Why is my dog inappropriately urinating in the house all of a sudden and what should be the course of action?
Original Question: She is toilet trained but is a dog that scares easily. In the last 4 weeks she has been getting nervous with neighbours talking on 1 side of the house or when our neighbour's 10 year old comes to swim. Noise on the other side of the house from strangers does not bother her (we are on a corner lot). She comes in and is then incontinent. This also happens at times when she plays with our other dog. The incontinence does not seem to bother her at all. We have tried taking her out when she is upset but she does not do anything. She is fully continent otherwise and asks to go out. Today she wet twice in the house yet when we went out and left the dogs there was no incontinence and she went out to pee when we got home. What suggestions do you have? She is not on any meds. - Kathy
Thanks for your question. This issue is as common as it is frustrating.
Whenever our pets are eliminating inappropriately, whether it be urination or defecation, it can be caused by two things: medical or behavioural reasons. So the first thing we have to do is rule out medical problems.
I recommend you see your veterinarian and perform blood work and urine to make sure there is no medical issue causing this. Inappropriate urination can be caused by a urinary tract infection, diabetes, renal disease, neurological disease or other ailments that can be found by running diagnostics. If a medical condition is found, then the appropriate treatment can be implemented and the condition may resolve.
If no medical condition is found, then we have to consider behavioural reasons as a source. Dogs are very in tune with their environment. There are so many stimuli that can cause them to become anxious or change their behaviour. Dogs can also perceive things that we can’t, so a high-pitched sound that doesn’t bother us, may bother them and cause them fear or anxiety. Now you may go hunting for these things, but in the end, it’s rare to find. The longer you let this go on, the more it’s going to be ingrained and difficult to resolve.
In your case, I would also have you consider that your dog may have developed some sort of anxiety. It’s possible that she was frightened by something while she was urinating outside and it has created this stress. You may want to consider working with a behaviourist if you’re seeing this anxiety increase in her life.
So my strong recommendation is to have your veterinarian rule out medical causes of inappropriate urination and then consider treatments for behavioural causes. You may be able to improve this with environmental enrichment. Get your dog out for more walks and playing more. Engaging her with more toys can reduce stress. If she is eliminating in a particular spot, like on a bed or in a bedroom, you can restrict access to this area. Always clean the area where they have been eliminating very thoroughly. Even a small amount of debris or odour will make them return to that place and think it’s an appropriate place to eliminate.
Lastly, a lot of cases do take medication to solve these issues. I would have to say that anxiety, in general, is usually the cause of the problem. Whenever I say this to clients, I always get the same response. They say: you clearly don’t understand my dog, he or she is not stressed. But what clients don’t understand is that although you’re providing a very nice home for your pet, we have to remember that these were animals that lived in the outside environment and engaged their world by hunting, foraging and socializing. You can speak to your veterinarian about anti-anxiety supplements and anti-anxiety medication to use as a trial if the aforementioned strategies do not work.
I encourage you to watch our video “Medical & Behavioral Reasons Your Dog Is Urinating In The House and How to Stop It” for more information on this topic.
I hope this helps,
Dr. Clayton Greenway
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