Dog Urinates in Home
A pet owner’s greatest frustration is often inappropriate elimination in the house. When the beloved family dog starts to use the living room as his own personal restroom, owners are understandably distraught. Aside from the monetary and time costs of cleaning up the mess left by their dog, the most serious cost can be to the relationship between pet and owner. Unable to understand, and therefore cope with the reasons underlying a pet’s continued housesoiling, some owners choose to give up their animal altogether. This scenario is unfortunate, and often unnecessary, considering that the behaviour is one that is easier to manage than most owners think.
The first thing that dog owners must understand is that there are many causes of inappropriate urination in the dog. Pinning down the cause is often half the battle, since identifying the problem helps us to select the appropriate treatment and greatly increase the odds of its success. The second thing that dog owners must know is that dogs do not urinate indoors to upset humans; dogs yearn to please humans.
What would cause a mature dog to urinate in the home despite being given ample opportunity to do so outside? There are medical reasons and behavioural ones, and any vet will tell you that distinguishing between the two is crucial and often dictates the type and success of treatment.
There are many diseases, especially in older animals, that may manifest themselves as housesoiling. Many geriatric dogs drink and urinate significantly more than usual – something your vet may refer to as “PU/PD”, or “polyuria/polydipsia” – as a result of kidney disease, diabetes, Cushing’s disease, and others. This is why it is important to mention significant increases in your pet’s water consumption to your vet. Dogs needing to relieve themselves more frequently than usual may in fact be suffering from bladder infections, prostate problems, or even tumours of the urinary tract. Incontinence is another culprit. Incontinence can result from neurological dysfunction or decreased urinary sphincter function. Also, geriatric pets may urinate in the home as their cognitive function and awareness of their surroundings declines.
A thorough history, including details about the volume, frequency, and colour of urination can help point your vet in the right direction. In addition, a laboratory analysis of your pet’s urine sample – or urinalysis – with or without simple bloodwork, can be invaluable. Often times, what appeared to be a behavioural problem turns out to have a medical basis, and can then be treated accordingly. Lab tests available through your vet not only rule out behavioural causes, but can help to narrow down the possible medical causes.
Treatment for medical causes of inappropriate elimination very much depends on the cause and the individual patient. Talk to your veterinarian.
In puppies and young dogs, peeing in the house most often stems from insufficient housebreaking training. Urination in response to excitement or as a show of submission to other dogs or people is also common.
Separation anxiety can be an underlying cause of inappropriate elimination. Dogs that are highly bonded with their owners may become distressed by their absence, particularly if the owner has recently had longer periods away from home than usual. Older dogs are especially prone to experience this. Dogs with separation anxiety often show behavioural changes in response to the cues of their owner’s impending exit, such as jingling keys or putting on a coat. During and after this time, they will express their upset with signs of overt agitation and restlessness (vocalization, pacing) or with depression (decreased willingness to get up or eat).
The cornerstones of managing separation anxiety include increasing daily exercise (to tire your pet out in advance), desensitizing your pet to your exit routine, and slowly letting pets get used to your absence in small, rather than large or sudden, increments. Leaving dogs with chew toys, other pets, or simply leaving the TV on for them, will help to divert attention away from your absence. In severe cases, a vet may prescribe dog-specific sedatives.
Marking, or urinating small amounts on upright objects, is a behaviour that is likely familiar to the owners of unneutered male dogs. Everyone has seen a male dog lift its leg on a fire hydrant outside, but problems arise when your good loveseat becomes the stand-in. Marking indoors is often the result of territorial instincts being triggered. Watching through the living room window as a strange dog or person approaches or even walks past the house can lead or motivate a male dog to mark his home turf – literally.
Neutering intact males stops marking in over half of these dogs. Another option is to minimize the stimuli leading to marking by keeping pets away from windows so a passer-by stays out of their line of sight. Redirecting the marking behaviour toward an upright stake outdoors, and rewarding urination at this appropriate site with food or praise, is also a strategy that some owners find helpful.
The Bottom Line
In summary, owners don’t need to wring their hands when faced with urination in the house. A thorough history, physical exam, and urine tests performed by your vet will help distinguish medical from behavioural roots of the problem, and help tailor a treatment to your pet accordingly. Armed with an understanding of the cause of the problem, a treatment strategy, and a little patience, the family living room no longer has to double as your dog’s restroom.
By Rebecca Greenstein – Pets.ca writer