Thursday, January 15, 2015

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: Changes in Urination/Urinary Accidents

Dogs don’t pee in the house because they are absentminded, don’t care, or are trying to get back at you for leaving them alone, losing their favorite toy or not giving more treats. Dogs don’t like soiling their dens, and they don’t do it out of spite.


Don’t punish your dog for urinating indoors. 

Urinary accidents in housetrained dogs are signs of medical or behavioral problems. In either case, punishment is cruel and ineffective.

House trained dogs will pee in the house for one of the following reasons:
  • They could not hold it any longer
  • They didn’t realize it was happening
  • They are scared
  • They are trying to appease you (submissive urination)
Submissive urination is not a health issue but I felt I should include it here because it is important to recognize it for what it is. Punishing it will only make matters worse.

Any condition causing excessive drinking (polydipsia) will result in lots and lots of urine.

This in itself can cause potty accidents in the house. Because of the sheer volume the dog will need to urinate more frequently and if they don’t get the opportunity, have an accident.

Polydipsia and polyuria (producing lots and lots of pee) typically go hand in hand. Makes sense.

What goes in, must come out.

Polydipsia and polyuria can occur because the dog’s body trying to flush something out of its system (infection, excess sugar, excess hormones, toxic substances, etc.) or the dog’s kidneys have lost the ability to conserve water.

Potential causes include diabetes mellitus, Cushing’s disease, Addison’s disease, liver or kidney disease, urinary tract infections (UTI) and other conditions. Even some medications, such as steroids.

A little note from my observation: Our guys love fresh snow. They love to run and play in it and they love to eat as much of it as possible. And not long after, their bladders are ready to explode. I found it odd, because snow doesn’t really translate into a very large volume of water. But I think it’s because it’s pure H2O with no minerals, no nothing, it just goes right through the system without any stops or delays. That’s the only way I can understand them having to pee so much after eating the snow.

And, yes, if Cookie is going to leak, she is most likely to do so on the day we get fresh snow.
Inflammation associated with urinary tract infections makes dogs feel like they have to pee ALL THE TIME.
I had a UTI once and I can attest to that. It's been a long time ago and I still remember it. Having to take a daily long bus trip to school (no toilet on the bus) was living hell.
A dog with a UTI is most likely going to urinate frequent small amounts. There can also be blood in the urine. Accidents are likely to appear on the path to the door.

With some medical conditions, urination can be painful and a dog will avoid urinating until they cannot hold it any more.


Dogs who are suffering from obesity, arthritis, pain, stiffness or neurological issues will also sometimes alter their body posture, leading to urine retention and a predisposition towards UTIs. Some infections do not cause symptoms and regular urine checks are a good idea in these cases.

Jasmine got her first-ever UTI after her neck injury, when her mobility was affected.

If your dog is straining to urinate and the urine stream looks thin or weak, see your vet as soon as possible.

Urinary tract obstruction is a medical emergency.

The cause can be stones in the urinary tract, injuries, tumors, or prostate disease (in male dogs).

Urinary incontinence, even though it can also be associated with a urinary tract infection, is often another issue all together.

True urinary incontinence is caused by a dog’s inability to prevent their bladder from leaking. This is most commonly caused by poor control of the sphincter leading out of the bladder.

Obesity is a common risk factor. Spayed female dogs can develop urinary incontinence as a result of low estrogen levels, which leads to weakening of the sphincter muscle.

Other causes include congenital abnormalities, neurological issues, and spinal cord injuries or degeneration.

Only after all of these medical problems have been ruled out can a dog’s “accidents” be blamed on a behavioral problem, most of which are associated with some form of anxiety or fear.

Punishment is never the answer to inappropriate peeing… your dog is either sick or scared.

Related articles:
Veterinarians Answer: 10 Main Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog 
Symptoms: Recognition, Acknowledgement And Denial
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Excessive Panting
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Excessive Drinking
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Bad Odor 
Symptoms to Watch For In Your Dog: Excessive Drooling  
What Can Your Dog's Gums And Tongue Tell You? 
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Coughing 
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Excessive Head Shaking  
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: What Is That Limp? 
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Nose Bleeds (Epistaxis)
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Unexplained Weight Loss
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Loss Of Appetite  
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Lethargy 
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Fever (Pyrexia)
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Regurgitation 
Whats In The Urine? (Part I: What You Can Notice On Your Own)
What's In The Urine? (Part II: Urinalysis)
A Tale of Many Tails—and What Came Out From Underneath Stories from My Diary-rrhea (part I)
Acute Small Intestinal Diarrhea
Acute Large Intestinal Diarrhea (Acute Colitis)
Chronic Large Intestinal Diarrhea
Chronic Small Intestinal Diarrhea
Don't Panic, Don't Panic: Know What Your Job Is 

Further reading:
Urinary Problems in Dogs
Lower Urinary Tract Problems and Infections in Dogs

39 comments

  1. Great post! We got a new drinking fountain for our dogs a few months ago. They love it! I noticed one of them would drink from it every time she passed by it, sometimes she'd just be getting up to stretch and would use that as an excuse to walk into the kitchen to get a drink. She had two accidents in the house, we took her to the vet and could find nothing wrong. Before we put her on Rx for incontinence, I said I would try removing the fountain. All I had to do was turn it OFF! She drinks a normal amount again and hasn't had another accident. I thought it would be so great to offer the dogs fresh, filtered water and I thought it was great they were drinking from it so readily. But not if it's going to lead to some sort of water obsession!

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    1. Glad the vets didn't find any medical issues. Some things, I guess, are just too much fun. Like our guys with eating snow. Particularly when it's fresh. They just can't stop themselves.

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  2. The chemotherapy from Tynan's first malignant tumor caused him to have bladder problems. Those problems never entirely went away so it was difficult to tell when years later he began showing signs of the final cancer, bladder cancer, until it was too late. I learned the very hard way that literally every teeny-tiny little change in urinary habits can be a sign of something serious. I don't beat myself up too much for missing the signs that Tynan's cancer had returned because we had already decided we would never put him through a draining and difficult cancer treatment again. But I still wonder how much happier or more comfortable his final months would have been had we known what was killing him sooner.

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    1. Sometimes the signs are too subtle and without having been there before one cannot tell.

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  3. Very good info! It's so important to watch every little thing about animals invited to join in a human's life! Wee wee - dats one of em. While people may get irritated with an animal that has to go potty frequently, it can indicate something wrong, and in some cases something seriously wrong. So don't just treat it as a potty issue - see your vet and get information!

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    1. You're so right, Mattie. It is so important to be diligent about these things.

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  4. Great article! I don't have an issue with my dog, but this is great info to have "just in case"

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    1. Hopefully you will never have an issue, Amy. But yes, these things are good to know. Just in case.

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  5. I'm still potty training Sparkle so I know that when she uses it inside I didn't get her outside in a timely enough manner. Great things to look for otherwise.

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    1. Yes, potty training is a whole different animal.

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  6. Wow, so much good info here, and I've had behavior consults where the pup just could NOT be house trained--and yep, once I convinced 'em to go to the vet, the cystitis was diagnosed, treated, and resolved.

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    1. So great you convinced them to see a vet!

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  7. I love water, and peeing on everything when we go for a walk! When we get back from a walk I drink lots more water and then need to pee soon. My pets understand but don't like it when they have to take me out not long after going for a walk where I peed every 10 seconds on a tree!

    When I had kidney stones, I stopped peeing so well...that was not fun. I felt like I had to keep peeing but never could actually pee!

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    1. If I was your mommy I'd probably be happy for every pee after you had the kidney stones. I'd be so happy that you now can :-)

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  8. So important! One of the first signs may be that they urinate in the house and it is so important we pay attention to that rather than simply discipline them!

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    1. It is. It is important to understand what might be going on.

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  9. Great post! I've never heard of submissive urination, that's really interesting. I have had nasty little boy dogs piddle on my foot at the shelter during play groups LOL! I think that's dominance or the dog trying to "claim" me. I agree, never punish a dog for urinating inappropriately, there's always a reason.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Cathy, Isis & Phoebe
    www.dogsluvusandweluvthem.blogspot.com

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    1. There is definitely such thing as submissive urination, I've seen it. It's one of the dogs' calming signals.

      Hubby got peed on on purpose once! It was when we went to meet our potential new adoptee. And yes, I can't think of any other reason he'd do that other than claiming his daddy as his.

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  10. I agree: Punishment is never the answer to inappropriate peeing. This is so important

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    1. It is important. Punishment won't solve anything. Particularly not a health issue or submissive urination.

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  11. Very informative article. Thank you. Will share!

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  12. Some medications can also cause increased thirst and urination leading to accidents in the house.

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    1. Yes, true, I should add that in there.

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  13. This is an important article and I enjoyed reading it. All of these things are good to know. We had two senior dogs go incontinent during their last days with us. That was not fun for us OR for them. I appreciate you sharing your knowledge with us. Peace

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    1. Yes, incontinence is certainly not fun for anybody.

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  14. Great post... all to often I hear pet parents say they are confused why their dog is peeing in the house all of a sudden. Many don't realize that this is a hint that there may be an unseen medical condition.

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    1. The better people understand this, the sooner their dogs can get help they need.

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  15. I have a 6 month old (not neutered) Goldendoodle puppy. He was so easy to potty train, was trained in about 3 weeks minus an accident here and there for a couple weeks after. This is his first winter and he is OBSESSED with eating snow and ice. Now he is starting to have accidents in the house. I'm talking large amounts of urine. Could this be from all of the snow and ice on top of water? Or is it hormonal or something more serious? He is still crazy and ever and acts fine.

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    1. Whenever in doubt, starting by getting urinalysis done is the best step. It's affordable and non-invasive and it provides tons of useful information.

      To do that successfully, particularly while he's so much into the snow and ice, you want to test FIRST MORNING urine. Otherwise the vet might be virtually just looking at "water" and the dilution will just make everybody worry more.

      I think there is high likelihood it is from all the snow and ice he eats but it is best to be sure.

      (Cookie does that too and being somewhat incontinent you can imagine what happens next. But we did do the urinalysis so we know that's all it's from)

      It's always best to be sure.

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  16. Snow eating seems to be our dog's problem! He's been difficult to housebreak anyway, and I've worked hard to do all the right things, including spending a lot of money having him checked by our local vet and the university vet school. He's fine. He's a Norwich terrier, very cute, very smart and very stubborn. He does not pee in his crate, he pees on command when I take him outside, he gets lots and lots of positive reinforcement, etc. He'll be two at the end of January, and he's worse than ever.

    We were really making good progress until the first snowfall. He could be left loose in the house for 4-6 hours with no problem. We had the occasional accident, but nothing like now. At this point he's wearing disposable belly bands, and in the last few days, he's averaging 2-3/day.

    A breeder told me to use the belly bands and just let him eat the snow because, eventually, it will lose its "novelty." I'm not so sure. For awhile I was keeping him on a leash, and as long as he didn't get any snow (I'm talking even a small amount), he seemed to do pretty good. But, as the person with the Goldendoodle mentioned, now he pees copious amounts.

    And how on earth do you stop it? Keeping him on a leash is fine, but he doesn't get enough exercise and it feels like all I do is take him outside (because I'm sure he's bored). We have a 10 year old standard schnauzer that also eats snow, but it doesn't seem to bother him (thank goodness).

    If nothing else, it's good to find some other people who have experienced this phenomenon. I'm just waiting for spring right now, and it's December 30!!!

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    1. How long ago was it when he was checked and cleared as healthy? Is the urine clear and odorless and lots of it?

      Cookie has some issues with incontinence from time to time and eating snow definitely does make it worse. Amazingly, if you try melting snow you get very little water once it melts compared to the snow volume, while with the amount of water that it turns into when she eats it seems more than the amount of snow she ate. I'm wondering whether it just goes through like that because it's void of any minerals--just clear water--and the body has no reason to hold on to it.

      What I find is that it wants to come out typically within 20 minutes after coming back inside. Knowing the timing helps.

      All that said, with Cookie it doesn't happen every time. We are also trying out a bladder supplement (Vetri-Bladder) which seems to be formulated both for female and male dogs.

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  17. Thanks for your response, Jana. It's been awhile since he's been checked, but I can tell you that this is exactly what we went through last winter. His urine is clear and he's full of energy, eating, etc.

    To be honest, I'm worn out. I've put so much effort into this dog, and believe me, I don't regret it and I adore him, but things really aren't changing all that much. A breeder I was emailing (not his) told me to "lighten up" and just use the belly band. Okay, so now he's peeing in that instead of on our floors, but he's still peeing in the house! And, believe me, I get him outside a lot, on a regular basis, and he gets all kinds of rewards and positive reinforcement for going outside. He knows the difference, but I don't think he can help it, again because of the snow eating.

    He's almost two, as I mentioned, and he still loves it! I wish they made a pill that made snow taste bad. I don't know why that causes such excessive urination because you're right, melting a cup of snow does not come close to equaling a cup of water.

    He's been on a prescription diet for bladder issues (not that he tested as having any), and that's not helping. I can look into the Vetri-Bladder and I can just keep using the belly bands during the times we have snow on the ground. I think those are my options.

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    1. I can understand your frustration; I'm not happy when Cookie makes puddles either. She cannot help it. On furniture, we use pee pads, covered with blankets; that way if she makes a puddle only the top sheet needs to get washed and rest gets caught by the pee pads. Pee pads alone don't work because they just get bunched up or pushed aside with use. The blanked makes it more comfortable, more presentable, and helps holding the pads in place.

      So that works for furniture. For the floors, there isn't much one can do other than have washable floors. We are actually researching rubber floor options; I want it washable but also non-slip.

      Yes, he doesn't do that on purpose; when the bladder gets full enough it just comes out. From my observation, it seems the load is highest within 20 minutes after coming back in. So timing the potty breaks--monitoring how long since the snow-eating before it has to come out--might help.

      Might consider some kind of a muzzle to see whether that lowers the amount of snow eaten? That way he could still be outside all he wants but not eat as much snow? (When choosing a muzzle make sure it's one in which he can still pant etc; not one that closes the mouth completely. Basket muzzle of sorts--I've seen them made out of leather, that could be good perhaps)

      I would still run urinalysis (first morning urine) and basic blood work to make sure nothing else has cropped up since the last time he was checked.

      Could talk to an integrative veterinarian whether they'd have additional insights; some acupuncture or herbs could help too.

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  18. Right now I'm thinking he has a UTI because this is the worst he's ever been. Something is definitely wrong. Usually our problem is from submissive peeing, but he's having accidents all over the place and getting me up in the middle of the night. His appetite and energy are good, but I know he's not peeing because he doesn't care. I hope I can get in to see the vet early this week. Thanks for your feedback.

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    1. Yes, a UTI is a high contestant for the cause. Though with UTI it would be more typical to have a lot of "small" accidents. Either way, particularly with a male dog, urinary issues can be serious, particularly if stones develop etc. I hope you can see a vet early this week as well.

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  19. I have an appointment tomorrow! I've also talked to a number of breeders who tell male Norwich terriers can be extremely difficult to house train. I'm trying to be more vigilant, and I'll start over again if I have to. He's a sweet little dog.

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    1. House-training issues don't result in large puddles of clear odorless urine.

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  20. Of course, I agree. That's why I'm taking him to the vet. But he's had other issues with submissive peeing, and smaller amounts. I'm still suspicious of the snow because he hasn't gotten any today, and he's a different dog. I'm not ruling anything out at this point.

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    1. I agree that the snow makes things worse. Still, though ... JD, for example, would load up on snow too, then have to go potty really badly, but still able to ask and hold it until let outside. Then he'd pee a lake. But he never had an accident, not even once in his adult life.

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