Medical Causes of House Soiling in Dogs

House soiling is the improper defecation or urination around the house. It is a common issue in dogs. While most often seen as a symptom of behavioral issues or as a sign of age, house soiling can also be part of a larger medical issue. 

Taking your dog to the vet with an accurate account of their medical history is an important step in getting to the bottom of their frequent house soiling.

Behavioral Factors

House soiling is often caused by behavioral problems. Consider the following possibilities if you find your dog suddenly peeing around the house:

  • Insufficient house training
  • Urine marking
  • Submissive urination
  • Excitement urination
  • Separation anxiety

If your dog starts urinating more frequently even though they are already housetrained without any of these behavioral symptoms, a visit to your vet is in order. 

Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence means that your dog leaks urine involuntarily. This can mean that your dog is peeing a lot. It may also indicate that they are leaking urine in strange places, such as where they are sleeping. Urinary incontinence shares symptoms with related medical conditions in dogs. Your vet will run blood and urine tests to confirm the cause.

Some common causes of urinary incontinence are:

  • Urethral sphincter mechanism insufficiency (USMI) is the most common cause in adult female dogs. Their urethral sphincter becomes too weak to hold in urine.
  • An adult male dog may have a problem with their prostate. 
  • Younger dogs may have some kind of congenital problem with their urinary tract. 
  • Dogs of any age can have a spinal problem with nerve damage, which can lead to a lack of urinary tract control.
  • Dogs of any age can be affected by a urine infection or urinary blockage that leads to leakage. 

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

Any dog can get a UTI. Female dogs and certain breeds are more likely to get an infection. These include Shih Tzus, Bichon Frises, and Yorkshire Terriers. UTIs are often caused by bacteria from feces or other debris infecting the area.

Some of the common symptoms of a UTI in your dog are:

Your vet will likely take a urine sample to test for a UTI. If a UTI is the cause of your dog’s house-soiling, your vet will prescribe antibiotics.

Continued

Urinary or Bladder Stones

Urinary (or bladder) stones form when different minerals in your dog’s urine bind together to create stones. These stones can form in the bladder, kidneys, urethra, or the ureter (a portion of the urinary tract). Urinary stones and UTIs have similar symptoms, so a vet’s attention is necessary. Additional symptoms include:

 Treatment for urinary stones often requires surgery, though some can be dissolved with certain foods. Once the stones are removed, they are analyzed and identified to determine a cause. Your dog will likely be prescribed a prescription food to prevent future buildup. If your dog is at risk for chronic urinary stones, they may be on a prescription diet for the rest of their life.

Diabetes

Diabetes causes the body to misuse its blood sugar, called glucose. When the body isn’t producing enough insulin, the excess glucose overflows into the urine, taking water with it. 

Some of the major symptoms of diabetes are:

  • Bigger appetite
  • Drinking more water
  • Losing weight
  • Urinating more often

Your vet can perform blood and urine tests to identify the potential for diabetes. Improved diet, exercise, and insulin injections are the most common treatments for diabetes

Kidney Disease

Kidneys remove toxins from the blood and eliminate them through urination. They also regulate blood pressure and prevent water loss. If the kidneys struggle to maintain water, this can lead to drinking and urinating more frequently. House soiling often results from kidney disease. Additional symptoms for kidney disease in dogs are:

  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Mouth ulcers

Your vet will diagnose kidney disease through blood and urine tests. Treating kidney disease depends on the severity. However, proper diet, stress management, and plenty of water can help treat kidney disease.

Cushing’s Disease

This condition involves a chronic excess of cortisone, a type of hormone produced in the adrenal glands. Cushing’s disease (also known as hyperadrenocorticism) is a progressive disease that becomes more obvious over time. Similar to the diseases previously discussed, the symptoms of Cushing’s disease include excessive thirst, frequent urination, larger appetite, and muscle weakness. 

Diagnosing Cushing’s disease requires initial blood and urine tests. The vet can check for any abnormalities from previous tests that might signal Cushing’s disease. If the tests are suspicious, hormone screenings are needed to confirm a diagnosis. Each screening has strengths and weaknesses, so consult with your vet to discuss which test they will perform.  

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on February 13, 2021

Sources

SOURCES

American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine: “Cushing’s Disease in Dogs.”

AMERICAN COLLEGE OF VETERINARY SURGEONS: “Urinary Stones.”

AKC: “Diabetes in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment,” “Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) in Dogs.”

AVMA: “Diabetes in Pets.”

Best Friends: “Urinary Incontinence in Dogs.”

BLUE CROSS FOR PETS: “Kidney failure and disease in dogs.”

MORRIS ANIMAL FOUNDATION: “Understanding Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s Syndrome) in Dogs.”

National Kidney Foundation: “How Does Kidney Disease Affect Your Pet?”

pdsa: “Urinary Incontinence in Dogs.”

San Francisco SPCA: “House-Soiling.”

TexVetPets: “Bladder Stones.” 

VeterinaryPartner: “Bladder Stones (Struvite) in Dogs.

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