Why is our dog inappropriately urinating in the house and how can we get it to stop?

Original Question: Hello! We have a 3-year-old rescue female (breed unknown) but there’s likely some Poodle in her. She’s about 20 lbs and she was rescued from Thailand. We are her third home in Canada and we’ve had her for 6 weeks. She is very sweet and came to us very timid but has settled in very nicely with us and our 14-year-old Schnoodle. The only issue is she pees in the house. It is usually related to us being gone at work and sometimes she pees in the morning before we leave for the day but always happens during the day when we are at work. She never pees inside in the evening or overnight. We need some tips to change this behaviour and would greatly appreciate any advice you could offer. Thank you! - Arlene

Why is our dog inappropriately urinating in the house and how can we get it to stop? Apr 25, 2018

Hi Arlene,

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 reasons or behavioural reasons. So the first thing we have to do is rule out medical problems.

I recommend you see your veterinarian and perform bloodwork 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, bladder stones, 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 separation anxiety. The fact that you say this happens when you leave the house supports this possibility. This is a common behavioural problem in dogs and there are ways to address it.

For a discussion on separation anxiety in dogs, I have answered another pet owner the same question where you can get some ideas on: “What are some tips to reduce my dog’s separation anxiety?”

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 hope this helps. Good luck!

Dr. Clayton Greenway

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