Why is my senior dog soiling in the house?

Often when I get called out to a home visit to sadly put a dog to sleep, owners often report to me that their dog is messing in the house.  This is a difficult and frustrating problem and can affect the human-animal bond. (Note: this is often one of many health reasons for the euthanasia of the dog, not the sole reason)

Here are the top 5 reasons your senior dog could be messing in the house:

  1. Behavioural disorder – In older pets this is rarely a training issue. It is more likely to be due to canine cognitive dysfunction (doggy dementia). Other signs often accompany the house soiling which includes anxiety, changes in sleep pattern, forgetfulness of learned behaviours, disorientation and confusion.
  2. Osteoarthritis – A combination of pain and difficulty getting into the right position to evacuate the bowels can mean they defecate at inappropriate times and places.
  3. Neurologic disease – e.g. degenerative myelopathy, lumbosacral disease or intervertebral disease. These can all cause problems with the nerves that control going to the toilet.
  4. Colon and rectal disease – There are many diseases that can cause changes in stool frequency and consistency. This requires a full clinical examination with your vet.
  5. Structural disease – e.g. after perianal surgery or prostatic disease.

Some of these causes can be helped with pain relief, anti-inflammatories or behavioural medication and so is important that your dog is health checked by a vet.

It is also important that owners realise that the animal is not messing in the house due to being naughty, but there is an underlying medical or behavioural problem.  Treatment and strategies advised and prescribed by your vet will take time to improve the situation. Complete resolution may not always happen.