What to Do if Your Housetrained Dog Pees or Poops Indoors

Inappropriate urination and defecation aren’t always a housetraining problem. Learn some common non-housetraining issues, and what to do about them.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
5-minute read
Episode #27

Medical Problems That Can Cause Your Dog to Pee or Poop Indoors

A host of medical problems can lead your dog to eliminate indoors. I’ll mention a few examples, but many more exist. And those I do describe may have symptoms I don’t mention here. The short version is, suspect a medical problem if your dog’s behavior has changed suddenly, if she’s old, or if you’re sticking to a regular, careful housetraining schedule and your puppy is having frequent accidents anyway.

Sudden, urgent digestive upset may come on too strong for even the best-housetrained dog. Possible causes include rich or spoiled food and certain parasites. A dog with a urinary tract infection may need to go much more often than usual and may dribble small amounts of urine. If you have a spayed female dog who leaks urine in her sleep, a possible cause is estrogen incontinence, which is usually treatable with inexpensive medication. Elderly dogs who develop canine cognitive disorder, a doggy analogue of Alzheimer’s disease, may lose their housetraining as the condition progresses. Pain from arthritis, an injury, or illness can leave a dog reluctant to take a walk or make it hard for her to get into position to pee or poop. The bladder and bowels may wind up overfull and impossible to control.

Increased water intake accompanies some illnesses, diabetes among them; if you don’t happen to notice that your dog is filling up more than normal and supply extra toilet breaks to compensate, he may be unable to hold his urine until his next walk. Certain medications may make animals feel thirsty, too -- steroids are famous for this. If your dog’s indoor pees coincide with a new medication or an increased dose of an old one, it’s well worth asking your vet whether thirst or incontinence is a possible side effect. Malformations of the rectum and sphincter or of the urinary tract can make it impossible for a dog to control eliminations. My older dog’s anal sphincter has lost muscle tone. Result: sometimes when she springs up with joy at going for a walk, she drops a few little items from behind. Oh, well.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).