All Things Dog

Potty Problems in the Senior Years

Older dogs, even those that have been house-trained for years, can start to have age-related health problems that lead to leaks and incontinence. In seniors, the leakage often occurs when sleeping or lying down, and many dogs will lick themselves clean when these minor accidents occur.

The situation is more problematic if your dog begins urinating indoors. Once you see this kind of change in your senior dog, it's important to visit your veterinarian to check for underlying medical causes.

Conditions that can cause increased frequency of urination, incontinence, or defecation problems include prostate inflammation, colitis, sphincter incompetence, kidney disease, bladder stones, Cushing's Disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and others. Bladder and bowel function can often be improved after a thorough examination and with appropriate treatment from your vet.

When going outside becomes difficult

As they get older, some dogs develop arthritic conditions that make it harder to step outdoors to their regular potty spots, so they begin relieving themselves indoors. You may also notice more resistance to going outside when the weather is rainy or cold, which aggravates the pain of arthritis in your senior pet.

If you suspect that arthritis, hip dysplasia, or some other ailment is contributing to your dog's reluctance to step outside for relief, please have him examined by your veterinarian. There may be treatments that can help alleviate the discomfort and make it easier for him to get outside.

Here are some things that you can do at home:

  • Install an access ramp on stairs to help your dog get in and out more easily.
  • Physically carry your older dog outside. While this may require a little extra work, especially with larger dogs, it can reduce messy or costly carpet accidents. Harnesses and abdominal slings can make this easier for you. Please discuss this option with your veterinarian.
  • If you're away from home for long periods during the day, and your older dog has developed a need to go more often, an indoor litter system might be the answer for you—though this may not work for all senior dogs. A company called PetaPotty (petapotty.com) makes an indoor doggie litter box. You can also buy absorbent protection pads that your dog can wear.
  • Playpens aren’t just for children. If your senior dog is small, you may consider placing him in a playpen when you leave the house. Make sure you place paper/absorbent material on the bottom of the playpen—and a washable surface under that.

Be patient with your senior dog. As he ages, he might simply be getting more anxious when you're away, leading to urinary accidents. Adjusting your behavior in small ways, bringing a petsitter in for more frequent "relief" visits during the day, or setting up an indoor potty spot, can go a long way to making your senior's golden years less stressful and more pleasant for both of you.

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