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DR. NICHOLAS DODMAN: HOUSE SOILING (“INAPPROPRIATE ELIMINATION”) IN DOGS

101118_4177_dodman154.jpgInappropriate elimination by dogs is an extremely common problem and a tough one to live with if not resolved. All too many dogs are surrendered to shelters because of this usually treatable condition. Here are a few pointers to help owners navigate the stormy seas of house soiling.

There are three reasons why dogs eliminate inappropriately in the home:
• Medical reasons
• House training issues
• Marking

Medical problems – must always be ruled out first. There are so many possible medical causes of elimination, it is hard to address them in limited space but here are a few of the more common ones:
1. Urinary tract infections – diagnosed by simple urine tests
2. Kidney disease – causing increased urine output and thirst (polydipsia/polyuria [PUPD]) – diagnosed by blood and urine tests
3. Diabetes – either sugar diabetes or diabetes insipidus – again causing PUPD – diagnosed but blood and urine tests
4. Cushing’s disease – leading to PUPD – diagnosed by blood tests
5. Congenital problems – “plumbing issues” – diagnosed by clinical signs and imaging (specialized x-ray techniques)
6. Hormonal deficiency in females – so-called “post spay” incontinence – dog leaks urine while resting or sleeping
7. Canine cognitive dysfunction (canine Alzheimer’s disease) – always in an older formerly house trained dog by ruling out other medical causes and clinical signs of disorientation, altered social interactions and sleep disturbances in addition to house soiling.
8. Diarrhea – caused by gastroenteritis or other intestinal issue – assessed by fecal analysis and/or endoscopy

House Training Issues
Once medical causes are ruled out, the next step is to consider whether the problem represents a failure/breakdown of house training or a “urine marking” problem.
To address house soiling, it is important to engage three measures simultaneously – those are 1. Teaching the dog where to eliminate (outside) 2. Preventing elimination in the home and 3. Proper clean-up
• Teaching the right way
• Preventing “Accidents”
• Proper Clean-up

Urine Marking
This thorny issue is primarily the province of the unneutered dog, especially unneutered males. Neutering will abolish the problem in about two thirds of dogs, but not all.

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Dr. Dodman is a Professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and Director of the school’s Animal Behavior Clinic. He is also Chief Scientific Officer for the CENTER FOR CANINE BEHAVIOR STUDIES. He has written over 100 scientific articles and several popular press books, including The Dog Who Loved Too Much and The Cat Who Cried for Help.

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