is necessary to assess systemic health, including the urinary system, Dr. Buzby explains. If possible, try to provide your veterinarian with a first-morning urine sample. 

“This first-morning sample is important because it will demonstrate your dog’s best renal [kidney] concentrating ability, since he or she has likely not been drinking overnight to dilute the sample,” says Dr. Buzby. “I would [also] recommend not feeding your dog breakfast the morning of your appointment, though water is fine. [Food] will decrease the likelihood of lipids in the blood sample, which can affect results.”

The best way to get this early morning sample is to prevent your dog from urinating before their vet visit, which is ideally scheduled for shortly after they wake up. This allows your veterinarian to take a sterile urine sample directly from your dog’s bladder—using a needle and syringe—to test for bacteria infection.

“It sounds intimidating, but it’s very simple, fast, and easy,” reassures Dr. Buzby. 

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 and minimize your dog’s indoor accidents. Here are a few tips: 

Clean Up Messes Quickly

Dogs are often drawn to the same areas they’ve peed before, so clean the soiled areas promptly and thoroughly. You can also try an odor-neutralizing product like Nature’s Miracle Dog Stain & Odor Remover is great to have on hand. 

Try a Dog Diaper

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, you can use dog diapers or belly bands to absorb urine and keep your floors clean. Make sure you purchase dog diapers or belly bands that are designed with your dog’s size and anatomy in mind. Wee-Wee Disposable Doggie Diapers come in four sizes and fit both male and female dogs. 

Introduce an Indoor Potty Area 

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 Wee-Wee Patch Indoor Potty

If your senior dog has never been trained to use dog potty pads or an indoor potty, it may 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 “bathroom,” just as you would when you first started the potty training process.

It’s certainly no fun living with senior dog incontinence or frequent urination in old dogs. Remember, there’s probably an underlying issue that’s causing your dog to lose control of their bladder. Instead of defaulting to frustration, try to approach the situation with some love, kindness, patience, and a problem-solving mentality. 

Thankfully, help is on hand—both through your veterinarian and with ingenious dog care products—to help ensure that you and your dog continue to enjoy a good quality of life together. 

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By: Chewy EditorialUpdated:

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