Is Your Adult Dog Suddenly Having Accidents in the House? Here’s What May Be Going On

Guilty dog on carpet
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When a normally well-behaved dog starts having “accidents” in the house, something is up. You might feel that your dog is punishing you for something or is just being difficult, but well-behaved dogs don’t suddenly urinate in the house without a reason. It’s your job to play pet detective to discover what is causing the behavior change.

Possible Causes

Here’s a rundown of common reasons for a dog to suddenly start house soiling:

1. Changes in the family. A child leaving for college, a birth or death, or a divorce can cause distress in many dogs.

2. Home renovations. Remodeling the house, especially with workmen coming and going, can lead to house-training problems. Even a new carpet with different smells can cause some dogs to leave their scent by urinating on it.

3. Deviations in the daily household routine. Dogs feel secure when the family sticks to the daily schedule. If the dog is used to relieving himself at specific times during the day and his schedule is changed, he might have a hard time coping with it. When possible, make changes slowly so the dog can adjust.

4. Feeling stressed or overly excited. Some dogs will leak small amounts of urine when overly excited, fearful, or stressed — it’s called submissive urination. Although more common in puppies, some adult dogs will also do this. It’s most often seen when a person is greeting the puppy or dog.

5. Hormone incontinence. Spayed, middle-aged or senior female dogs might become incontinent due to a lack of estrogen. Estrogen helps maintain muscle tone of the urethral sphincter.

6. Age-related diseases. Kidney disease, cognitive dysfunction syndrome and other conditions affecting senior and geriatric dogs can cause them to urinate more frequently or become incontinent.

7. Other health problems. Infections, tumors, spinal cord injuries, kidney disease and problems with the bladder can cause incontinence in dogs of any age and can lead to house-training accidents. Diseases that cause increased drinking, such as diabetes, may result in increased urination and accidents.

8. Side effects of medications. Some drugs can cause the dog to relieve himself more often and trigger house-training accidents. Talk to your veterinarian about any possible side effects related to the medicine.

Time to Play Pet Detective

If none of these scenarios has occurred and you still can’t pinpoint the reason, it’s time to act like a detective and gather clues. Jot down the answers to these questions:

  • When did the house soiling start?
  • How many accidents has your dog had in the past week, month?
  • Do they occur during the day when you’re away or at night?
  • Do they happen in your dog’s bed while he is sleeping?
  • Does he piddle when he becomes excited?
  • Does he urinate in the same place or several places?

Once you’ve gathered specific details, it’s time to consult your veterinarian and have your dog given a thorough physical exam. If medical reasons have been ruled out, work with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist to identify the cause so that you can take the right corrective actions.

Finally, whatever you do, don’t punish your dog out of frustration. Don’t yell, spank or rub your dog’s nose in the mess. Not only will it not work, it may cause the dog to urinate behind the sofa or other hidden places, making your detecting job all the more difficult.

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