Jack Russell dog who peed on the carpet

Remember not to punish your dog, if they have an accident in the house.

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Why is my dog having accidents in the house all of a sudden?

By Dr. Laura Waring BVetMed MRCVS Veterinarian

Updated on the

From medical issues to anxiety and old age, there are plenty of reasons why your dog is suddenly having accidents in the house.

When you first bring a young puppy home, you will need to train it. One of the first things your new friend needs to learn is housetraining, so that your puppy goes to the toilet outside the house. This process will require a lot of patience, consistency and positive rewards.

It is very normal during the process for your puppy to have some accidents in the house. If it happens (which it inevitably will), do not scold your puppy, they won't understand what they have done wrong. Instead when your puppy manages to toilet outside praise them and offer them a small, tasty treat right away. They will soon make the association that this is where they should go to the toilet.

Occasionally a puppy who has cracked house training might suffer a regression in behaviour and start to have accidents again. Don't panic, be calm with your puppy and go back to the original training techniques to reinforce its learning. If the accidents persist in a previously trained puppy, then it would be prudent to have a check-up at the vets to ensure nothing else is causing the problem.

Why is my dog suddenly having accidents in the house?

There are a many reasons why your adult dog might suddenly start to have accidents in the house (either urinating or defecating). The first thing to do would be to rule out any medical conditions that might be causing the problem. Book a check-up with a vet. They will perform a full physical examination of your dog and run any tests needed.

Conditions that cause an increase in thirst, such as diabetes mellitus, may lead to accidents in the house. Urinary tract problems, such as infection, bladder stones or kidney disease, may lead to frequent urination and therefore accidents. If your dog has a bladder infection or diarrhoea, they may not be able to make it outside in time to go to the toilet.

It is not uncommon for older female spayed dogs to become urinary incontinent. Yet in this case you won’t see your dog making a conscious effort to pass urine, instead urine will drip from its back end or leak onto its bed when lying down. With urinary incontinence, it may only be seen at night when urine leaks onto the bed after a prolonged period resting.

Elderly dogs can sometimes suffer with a decline in cognitive function (what some people may call dementia). These dogs may also soil in the house due to confusion. Again, this might be more noticeable in the hours of darkness at night.

There can also be a behavioural element for some dogs. But firstly it is important to rule out any medical issues, so book a check-up for your dog with the vet.

How do I stop my dog from having accidents in the house?

If your dog is suddenly starting to have accidents in the house, it is important to firstly rule out any underlying medical issues that might be causing the problem, so make an appointment for your dog with the vet for a check-up.

If medical issues have been successfully ruled out, the next step would be to think about when the issue is happening. Is it at specific times such as only at night? Could it be in response to something going on within the household? Dogs are sensitive creatures and sometimes a change in the family routine or renovations in the home may cause problems for some dogs. Sometimes accidents in the house are the result of your dog feeling stressed or anxious.

If there are no underlying medical problems, the next step might be to get in touch with a dog behaviourist to work at getting to the root cause and taking the right corrective actions. It is a very frustrating issue to deal with, but remember not to punish or scold your dog. It will likely cause more stress for your pet and not help to deal with the problem.

Why is my older dog having accidents in the house?

As we know, dogs will slow down as they age – it is a natural part of the aging process. Yet sometimes there is a marked deterioration in a dog's mental ability that is not associated with disease, this can cause behaviour changes, failure to recognise familiar people, changes with appetite and drinking and also house soiling. This is known as canine cognitive dysfunction and it can represent a significant reason for accidents in the house.

It is not only mental changes that can impact an elderly dog's house training. Physically your dog might be starting to struggle with conditions such as osteoarthritis. Dogs with osteoarthritis have painful joints that make movement painful and stiff. In this case your pet might struggle to get up and go outside to the toilet as needed.

If your older dog is starting to have accidents in the house, it is important to get them checked by the vet. If there are any underlying health conditions, such as arthritis or canine cognitive dysfunction, then treatments might help to alleviate the symptoms and reduce or eliminate the accidents that are occurring in the house. It is important that your dog is checked over by the vet to ensure they are not suffering.

What are the signs of a dog slowly dying of old age?

If an older dog is dying, it may be a gradual slowing of its usual activities. The dog may withdraw interest, stop eating and drinking, and become incontinent in the house, show signs of discomfort or changes to breathing. Sometimes the dog may appear collapsed. But in most cases a dog that is showing these signs will be starting to suffer.

The passing of a pet is not always a quick process and therefore a drawn-out death may mean the dog suffers needlessly. If your elderly dog is very lethargic, lacking interest in its usual activities, not eating or showing any other symptoms of illness or distress, it would be best to get your dog checked by the vet. The vet will be able to discuss if it is the right time to euthanase your dog to prevent any needless suffering.

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