Sarah Wilson

Dog Expert

Frequent Accidents with an Older Dog


One sweet couple called me in because their beloved older dog was going to the bathroom all over the house. I told them the truth: she was old, she was having a hard time controlling herself, she was getting forgetful. It happens.

Here’s what you can do:

Speak to your veterinarian
Anytime an adult dog has a sudden change in behavior, suspect a medical issue. So many things can cause an increase in thirst (and therefore an increase in urination) that you need to rule those out first and foremost. If everything is a-okay then:

Watch for the warning signs
Restlessness, whining, wandering, pacing can all signal a need to go out. If the accidents are close to the door, then she is trying but just can’t hold it. If she goes right in front of you, she is trying but couldn’t get her message across in time. If she is going out of sight, then she just may be confused. In that case, keeping her in the same room with you should help.

Out more frequently
If you take her out four times a day and are finding mistakes – add two more walks in and see if that resolves the issue. If her mistakes happen at a fairly consistent time of day, then add a walk in around that time.

Confine to easy-to-clean areas
If you must leave her or can’t easily keep her in the same room with you, then confine her to an easy to clean area in a busy part of the house. In many homes that is the kitchen. She doesn’t need to be isolated, she needs her world modified a bit.

Confine close to the door to go out
Using an exercise pen (ex-pen) you can form a horseshow shape around the door to the backyard or exit you use for walks.

Put pads down near that door
Since that is a likely spot for your dog to go if caught short. Close off all doors to unused or infrequently used rooms, as those are other likely areas for mistakes. Pads have the advantage of a water-proof backing which keeps everything that much tidier.

Use bedding that is absorbent and easy to wash
Waterproof is also a plus, buy a few if you can.

Consider doggy diapers
No one’s idea of fun but can keep the house dry, and it is better than banishing your old friend outside for a problem she cannot help. These are available at our Pet Mall.

Review the diet
Some foods are more calorie dense than others, and switching to one of those may allow you to feed less at each meal. Less is often more, with this sort of problem. But with the older dog, please review any diet changes with your veterinarian.

Review feeding times
If your dog gets up in the middle of the night, consider feeding 2/3 of his daily ration in the morning and 1/3 at night. That may help. Or, feed him dinner sometime after 9 PM. Late PM dinner means later BM in the AM.

Soak the food
If you feed dry dog food, consider soaking it in equal parts water before feeding. This presoak can minimize drinking after the meal, and that can minimize mistakes later. Helps some dogs, not others, but it is easy to do and the price is right, so why not?

Don’t scold her, it is not her fault
She cannot help herself.

There are many stages to old age. This is one. Knowing ways to help improves the quality of life for the entire household, not just your beloved old dog.

by Sarah Wilson,

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