I’m Worried About Losing My Older Dog Senior Dog Revolution-Show Notes In episode 17 of the podcast, I discuss the...Read More
By Dr. Monica Tarantino
If you own a senior dog, you may have experienced your old dog pooping in the house. Sometimes, the accident can be a full bowel movement and other times, it can just be a little piece of stool that you find in their dog bed or on the couch!
Either way- the mess can be an unpleasant surprise. So let’s discuss the various causes for why we can see a house-trained older dog poop in the house. In truth, an older dog pooping in the home can occur for a combination of reasons that we dive into below that range from age-related conditions to disease processes leading to that inadvertent mess in the house.
Most of our older dogs have a history of being well-trained. They have been trained to go outside their entire life and rarely if ever have an accident. So when we start finding stool in the house, it can be quite surprising and even frustrating!
If your old dog is pooping in the house, it is essential to recognize that most older dogs do not deliberately poop in the house because they are lazy or do not care. Often, there is an underlying cause that they have difficulty communicating with you.
Aging impacts not just humans but also our pets! And as such, as they get older, our pets become more prone to different age related conditions or diseases that may cause new symptoms or changes in potty habits.
It is essential that you are not punishing an old dog for pooping in the house because oftentimes, they can not help it. And by, doing so can cause confusion and fear in your senior dog. Especially, if they are already house-trained.
The truth is that, if given the chance (and if they had the ability) they would choose to go outside as they were trained. That is a far more comfortable option for them as well. So just remember, your older dog likely cannot help it.
Here we discuss 9 common reasons your older dog may be pooping in the house.
As we age, our bodies experience changes, and the same happens with our dogs! For example, aging can lead to nerve desensitization and the loss of muscle mass and strength throughout your aging dogs body.
Muscle function is important for all sorts of processes in the body. This affects not just muscles for walking around but also muscles that help control bodily functions. This even affects the muscles that control bowel movements and can result in fecal incontinence.
Fecal incontinence occurs when your dog defecates and is not in control or often aware of the defecation process. Often they do not even know they did it until they stood up.
Sometimes incontinence can be minimal and just cause a small piece of stool to come out. Many owners will cite finding a small piece of stool on a blanket or on the dog’s bedding area but that the dog will still defecate outside normally. Other dogs with neurologic disease may have complete fecal incontinence and defecate full bowel movements
Othertimes, the signals that typically tell a dog they may have to defecate are delayed and so by the time the pet realizes they have to go- it’s urgent and they can NOT wait even a second! Sometimes, the muscles that help prevent random defecation with bowel control become weak, or the signals that tell them they need to potty are not received until they really have to go, meaning if you don’t get there in time to let them out, they will just go.
With old age comes a decrease in sensory perception and decreased muscle strength, causing loss of voluntary control and involuntary bodily functions that bring about incontinence or urgency for them when they need to go. Contributing to this can be nerves that begin to wear down, not allowing as much control as they previously had. Different types of fecal incontinence can occur in older dogs as well.
We touched on nerve damage a bit in the fecal incontinence section but but did not touch on neurologic disease which can be a cause for an old dog pooping in the house. Some dogs with chronic lower back pain or sudden back injuries may experience enough damage that they lose the ability to control their bowels. This can be related to trauma, injury, or age.
Parasitic disease can infect the GI tract of a pet and lead to problems when it comes to pooping. The severe inflammation parasitic infections can cause, can create lesions in the GI tract that affect smooth muscle and anal sphincter muscles. This can result in the inability of a dog to control when they defecate.
The best way to help prevent this is to keep your dogs on heartworm prevention (these often have intestinal parasite control as well) and to routinely get a fecal check on your old dog by the vet. Most heartworm preventions help control the more common intestinal parasites we can see, but they do not control for every parasite which is why it’s essential to check fecals and discuss any signs you are seeing with your vet.
Tumors or cancer that has spread in the anal area or GI tract can invade cells and tissues found in those areas and cause them to malfunction, resulting in an inability to control bowel movements.
My senior dog Becca, (black lab mix pictured above) had accidents in the house largely related to dementia and age.
As dogs get older, they have a decreased ability to communicate with you that they need to go outside. My own geriatric dog, Becca (the black lab mix pictured above), used to sit at the door when she needed to go out when she was younger. It was a very obvious cue for me to let her out.
As she aged and entered her teen years, the cue is not as obvious. Now she walks by the door and stares for a moment, then keeps walking. As you can imagine, this was really easy for us to miss when this first started and ended up with some accidents in the house. Becca had signs of dementia as she got older and the more we paid attention we realized that this was the only way she was able to clue us in that she needed to potty given her mild dementia. What really helped Becca was us being vigilant and giving her some pee pads (we like the washable ones) as an option for her to go if she couldn’t hold it before we got there.
Their ability to see, move and hear changes as they get older. Meaning they can have increased bouts of forgetfulness or cognitive decline just like people do as they age. Older dogs also commonly have increased frequency or urge due to disease elsewhere and cognitive decline is a great example of that.
Dogs have two glands just internal to their anus called anal sacs. These anal glands can become infected or impacted. If they get infected or impacted, it may affect your dog’s ability to retain stool normally.
Some medications may cause loose stool and therefore cause your dog to have difficulty controlling their bowels. This could lead to an old dog pooping in the house by accident.
If you change your dog’s diet, it will also affect their bowel movement. Different foods and treats can have different levels of fiber or ingredients that do not agree with your dog. Changing food too quickly can cause this, or adding new food that a pet is not used to. The best thing to do is to check the new food, and if it is causing the problem, change it immediately.
Always check with your vet on diet as well. From time to time, there are dog food recalls, and so an excellent website to keep on hand is the FDA Recalls and Withdrawals one here.
Dogs with diarrhea or soft stool have an increased urgency to defecate. So, if your dog suffers from diarrhea or starts pooping everywhere in the house, it can also mean that something is irritating their GI tract.
In some cases, dog anxiety leads to some problems with regard to bowel movements. Dogs, as a species, like very much to maintain consistency in their everyday life, so it follows that significant disruptions in their schedule will cause inconsistencies in other areas of their lives, such as by defecating inappropriately.
If your senior dog is pooping in the house, it is important to get to the bottom of it and make sure that your dog is comfortable and healthy. Discussing what is happening with your vet is the first step you should take.
Often, they will need to do an exam and some diagnostics, including a fecal to check your pet. They may recommend a specific diet for your dog. Once they have ruled out disease and diet, it may be age-related changes that are causing your dog to poop in the house.
Remember, it is important not to punish your older house-trained dog that is pooping in your home. Often, there is a reason for it. Instead, try to work on different solutions for them.
These can include things such as:
One of the most important things is to make sure that you are NOT punishing them for pooping in the house.
The truth is that house-trained dogs do not intentionally defecate in the house. They want to go outside, and so there are different causes why your senior dog is pooping in the house.
Though it may seem frustrating at the time, punishing a senior dog for this will make things worse and unpleasant for a dog that does not want to upset its owner. Many times, in fact, an old dog pooping in the house can be a sign of disease or something they cannot help.
Senior dogs defecating in the house can be a reasonably common problem, and it’s something that your vet will be able to help you look into. It can be caused by any of the above issues that we discussed which include health problems, age related disease, diet and behavior issues. Having patience and helping your older dog adapt to new challenges it faces is key to helping your dog have the best golden years.
This article contains affiliate links and purchases may provide our small business a small commission. Thank you for supporting our team.
Interested in learning more about helping your senior dog?
Welcome! We are so glad you are here! At SDR, we are firm believers that senior pets are the most inspiring animals in the world. And our mission is to help promote the needs of senior dogs and help pet parents create a life of health and happiness for their oldest canine friend.