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Q&A: Why Does My Dog Poop in the House While I'm Gone?

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Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

Most dogs will avoid soiling in their crate at all costs. If they are frequently soiling indoors, it may be due to a medical issue.

Most dogs will avoid soiling in their crate at all costs. If they are frequently soiling indoors, it may be due to a medical issue.

Why Is My Dog Pooping Inside When Left Alone?

"Hello. A couple of years ago, a friend and her boyfriend got a 2-month-old male mastiff. They split up and she moved out of state when he was about 11 months. She recently drove across the country to get him and brought him back with her. He is now almost two years old.

He has been separated from her for about a year and is used to having people home all day, other dogs to play with, and a house with a big yard. He is now living in an apartment and she works during the day, so he is left alone.

He was house trained but now even though they walk and he pees and poops every morning, she comes home and he has pooped numerous times in the apartment. She tried crating, but he pooped in there also. She is trying to figure out what she needs to do to stop this because she loves him and is so glad to have him back. She takes him to park and walking every evening and has taught him frisbee now and is active with him, but the problems with all the poop and pee everyday when she comes home from work are straining the relationship and she doesn't know what to do. Can you give thoughts and advice? I am sure he is stressed from the changes. He has been back with her now for about 6 months. Thanks so much." —SC

Medical Reasons for a Dog Pooping in the House

Since you mentioned that the dog even goes in a crate, which most of them hate to do, the first thing I would think about is a medical problem.

The dog was fine, then he travelled and now he has diarrhea? Did she stop at a rest stop so the dog could rest? He might have walked on top of contaminated stool, licked his paw when he got back in the car, and ended up becoming infected. Or he could have drank dirty water.

I would recommend that she take him in to her regular vet for an examination and take a fresh fecal sample so that it can be checked for parasites.

Giardia

Giardia will cause a dog to defecate numerous times throughout the day. Giardia is one of the most prevalent canine parasites in the US and most of the world. (1, 2) The veterinarian can collect a stool sample from the dog, but it is better to take one in so that they can see what the stool he is passing during the day looks like. There are lab tests for Giardia, but numerous fecal samples need to be checked before a dog is definitely negative.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

It is also possible that the dog has developed inflammatory bowel disease, but she will need to discuss this with the veterinarian when she takes him in for a fecal exam.

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Read More From Pethelpful

Feeding Routines to Reduce Soiling in the House

If everything is okay medically, I would next worry about food management. How many times is he fed during the day? Is his food left down for him all the time?

Puppies usually need to poop about a half hour after they have eaten. Adult dogs can wait a lot longer, and since it takes about 8 hours for food to go all the way through the GI tract, they are usually okay for the entire day when left alone. If a dog is given a big breakfast or is eating all day long (free choice, or whenever he is in the mood), he is going to go when he needs to.

How to Potty Train an Adult Dog

The next thing to think about is housetraining an adult dog. It is a lot easier to train a puppy than to retrain an adult dog that has grown accustomed to going in the house, but it can be done.

In order to re-housetrain him, she needs to set up a routine:

  • Feed him once a day in the evening.
  • Take him for a long walk about an hour later.
  • Choose one spot as his potty area and use it every time.
  • Give a command like "go potty" and give him lots of praise when he does.
  • If he does not go, do not play with him. Try it again in about an hour.

There are dogs that still have issues with housetraining, but most of them are puppy mill animals that are used to living in their own filth. Dogs who are not raised in those conditions do not like that, so unless they absolutely have to go (because of illness), almost all of them will hold it.

Could It Be Stress?

He may have some stress from the changes in his life, but this is probably not affecting his original housetraining.

Sources

(1) Bouzid M, Halai K, Jeffreys D, Hunter PR. The prevalence of Giardia infection in dogs and cats, a systematic review and meta-analysis of prevalence studies from stool samples. Vet Parasitol. 2015 Jan 30;207(3-4):181-202. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25583357/

(2) López-Arias Á, Villar D, López-Osorio S, Calle-Vélez D, Chaparro-Gutiérrez JJ. Giardia is the most prevalent parasitic infection in dogs and cats with diarrhea in the city of Medellín, Colombia. Vet Parasitol Reg Stud Reports. 2019 Dec;18:100335. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7104040/

This article is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from your veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Dr Mark

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