Puppies and older dogs have at least one thing in common—both tend to have accidents inside the house. But while puppies may wee on the carpet because they haven’t yet been house-trained, senior dogs may do it for different reasons. More often than not, you’ll want to rule out a medical cause for a senior dog having accidents. But there could be other things going on as well.
Whatever the reason, it can be heartbreaking and frustrating to suddenly find your old dog peeing in the house. So, what can you do about it? First and foremost, you should consult a veterinarian and follow any treatment plan or advice they suggest. But you can also do several things yourself to help your dog—and keep your house clean.
Why Is My Old Dog Peeing in the House?
It can be perplexing to find your fully housetrained old dog having accidents suddenly, but this behavior is usually explainable.
“House soiling, including urinating indoors, while not uncommon, is typically a sign that your pet needs to visit the vet,” says Dr. Alejandro Caos, a veterinarian at The Vets, a mobile pet service in Austin, Texas. “As dogs age, they may experience changes in bladder control, cognitive decline, or mobility issues, which can contribute to this behavior.”
Most of the time, there is a medical reason why your senior dog can’t hold pee. Dr. Caos says common issues include urinary tract infections (UTIs), bladder stones, hormonal imbalances, and kidney disease. Your dog could also have arthritis or another painful ailment that makes it difficult to physically reach an appropriate urination place. Yet another explanation is that your dog has cognitive dysfunction syndrome—a condition similar to dementia in humans—that inhibits their ability to recognize when and where to do their business.
Your old dog may also be peeing in inappropriate places due to anxiety or stress. “Changes in routine, household dynamics, or environmental stressors can cause anxiety in senior dogs, leading to house soiling,” says Dr. Caos.
The issue can also just be a sign of age. According to Dr. Caos, older dogs experience age-related changes to their bodies that could lead to a decline in their bladder control and muscle tone, which makes it more likely for them to have accidents inside the house.
Determining the Cause of an Old Dog Having Accidents
Experts advise pet parents to seek professional advice rather than try to figure out the cause on their own. However, observing your dog’s behavior patterns and reporting your findings to your veterinarian can be helpful.
“Maintain a record of the accidents, including dates, times, locations, and any notable circumstances or events preceding them,” says Dr. Caos.
For instance, if your old dog is urinating or dribbling while asleep, this could be a clue that your dog has a bladder sphincter tone issue—that is, a problem with the muscles that help them control when they pee. When this function diminishes, your dog can become incontinent.
If your dog pees small amounts in multiple places, they might have a UTI. If they pee during a thunderstorm, stress might cause them to have accidents. If your dog is also showing atypical behaviors, like wandering the house at night or increased anxiety, they could suffer from cognitive dysfunction.
Dr. Caos says it is also essential to monitor your dog’s water intake. “Excessive drinking could indicate an underlying health issue and may contribute to increased urination,” he says. “Discuss any concerns with your veterinarian.”
Old Dog Peeing in House: 6 Tips to Help
Are you eager to figure out how to stop your old dog from peeing in the house? Here are some things you can do to help.
Take your dog to a veterinarian
If your dog has started piddling in the house, you should first contact your veterinarian, says Dr. Kasey Aona, owner and medical director of GoodVets Polaris, a veterinary clinic in Westerville, Ohio.
“Senior dogs are more likely to get some medical issues that can lead to them urinating in the house, like kidney disease, diabetes, other endocrine diseases, urinary tract infections,” says Dr. Aona.
Even if your dog isn’t having accidents, Dr. Aona recommends senior dogs have a full comprehensive exam every six months since they’re prone to developing chronic health issues in old age. “It’s better to get ahead of things and catch things early,” she says.
Keep a diary of your dog’s day
Val Suleski, the head of kennels at the Raystede Centre for Animal Welfare in the U.K., says it’s important to keep a diary, noting where your dog pees, what was happening when they did it, and other helpful information.
“Even if a medical reason is indicated and the vet is providing care, having additional information to help with developing a plan around management to best support the dog is useful,” says Suleski.
Make it easy for them to get around
Your old dog may keep peeing in the house due to mobility issues. Therefore, it’s essential to make your dog’s space as accessible as possible and to give them easy access to the outdoors.
“Install a doggy door if feasible or create a clear and easily accessible path to the designated potty area,” says Dr. Caos. “Consider using ramps or steps to assist dogs with mobility issues.”
Try dog diapers, belly bands, or pee pads
Dog diapers and belly bands—a wrap designed to fit around a male dog’s waist to catch urine—are two products that help keep your house clean if your senior dog is having accidents. But Dr. Caos says these items only temporarily manage accidents without resolving the underlying issue.
Diapers and belly bands may also contribute to developing urine scald, especially if left on for too long. In female dogs, they may increase the risk of developing UTIs.
Another thing you can try is pee pads or puppy pads—super absorbent cloths that soak up your dog’s urine.
“If the dog is always peeing in certain spots, you can get disposable or reusable puppy or toilet pads that have non-slip and waterproof backing, put these down and just wash and reuse,” Suleski says. “Even laying cheap, old rugs in most often toileted areas can make cleaning up easier.”
Use an odor eliminator
Odor-elimination products can also be helpful. Not only do they get the dog urine smell out of the carpet, but they might discourage your dog from peeing in a particular spot, says Dr. Aona.
“Oftentimes, when dogs urinate, they go on a specific rug. If they can smell that urine, they’re more likely to go there again,” she says. “So I think it definitely could help to use an enzymatic cleaner to make sure that we’re getting rid of that smell as much as possible.”
However, Dr. Aona adds that odor eliminators don’t necessarily stop the behavior, especially if there is an underlying medical reason for your senior dog peeing in the house.
Re-house train your dog
Another idea is to try and modify your dog’s behavior through training.
According to Dr. Caos, behavior modification can work if your dog’s indoor peeing habit is due to age-related factors, cognitive decline, or anxiety.
“This can involve providing frequent potty breaks, establishing a consistent routine, using positive reinforcement … for appropriate elimination, and providing a comfortable and stress-free environment,” he says.
Dr. Caos says you can also re-house train your dog through crate training. He adds that it’s crucial never to scold or punish your dog for accidents since that can “create fear or anxiety, potentially exacerbating the issue.”
“Patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement are key,” he says.
Senior Dog Peeing in House: Other Advice
Finding yellow spots and puddles in the house will likely cause some frustration for pet parents. But Suleski says it’s important to remember that your dog is probably not doing this on purpose.
“Senior dogs peeing indoors is generally not something they are voluntarily choosing to do,” she says. “They literally suddenly must go and the drive to relieve a biological need will override any previous training.”
On this note, Suleski offers some sage advice: “Definitely do NOT scold or punish your dog; your dog will not understand why you are scaring or hurting them. Behaving negatively towards them is likely to increase the peeing incidents as they will become anxious and stressed about being around the people in the house that they experience behaving negatively around them.”
She adds that it’s essential not to show your anger when you’re cleaning up their mess since they “just won’t understand why” you’re mad.
Dr. Caos reiterates the importance of seeking out professional advice. “It’s crucial to address any potential medical issues and consult with professionals for personalized advice,” he says. “They can help determine the best approach for managing accidents in your senior dog and improve their overall well-being.”
“Remember, each situation is unique, and it’s important to consult with a veterinarian or a professional dog behaviorist for a comprehensive evaluation and personalized advice,” Dr. Caos adds. “They can provide guidance tailored to your dog’s specific needs and help develop a plan to address the issue effectively and compassionately.”