Urinating or defecating inside the home is a common behavioral problem of dogs. If the problem is not rectified, the dog may be banished from the home to a backyard, taken to an animal shelter or even euthanized.
There are many reasons for elimination problems. They include incomplete puppy training, anxiety disorders, underlying medical disorders and submissive behavior.
Dogs that are incompletely house-trained deposit urine or stool at inappropriate locations in the home. It is common in puppies, but rare in adult dogs. Urine marking can occur in intact male dogs in territorial, sexual and conflict situations. Urine marking develops after sexual maturity, at 1 year of age. Dogs with separation anxiety or noise phobias may exhibit inappropriate elimination when they are anxious. Submission urination occurs when dogs perceive threats or dominance signals from other dogs or humans. Excitement urination occurs when the dog is very excited, often when owners return home, when greeting new dogs and people. Many medical disorders result in house-soiling due to alterations in function of the urinary or digestive systems, decreased mobility or poor awareness of the environment.
Diagnosis of elimination problems requires an excellent behavioral analysis of the dogâits history, owners and environment. Often medical tests are necessary, including X-rays, blood tests and urinalyses.
The ideal treatment for inappropriate elimination is prevention. If the dog is never given an opportunity to eliminate in the house, it quickly learns to only eliminate outdoors. A successful training program consists of taking the dog to an appropriate outdoor location on a regular schedule, and confining the dog when it is unsupervised, such as in âcrate training.â Inappropriate elimination that occurs because of anxiety is treated by managing the underlying anxiety, often with pharmaceutical drugs for anxiety. Castration improves urine marking in 70 percent of male dogs. Inappropriate management of inappropriate elimination often makes it worse. Do not punish the dog for inappropriate elimination.
Prognosis for most elimination problems is good, as long as the correct diagnosis is determined and appropriate therapy is implemented. Anxiety problems that cause inappropriate elimination can be challenging to address and resolve. Permanently resolving separation anxiety or noise phobia is unlikely.
Dr. Karsten Fostvedt is a veterinarian at St. Francis Pet Clinic in Ketchum.