Health Issues Affecting Housebreaking

A variety of physical issues can cause what appear to be housebreaking problems in an otherwise tidy dog. These are not issues that can be resolved by training or corrections; they need to be addressed with veterinary care. Your dog cannot help having these accidents.

We list some of the possible health issues here, followed by common mistakes people tend to make when their dog starts having housebreaking problems. With any sudden, unexplained housebreaking problems in a dog who has previously been clean indoors, please check with your veterinarian promptly.

Recently Spayed or Neutered: Now Making Mistakes

Your previously housebroken, recently spayed or neutered dog is urinating in the house.

Cause

We believe that hormonal changes after the spaying/neutering are causing changes in your dog's need to urinate, or it may be the swelling after the surgery, but whatever it is, this usually resolves itself within a week or two with no further problems.

Solution

  • Crate her or keep her in a small room like the average kitchen until this phase has passed. When not crated, supervise, as she may do things that she does not normally do, such as head into an isolated area in the house to go, so keep her in sight.
  • Walk her a bit more and watch for signals that she needs to go out such as pacing, whining, sniffing, panting or general restlessness.
  • If you have any questions or concerns, please check with your vet. If your dog is urinating frequently, straining and urinating small amounts, she may have a urinary tract infection.

Suddenly Having Housebreaking Problems—Urinating Frequently 

Your dog is urinating more often, maybe tiny amounts of urine many times a day, perhaps straining, licking herself after she pees or maybe yipping when she urinates, urinating everywhere, including all over your home or has suddenly started having peeing accidents, either with lots or just small amounts of urine.

Cause

There is a good chance your dog has some sort of illness or infection. A urinary tract infection can cause some of these symptoms, as can tick-borne illnesses and some other problems.

Solution

  • Get your dog to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Be sure to use all the medication given, even if the dog seems well after only a few doses.
  • Keeping an eye on her won't help much since she can't help it, but it will help tell you where to clean. The good news is, in many cases, treatment works quickly.
  • Walk her many times a day—at least six: First thing in AM, before you leave for work, mid-day, when you get home, after dinner and before bed. More may be necessary.

Urinates in Her Sleep

Your dog wakes up from sleeping and the bed is wet, or the side of her body – often hip or thigh - is wet. The problem is often worse after hard exercise or deep sleep.

Cause

This can be caused by having too little of the chemical that signals the body to hold the urine in. This can happen at any age but, if this is the problem, classically it is an older, female, spayed dog. This problem can also be caused by tick-borne diseases, so if this suddenly starts happening, please head right for your vet.

Solution

  • Get medication from your veterinarian. In many cases, medication works quickly and completely.
  • Since your dog is urinating in her sleep, she will give you no signs (and is not aware herself) that she needs to go out.
  • No schedule changes are necessary, though an extra walk or two might not hurt.
  • Getting absorbent bedding with a waterproof backing that is all easy to wash can be a big help.

On a New Medication

Your previously housebroken dog, who is on a new medication, is urinating and/or defecating in the house.

Cause

Some medications seem to cause increased urination. It is well known that prednisone and other steroids often increase both thirst and appetite. We've found similar reactions in some dogs to certain antibiotics.

Solution:

  • Follow veterinary instruction on feeding and watering. Do NOT limit water in the hopes of limiting urination.
  • Crate her or confine her to an easy to clean area.
  • Keep an eye on her until this time period is over. Consider keeping your dog on leash in the house so there is less of a chance of her scooting out of sight for a quick pee.
  • Each dog will show you in a different way. One of my dogs would come up, put a front paw on my knee and stretch. Another would stand in front of me and yawn. Dogs do try to tell us; it's just that sometimes we don't recognize their signals.
  • Their usual signals include: panting, restlessness, circling, whining, trying to leave the room, trying to get behind something, staring at you, pawing you, and going toward the door.
  • Walk her more often, keep her in the same room with you and watch for signals she needs to go out such as pacing, whining, panting or general restlessness.
  • If you have concerns about the impact of the medication on your dog, always discuss them with your veterinarian.

Common Mistakes with Health-Related Problems

  • Blaming the dog instead of taking her to the veterinarian. If any housebroken dog suddenly starts peeing in the house, the first thing to do is call your vet, not scold your pet.
  • Withholding water—your dog needs veterinary help, and withholding water won’t help and may even hurt her condition.
  • Getting mad at your dog. If she could help this she would. Just increase your care and follow veterinary advice.
  • Thinking there is nothing that can be done. Your vet is your source of information for this.

Housebreaking problems can be frustrating, but please realize that your dog is not doing this on purpose and, indeed, if she has previously been housebroken, this problem may actually be one of the first signs that she has a health problem. Get her the care she needs and she'll be back to normal - and clean - quickly.

by Sarah Wilson

Author of MySmartPuppy.com handbooks: My Smart Puppy (book with DVD) and Childproofing Your Dog

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