What Causes Inappropriate Elimination in Older Dogs?
Sadly, not all dogs age gracefully as we would hope. An old dog soiling in the home is something that happens quite frequently and at times owners may wondering what may trigger such behavior. If your dog has always been house trained and rarely if ever eliminated in the home, a sudden lack of bowel control should raise a big, red flag.
It is unfortunate that some owners do not readily recognize this to be most likely due to a medical problem and assume the issue is behavioral. As a behavior consultant, just the other day was contacted by a dog owner that thought her dog was simply acting naughty and purposely soiling on the carpet. Tired of cleaning up messes, the owner isolated the poor dog to the garage which triggered relentless barking. At this age, senior dogs also become clingy and want to be near their family. I had to explain to the owner that if a dog has always lived with you, social isolation may have a negative effect which can lead to barking or other problems related with loneliness which can be deleterious if a dog is already suffering from a medical problem. Let's take a look at some of the many potential causes for a senior dog to start soiling in the house.
Causes of Old Dogs Eliminating in the House
When an older dog starts eliminating in the house, you really want to start with a veterinarian visit. There are many potential medical causes for this that it would be appropriate to assume that this may not stem from a possible behavioral problem.
- Some senior dogs, for instance, may develop what is known as 'canine cognitive dysfunction. Basically, this is a form of "doggie Alzheimer's" disease. Basically, what happens is that there is a decline in the mental faculties of dogs of a certain age and it affects their memory, general thinking, sleeping patterns and learned behaviors. According to PetMD "Fifty percent of dogs over age 10 will exhibit one or more symptoms of cognitive dysfunction syndrome." Among the symptoms of this syndrome are getting lost in the house or yard, getting stuck in corners eliminating in the house or having difficulty finding the door or going back into the house .
If your dog is exhibiting unusual behaviors as such, I recommend seeing your vet and mentioning these unusual behaviors you have been observing lately. Luckily, when this condition is caught early, a medication known as Anipryl can help. To learn more about canine cognitive dysfunction read :"Dog Alzheimer's Disease"
- On the other hand, arthritis may make it difficult for him to squat, so he may try to keep his poop until he can no longer hold it and he may just eliminate on your rug without realizing it.
- Additionally, old age may cause loss of sphincter control, which causes dogs to eliminate without giving any signs of needing to be taken out.
- If the dog eliminates when left alone during the day, it could be a case of old dog separation anxiety.
- An of course, there are many other medical, psychological causes for a dog to start pooping in the house...
So, yes, I definitively would start with a vet visit since eliminating in the home is very common in senior dogs due to medical problems. Don't assume it stems from a behavioral problem, so skip the dog behavior consultant and go straight to the vet. After the vet has ruled out medical problems, then a dog behavior consultant should be your next step.
Some Tips to Prevent Your Old Dog From Soiling in the House
Please, don't abandon your senior dog in a room far from you where he cannot be supervised and feels lonely and abandoned. Your dog deserves to enjoy his golden years with people he loves the most. Your vet may help you find some solutions so you can enjoy each other's company again. If you are dealing with an older dog urinating in the home, please read " Causes of Sudden Urination Problems in Dogs" Following are some tips to make life easier.
- Placing a long cloth that drapes under the belly and is held tightly above the dogs' spine may help your dog if he has pain walking.
- Don't forget to praise and reward immediately right after he finishes eliminating outside.
- Take your senior dog outside with you in evening until he eliminates. The good thing is once is empty, he should sleep through the night as most senior dogs are heavy sleepers.
- Feeding him at the same times every day can also help make his bowel movements more predictable versus allowing him to eat freely on his own from a filled up bowl left around all day.
- Some dog owners have obtained results by using papers for eliminating or diapers for senior dogs. However, keep in mind that diapers should be used as a last resort, as dogs get used to it and no longer try to go outside, therefore, you have no signs he needs to be taken out.
Old age is not considered a disease, but many times the problems associate with it can be managed better with some solutions your vet may find for you based on his findings. So yes, definitively start with a thorough physical examination, mention your dog's problems and then try to implement some changes your vet may suggest based on his findings.
Disclaimer: this article is not to be used as a substitute for veterinary advice. If your old dog is soiling in the house, please consult with a veterinarian for a thorough hands on examination, assessment and diagnosis. By reading this answer you accept this disclaimer.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on January 31, 2016:
I hope your Cocoa gets to live to a nice ripe age, sounds like you keep good care of him! My dogs are also getting old, don't look forward to seeing it happen, but nothing can stop time. It's sad when old dogs start having accidents around the house.
Phette Towns on October 31, 2012:
Thank you for the information. I now understand what signs to look for because my Cocoa is over 10 years and so far has been a wonderful family member. It does sadden me to think of losing him one day. He has been with us since he was either 5 weeks or months. He was a owner rescue. I do see that his eyes have changed and I noticed that his hearing is not as sharp, but he appears to be almost the same. He has become kind of clingy, whinny and now I think he needs more attention. My son comes home on the weekend and gives him a lot of that. Walks, runs and plays with him in the yard. Which seems to make him happy. I/We Love Cocoa forever.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 30, 2012:
Sinea Pies, yes, Anipryil can help dogs in the initial stages of canine cognitive dysfunction. I recommend talking to your vet about this since this medication helps the most when this is caught in the initial stages. Best wishes!
Sinea Pies from Northeastern United States on October 30, 2012:
Thank you for writing this hub. My dog's age is unknown. She was a rescue dog and her first owners did not keep track of her age (she was a puppy mill dog used for breeding). She may be 8 or a bit older. Occasionally I do see her getting a little fuzzy in her thinking. She'll sit in a fog sometimes, even in the rain. When I catch her doing that, I can snap her back to attention. It's good to know that there is medication that can help, should she ever need it.
Voted up and useful.