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Why Is My Dog Peeing in the House?

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Eirevet is a veterinarian specialized in canine and feline internal medicine who owns a small animal veterinary hospital in Ireland.

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Why Is My Dog Peeing Indoors?

Having a pooch that refuses to observe the normal conventions of society by not peeing on your favourite rug can be a frustrating problem. The obvious reason for accidents in the house is a lack of house-training, but what about previously well-trained dogs that suddenly start peeing in the house? There are plenty of potential explanations for this, so before you lose patience with your furry friend, work through this article to see if there might be a medical problem underlying the house-soiling.

The causes of indoor urination in house-trained dogs can be split into:

  1. Urinary incontinence
  2. Overflow secondary to increased urine output
  3. Lower urinary tract disease
  4. Behavioural causes
Anatomy of the urinary system.

Anatomy of the urinary system.

Urinary Incontinence in Dogs

As well as being able to wee normally outdoors, the dog may have accidents in the house, but these are often spots of urine rather than puddles. There is a simple distinguishing feature of urinary incontinence as opposed to other causes of house-soiling; the dog will pee on herself and in her bed. This single sign implies a lack of control of bladder emptying.

In young dogs and puppies, there is often an underlying developmental problem such as an ectopic ureter (where urine bypasses the bladder completely) or pelvic bladder. These conditions can be diagnosed by your veterinarian using diagnostic imaging such as contrast x-rays and ultrasound. It is possible to perform surgical correction of these problems, although a high level of skill is required.

Adult dogs may acquire urinary sphincter mechanism incompetence (USMI) after neutering, where the drop in blood levels of the sex hormones reduces their ability to control bladder function. This condition develops in 5-10% of neutered female dogs and a much smaller proportion of males soon after neutering. Treatment of affected bitches with an α-agonist drug such as phenylpropanolamine (Propalin) or oestrogens is usually very effective. Treatment of males is more difficult; approximately 50% will improve on medication, but others will require a surgical procedure to lengthen the urethra.

Overflow Secondary to Increased Urine Output

There are many conditions which will cause an increase in urine output, which can cause such frequent urination as to break a dog's housetraining. There are a number of features of this group of problems:

  1. Your dog will be drinking more to compensate for fluid loss.
  2. The 'accidents' are usually large puddles.

In addition, there are likely to be other symptoms of the primary problem; for example weight loss (Diabetes mellitus, Addison's disease, renal failure), increased appetite (Diabetes mellitus, Cushing's disease) or decreased appetite (Addison's disease, renal failure). The urine which is produced is usually not offensive unless there is a secondary bacterial infection of the urinary tract.

Excessive thirst is a symptom not to be ignored, and it is important your pet gets a thorough work-up from your veterinary surgeon.

Lower Urinary Tract Disease (LUTD)

The term LUTD encompasses a number of very different conditions, but what they have in common is that they affect the bladder, urethra, and in male dogs, the prostate gland. All of these organs are very sensitive, and so dogs house-soiling because of LUTD usually show signs of discomfort and increased frequency of urination. There is also usually a change in the characteristics of the urine, which may become foul-smelling or bloody. Your dog may spend more time licking his/her genitals in response to the irritation.

Most common causes of LUTD:

  1. Infection: Bacteria, viruses, fungi may all infiltrate the bladder and prostate.
  2. Urinary caliculi (stones): Yorkies, Lhasa Apso, Miniature Schnauzer, Shih Tzu, Miniature Poodle, Cocker Spaniel, Dalmation, and English Bulldog are predisposed.
  3. Tumours.
  4. Perineal hernia in male dogs: You may notice a swelling under the tail.
  5. Detrusor atony: Failure of bladder and urethra to coordinate.

Differentiation of these conditions will require investigation by your veterinarian, but the first step will be to examine a urine sample. If you can obtain a urine sample before visiting the veterinary hospital, you can help expedite the diagnosis. Treatment varies depending on the condition; for a bacterial bladder infection a single course of antibiotic may be sufficient, but for urinary stones it is very often necessary to keep your pet on a specific diet for the rest of his/her life.

Most of these conditions are very treatable, but can lead to serious complications if not recognised and treated promptly. By paying attention to the type of accident your dog is having in the house, as well as being vigilant for other signs of disease, it is usually possible to assist your veterinarian in coming to the correct diagnosis quickly.

Behavioural Reasons for a Dog to Urinate Indoors

Urine marking is distinct from medical causes of indoor urination in that it is often performed in a conspicuous area, possibly at a doorway or on an item of furniture. The root cause of urine marking in a previously well-trained dog is usually insecurity of some sort. This is often something as simple as the introduction of new furniture to the dog's living area, or may be something more significant like the introduction of a new baby or pet to the house. By urinating in the house, your dog is following an instinctive urge to mark and reinforce his claim to 'his' territory.

If the behaviour occurs consistently in one spot, it makes sense to exclude your pet from this area by locking him out or using a deterrent such as a Scat Mat or sheet of aluminium foil at the entrance to the room. If you catch him in the act of peeing indoors, creating a noise or calling his name as a distraction is a useful ploy. It is important not to overreact to the situation as with an insecure dog this is only likely to make matters worse.

The use of pheromone products such as DAP can really help soothe an anxious dog, particularly during times of stress or change. Although it may take a couple of weeks for the effects to be noticed, the calming effect of the synthetic pheromone can help break the habit of indoor urination, especially if it is a problem which has only recently started. For a more profoundly nervous dog, it will work as an adjunct to behavioural modification but may not be a cure in its own right.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Any Questions or Comments on "Why Is My Dog Peeing in the House?"

James on March 29, 2018:

I took my puppy from a dog foster home about a year ago. I love him to bits; he has a great personality, and I feel that he loves our family so much. BUT, whenever I leave him at home he pees in the house: on the carpet, on the bed, on flowers... My husband and I were thinking about taking him to 'doggy school', but then again, it’s extremely expensive, and the nearest 'doggy school' is far away from us. Maybe you have some advice? THANK YOU!!!!

Bobbie Garrett on September 26, 2015:

Can anyone tell me that if you get your male Chihuahua fix they will not pee all over the house.

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