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I Thought You Were Housetrained

Dr. Bob Encinosa

One of the more common problems encountered by pet owners is a loss of housetraining. Sometimes the answer is obvious, but usually it takes a lot of detective work to reach a diagnosis. But, whatever the answer, when a pet who has been housetrained for years suddenly begins urinating inappropriately, there is reason for concern. The list of potential answers is very long but can be broadly grouped into three categories:

1) Increased volume of urine produced. The pet can simply not hold it any longer. This category includes conditions like diabetes, Cushings disease and chronic kidney failure. It can also be a result of certain toxins and medications. All of the ailments in this category also cause excessive drinking, an important clue.

2) Abdominal or bladder pain causing urgency or straining. The pet passes urine more frequently but in smaller quantities. This category includes bladder or urethral infections, bladder stones and tumors. There is usually not an increase in water consumption.

3) Psychological or neurological problems. Conditions that affect the nervous system can cause weakness or spasms that can cause pets to have urine accidents. Epilepsy, spinal disorders and thyroid disease are examples in this category. Also in this category are conditions that are purely psychological, like territory marking, excitement wetting, senility and litter box aversion (a whole topic unto itself).

As you can see, the range of possible diseases varies greatly. Some, like infections and bladder stones can be cured quickly and completely. Others, like diabetes, require long term management. While still others may not be very amenable to treatment at all.

In any case, finding the answer requires the help of your veterinarian. Sometimes, only a thorough physical exam is needed, but often a few diagnostic tests will be necessary. Almost always however, information provided by the owner helps greatly to narrow the field of possibilities and zero in on the answer. So the better you know your pet and its habits, the easier and quicker we can solve the case together.