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Old Dogs, New Tricks

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When we adopt a dog, we do it for life. When they’re puppies, we make sure to have training pads for dogs ready to go, and we laugh, frequently, as they bumble their way around our home. When they’re adults, they come with us on adventures, and they have created their own unique spot within the family. When they’re seniors, they move a little slower, and get a little forgetful, but we still love them and they still love us. That’s the only way to do it.

But the fact is, old dogs can sometimes be as messy as puppies. That’s because, just like people, as the age they can lose control of some bodily functions. There are 2 specific reasons for an elderly dog to start having accidents indoors.

  1. They simply forget. Some dogs can experience a condition called Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), which is essentially the canine equivalent of Alzheimer’s Disease in humans. A study has estimated that approximately 60% of dogs over the age of 11 will start to experience some degree of CCD. They may not recognize their people, forget what to do during walks, and have accidents indoors almost immediately after coming inside. There is hope, and a drug known as Anipryl, which is known as the treatment for “old dog syndrome,” has had some success.
  2. They cannot control themselves. As dogs age, they can run into numerous problems that can affect bladder and bowel control. A few of these are hormonal imbalances, a gradual loss of muscle tone, and neurological issues. Contact your vet if a situation like this comes up.

So we know a few reasons why an old dog is having accidents inside. The question is, what can you do about it?

  • Remember that your dog simply can’t control herself, and it’s not a behavioral issue. She’s likely a little stressed by the situation, so remember that scolding her is just going to make the situation worse.Patience is the name of the game when it comes to elderly dogs.
  • Puppy pads can become your new best friend. If you work away from the home, or you’re going to be gone for an extended period of time, don’t let your dog continue to have free reign of the house. Instead, create a place for your dog that will be easy to clean up. Put down a few pads, along with water, some toys, and a comfy place to lay down.
  • You can also try sanitary products, such as diapers designed for dogs. Just like with babies, these fit your dog like underwear and have absorbent pads designed to catch urine. For male dogs, you’ll find what are called “belly bands,” which are designed to snugly wrap around your dog’s waist, and also include an absorbent pad.
  • If you have a small dog, you may need to make some changes in their immediate environment. That might mean clearing out snow to make them a path, creating some kind of sheltered spot outside so they can do their business without getting rained upon, or covering a bathroom spot with gravel or mulch so that wet grass won’t press against their stomach.