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Possible Medical Causes of Inappropriate Urination in Dogs

Don’t wait to get help for your dog’s pee problem — there could be an underlying cause that the vet can diagnose.

A dog peeing in the home isn’t always a behavioral problem. By: StockSnap

In the morning, you step out of bed — and straight into a puddle of lukewarm pee.

This wet welcome is the result of “inappropriate urination,” or put simply, peeing in the wrong place. Many dogs do it, and often the pee problem may be labeled as behavioral because they are of an anxious disposition.

Hold on a minute. What about medical problems?

When your dog acts oddly, it’s a mantra often repeated — “Get your pet checked by a vet” — which is especially true for inappropriate peeing. Indeed, what starts out as a medical issue can morph into a behavioral problem if the medical matter isn’t treated swiftly (peeing in wrong places is habit forming).

With this in mind, let’s look at some red-flag factors that point to a medical cause rather than territory marking or stress.

Medical Causes

1. Impossible to Potty-Train

Is your pup impossible to potty-train? When you’re doing all the right things and yet the penny doesn’t drop in the right place, then your youngster could have an anatomical issue. This is especially likely if they leave puddles after sitting down or leak when they jump up.

Ectopic ureters are a rare condition, the result of the tubes connecting the kidney to the bladder being plumbed incorrectly. It’s tricky to diagnose and even more difficult to correct, but is well worth identifying so you have that option.

2. Breakdown in Potty-Training

For the pooch who was previously impeccably potty-trained but has lapsed into bad habits, be suspicious that something has changed. It may be the dog is drinking more than they used to (are you filling the water bowl more often?) or has a bladder infection.

As mentioned earlier, peeing in the wrong place is habit forming. The scent of urine is irresistible to dogs, drawing them back to the scene of the crime like kids to cookies. See a vet sooner rather than later and, ideally, take a pee sample with you.

If your pup is squatting or straining to urinate and nothing comes out, see the vet immediately. By: wiol5

3. Increased Thirst

We hinted at this in #2, but it’s worth its own mention. Older dogs are prone to health problems such as diabetes, kidney disease or Cushing’s syndrome. Any of these conditions make a dog thirstier, and what goes in has to come out. If the dog gets caught short while you’re at work, then their only option is to relieve themselves in the home.

A telltale sign of this may be a wet mat by the door. These dogs often know they need to go but, when denied access to the outdoors, go in the nearest spot.

4. Frequent Squatting

The dog that squats in front of you, walks a few steps, then squats again, needs to be taken seriously. This is a sign of an increased need to pass water and is often due to an inflamed bladder sending out messages it needs emptying.

As anyone who has ever suffered the misery of cystitis knows that urge to strain is pretty strong. For dogs, when you gotta go, you gotta go — no matter where you are.

5. Straining to Urinate

If your dog brazenly squats and stays there, meeting your eye as if challenging you to stop them, bear in mind this might be a medical problem. They may be finding it difficult to empty their bladder as a result of bladder stones, sludge in the urine or even an enlarged prostate.

Rather than tell them off for being dirty, get them checked out.

6. Blood in Urine

Blood in urine is a sure sign of inflammation. This may be down to infection, an enlarged prostate or inflammation of the bladder lining.

If your dog pees on dark carpet and you aren’t sure if blood is present, then get yourself some white tissue, and simply blot up the liquid and look for pink staining on the tissue.

7. Leaving Wet Patches Behind

Last but not least, think carefully about when and where the wet patches happen. If your dog leaves a damp patch where they were lying on the sofa or wets in their sleep, then this may well be urinary incontinence.

Learn more about urinary tract infections in dogs in this video:

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Diagnosing a Medical Problem

A urine sample is an amazingly helpful thing!

A simple dipstick test can identify the presence of blood, protein, sugar or bilirubin. While measuring how weak or concentrated the urine is, it can give answers about excessive thirst. If a urine infection is in the cards, then sending the urine away for culturing provides a clear answer about which antibiotic works best.

The vet will feel the bladder, checking how full it is, whether tenderness is present and if bladder stones can be felt. For the boys, the prostate may be checked as well.

When an underlying problem is suspected, blood tests help check out organ function that are making the dog thirsty. And finally, bladder and urinary tract imaging can highlight problems such as polyps, stones, cancer or ectopic ureters.

First Aid for Pee Problems

If you’re tearing at your hair dealing with a difficult pee problem, please don’t punish your dog. This only increases anxiety and insecurity, which makes a dog more likely to mark territory for reassurance.

Instead, work with your vet to address possible medical causes. And while results are coming in, take the following “first aid” actions:

  • Thoroughly deodorize any patches of pee.
  • Give the dog plenty of opportunities to toilet outdoors.
  • Never restrict access to water.
  • Limit their freedom to a couple of rooms and watch them like a hawk so as to rush them outside at the first sign of sizing up a toilet spot.
  • For the times you can’t watch them, crate train them.

Remember, follow the “golden” rule and seek help early — what starts as a medical problem can end in habit-forming peeing in the wrong place. Always be proactive about pee problems.


This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS. It was last reviewed Oct. 6, 2017.