One of the most saddening and frustrating issues for any dog owner to deal with is that of incontinence in an aging dog. After years of successful housetrained behavior, older dogs often seem to regress to puppyhood. Accidents are once again hidden behind furniture and in dark corners, and trips outside to go to the bathroom may result only in a puzzled look from the dog and a string of frustrated cursing from the owner. Unfortunately, most dogs will become at least partially incontinent if they live a long enough life.
The good news is, incontinence is manageable. Please don’t get rid of your dog simply because, after years of love and affection toward you and your family, it has become unable to control its elimination habits.
Managing Incontinence During the Day/When Someone Is Home
If you’re home with your dog, it should not be necessary in most cases for him or her to wear a doggie diaper or stay in a crate. Simply get a longish leash and keep the dog close to you wherever you go. At the first sign of squatting or circling, outside the two of you go for a potty break!
In the most severe cases of incontinence, there may be no warning at all before an accident, and dogs may also lose not just the ability to hold it in the house but also the ability to eliminate intentionally during potty breaks. If this is the case (and you’ve already talked to your veterinarian about medical help to mitigate these symptoms), your dog should wear a diaper indoors even when you are home. Make sure you get the right size and do not allow your dog to chew its diaper.
Managing Incontinence At Night Or When No One Is Home
If your dog has accidents when left indoors at night or while you’re at work, it’s time to go back to using a crate and/or baby gates just like you probably did when he or she was a puppy. Use pheromone-treated potty pads at one corner of the crate or enclosed area to encourage elimination. The rest of the crate/pen/safe room should have toys and a few treats scattered around in order to convey the message that the only “unoccupied” area suitable for sudden potty urges is on the potty pad.
In addition, restricting your dog’s water intake while you’re unable to supervise it may be necessary. Instead of a full, gulpable bowl of water, leave a bowl of ice cubes out. They’ll melt quickly enough to keep your pooch hydrated, but he or she won’t be able to suck down a pint of water in a few gulps and then immediately need to urinate. Use a normal free-choice water dish when you’re at home.