My Smart Puppy

with Dog Expert, Sarah Wilson

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 handbooks: My Smart Puppy (book with DVD) and Childproofing Your Dog


  1. Hi I have a male dog who was neutered about five weeks ago he is now about 8 months old he is a pitbull lab mix named Scooby and we love him and he loves us he’s very very attached we think he’d be heartbroken if we ever gave him up and we would never want to do this but I don’t know what to do I had him almost fully potty-trained it was very rare maybe once every 3 weeks he’d have an accident and it was due to me most of the time not being able to take him for his normal schedule to walk because of running late with the kids but now all the sudden he is going outside and we’ll come in and not even 20 minutes later will urinate on the ground sometimes you lose his legs sometimes he squats and now he’s even doing it on my couches and on my bed and the most recent one he was laying in the bed with my fiance and my fiance was petting him and all the sudden he just started paying no warning signs not standing or anything I don’t know what is wrong or what to do at first I thought this was housebreaking or maybe marking his territory but now I’m getting concerned now that it’s on the furniture and on her bed where we land where he sleeps please help what is wrong I hate to give up my dog and my income right now is really tight if I can fix this without going to the vet it would really help my daughter was born 1 pound 14 ounces recently and we have a lot of medical expenses including other expenses that is during our pockets if anyone can help me and maybe knowing what I can do and how I can solve this issue greatly appreciated I don’t know what it could be if it’s Medical or maybe jealousy since we’re not around as much because of the baby being in the hospital and all the new baby things coming in

    • Hi there – Peeing in his sleep or where he is laying without getting up sounds like a medical issue. I can’t imagine the expenses you have incurred and wish I had a different answer for you.

      Sounds like you have some demanding times ahead which no one could have possibly anticipated. It’s not always possible to juggle everything life throws your way. You have my complete sympathy and I hope your daughter thrives. {{{ }}}

  2. We picked up our 5 month old puppy from the humane society after we took her in to be spayed since we’ve been home she has been insatiably thirsty, urinating huge amounts and leaking urine.She squatted to pee several times and dI’d not produce any urine at one point tonight. Additionally, after being let out another time tonight she returned to the couch where she leaked all over a pillow and my lap. I’m worried she has developed spay incontenience. Does spay incontenience ever go away without medication? Can this be post surgery related? Could this be a UTI? I feel so terrible for our dog but also wish we had been told that this could be a possibility by the clinic..

    • Hi Katie – Sad to hear all this. Yes, it could be a UTI. Your pups been under a ton of stress and that can open us up to various ills. First thing is a trip to the clinic to get her tested. Such extreme spay incontinence is rare, in my experience, but, if it is, medication will help. Hope things clear up for you both – Sarah

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