Is this an accident or is my pooch punishing me?

by Dr. Fincher / Tuesday, 06 November 2012 / Published in Animal Psychology, Behavior & Training, Pet Health
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Accidents happen.  This being said, nobody likes when they happen and most people want to keep them from happening as much as possible.  This is universally the case when those accidents involve urine (or feces) on any surface in our home, be it rug, wall, lamp or bed.

As a veterinarian, I have to be the advocate for the animal and try to remind their people that it isn’t likely that they are punishing you by having accidents in your shoes or on your bed.

With dogs, there are a number of factors we need to consider and closely analyze when attempting to deal with accidents in the house.  Our canine friends have accidents for a number of reasons, the most obvious being age… the famed puppy years (in reality, this phase shouldn’t be years, but it sure can feel like it when you’re cleaning up urine every 20 minutes).  I encourage owners to be patient and remember that puppies are like babies and need to be taken out or changed at least every hour or so at the beginning.  Take comfort in the fact that, unlike babies, your dog is likely to have this potty business down pat in a few months, rather than continuing to use a carry along receptacle (aka diaper) for 3-4 years!

On the other end of the spectrum, we have our elderly canine friends.  Just like with humans, there are a number of changes that can occur that make it more difficult for the old dog to hold his or her urine all day.  When your geriatric dog is having accidents, there are a number of factors that should be considered.  First, are there puddles when the dog gets up from sleeping or are you finding wet spots in the bed?  If so, we may be dealing with an incontinence issue.  Second, are there multiple small puddles throughout the house (this is applicable to house trained dogs of all ages), possibly with foul (more foul than normal!) odor?  If so, we need to consider a urinary tract infection.  Third, are there large, seemingly normal size puddles in the house in random locations?  If so, our elderly may be demonstrating what we call “Canine Cognitive Dysfunction” (basically, Doggie Senility). Fourth, are there giant puddles of urine everywhere in addition to a seemingly endless number of trips outside to potty?  If so, we may be looking at kidney disease or another abnormality that causes an increase in urine production (and likely an increase in water consumption).

In any case, before we go accusing our friends of maliciously soiling our floors or their beds, there is a little bit of work that needs to be done! More often than not, dogs who are suddenly soiling in the house have a medical reason behind it.  My minimum recommendation is we check a urine sample for signs of infection and if there is evidence, do a urine culture to see what bugs are growing.  In addition, I like to check blood work to make sure the kidneys (and everything else) are in tip top shape and not causing this mess!  The thing to remember is that in a lot of these cases, our friends would rather not make these messes but just can’t help it!  So, help me, your friendly veterinarian,  try to get to the root of the problem and save your rugs, shoes, beds and whatever else is getting daily treatments with doggie liquid gold!

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