Vet Reviewed

By Carmela Ciuraru | September 30, 2023

If your adult dog has been urinating in the house all of a sudden (and regularly), there’s cause for concern. This might be a behavioral issue that requires training, or it might be an underlying medical condition. Either way, it needs to be addressed and indicates that your dog needs help.

Never assume your dog is doing something “bad” by peeing indoors; instead, approach the situation with understanding and patience. If your dog is a senior, incontinence could be the cause, so don’t scold or punish them for something that isn’t their fault. And if your adult dog was recently adopted, it’s possible that they were never properly house trained and might need your help with adjusting to life in a new home. 

What causes an adult dog to suddenly have “accidents” in the house?

If your adult dog is peeing indoors, the first and most obvious question to ask is: are they fully house trained? If you just adopted an adult dog and they seemed to be reliably going potty outside but are now having accidents, you may have to go back to basics and reinforce good house training habits (read our guide here). If your dog spent years without going inside, and now they are suddenly having regular indoor accidents, that’s another matter entirely.  And the reasons for their new behavior may not be obvious right away. For instance, your pet might be experiencing extreme anxiety, neurological issues, or fluctuating hormonal levels. Or your dog might try to go outside to urinate, but can’t make it out the door fast enough.

Reasons for adult dogs peeing in the house may include:

  • Side effects of medications
  • Urinary tract infection (kidney or bladder infection), bladder inflammation, or bladder stones
  • Age-related incontinence (lack of bladder control)
  • Arthritis/joint pain that makes walking difficult
  • Dementia, senility, or other forms of cognitive dysfunction
  • Distress caused by major changes in the household 
  • Abrupt changes in normal routine
  • Anxiety, stress, excitement, or fear
  • Marking behavior
  • Underlying health issues, such as hormone imbalances 

The first step is taking your dog to the vet to explore the root causes of the problem. If your vet rules out a medical condition, it’s likely the reason for peeing in the house is a behavioral issue.

Some male dogs display marking or territorial behaviors, which you can work to modify on your own, or with the help of a behaviorist or trainer. Dogs can also pee in the house as a submissive, anxious, or fear-based behavior. Something such as a major construction project (with jackhammering noise, for instance) nearby might be stressing out your dog to the point of peeing in the house. Try playing soothing music or distracting your dog with treats or extra playtimes. And don’t underestimate the effect of big life changes on your sensitive dog: if you’ve got a new job that’s keeping you away for longer hours, disrupting the dog’s routine, your dog might be feeling extra anxiety. Other transitions such as moving to a new home, having a baby, or adopting an additional pet, might be taking a toll on your dog and causing them to pee in the house. Again, they don’t mean to do anything “wrong,” and they’re not being spiteful—so be gentle and patient as you work to resolve the issue. 

No matter why your dog is having “accidents” indoors, or how frustrating it might be, just clean up the spot (using an enzymatic cleaner) without punishment or raising your voice in anger. Never rub your dog’s nose in the soiled area. These kinds of reactions will only exacerbate the problem and make your dog fearful.

What are some solutions to help my dog stop peeing in the house?

  • Hire a professional dog trainer
  • Increase the frequency of walks (and hire a dog walker if necessary)
  • Revisit house training practice with your dog
  • Crate your dog when you’re not home to supervise
  • Use high value treats and praise, whenever your dog “goes” outside

Before taking your dog to the vet for a checkup, you might want to note where you’re finding spots in the house and when it happens: throughout the day, just mornings, in the night? Try to get a sense of when the problem started, how long it has been going on, and whether you see any improvement—or if the issue is getting worse. You should also monitor your dog more closely for signals that they need to relieve themselves: whining, barking, circling, obsessive pacing, and pawing at the door (or at you). Also, if your dog has been drinking a lot more water lately, this could indicate a medical condition. Then you can share your observations with the vet.

When you schedule an exam and consultation, the vet may want to do a complete blood count,  thyroid test, and other blood testing on your dog to determine the cause. Also, be prepared to bring a urine sample from your dog so the vet can do a urinalysis to check for bacteria and abnormal cells in the urine, and to determine whether there is a urinary tract infection. If so, your dog will be prescribed antibiotics. Other urinary issues are bladder inflammation (cystitis), usually caused by a bladder infection, bladder stones, or tumors. Some dogs lose bladder control because of issues with adrenal gland function, such as Cushing’s or Addison’s disease, leading them to feel more thirsty and need to urinate more frequently. 

Each of these health issues (or others) could be causing your dog to have “accidents” in the house; your vet will help you figure out the best course of action.

If your dog is a senior coping with dementia, reduced bladder control, or kidney failure, you might have to get more creative about ways to help your dog. First, check with the vet to see if any medications can help manage some of the symptoms. You might also want to buy dog diapers, take your dog out for more frequent walks, and set down Wee-Wee pads in any rooms where your dog might be during the day or at night. Additionally, it’s a good idea to limit the rooms where your dog can wander, especially if the dog has cognitive issues or limited mobility.