How to prevent your senior dog from having accidents (2023)

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Regain control over No. 1 and No. 2 with these tried-and-true methods.

Written by John Dermott

— Medically reviewed by Dr. Erica Irish

Updated December 3, 2021

How to prevent your senior dog from having accidents (1)

Table of Contents

  • Reasons your senior dog is having accidents
  • Prevention and management
  • Cleaning tips
  • Knowing when it’s time
  • Frequently asked questions

The essentials

  • Accidents are a common occurrence in senior dogs — As pups age, it becomes harder for them to control their bodily functions.
  • You may not be able to prevent your senior dog’s accidents — But there are steps you can take to minimize the mess and provide damage control.
  • Some dogs respond better than others to accident-mitigation techniques — You may experience some trial and error as your pup gets used to any new products or training you decide to implement.

As a pet parent, the last thing you want to do is revisit the days of puppyhood, when cleaning up accidents was a many-times-a-day routine. But as dogs age and enter their senior years, it can be hard for them to keep it all in — often resulting in messes around the house. What’s worse, your older dog may experience shame or fear of disciplinary action. When this happens, they may resort to hiding, covering up accidents, or exacerbating a medical condition (or pain) by trying to hold it in.

👉 The American Kennel Club (AKC) defines senior dogs as being 7 years or older, or a little younger for larger breeds. But any dog experiencing chronic accidents — no matter their age — should be evaluated by a vet.

Before you apply methods to mitigate accidents, it’s important to recognize why your dog may be having accidents to begin with.

(Video) Help Your Senior Dog With Incontinence (Urinary accidents)

Reasons why your senior dog is having accidents

There are many reasons why your senior dog may be experiencing accidents in the house. Some of the most common reasons are below:

Age-related loss of muscle. Just like with people, dogs’ muscle tone, strength, and endurance diminish as they age. Over time, atrophy of their hind leg muscles can make getting outside a challenge. And even when they do, their weakened muscles may make balancing and defecating more difficult.

Arthritis. Dogs with arthritis can have a hard time getting up from a lying down position. They may also have difficulty making it outside, particularly if there are stairs or obstacles between them and their go-to potty area.

Canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD). CCD is one of the most common culprits for behavior problems and personality changes in older dogs, including the loss of once-learned house training skills. In fact, between 20 and 30% of dogs over the age of 7 start to show signs of CCD. That figure increases to 68% for dogs over the age of 14.

👉 Be on the lookout for other signs of CCD, which can include changes in your pup’s sleep schedule, social behavior, or movement.

A disease or condition. Cushing’s disease, which most commonly occurs in senior dogs, results in hormonal imbalances that can lead to frequent urination. Other common problems in senior dogs are kidney disease, diabetes, or urinary tract infections (UTIs) caused by bacteria. There could also be internal tumors pushing on their bladder, colon, or sphincter, resulting in incontinence or defecation. Have your vet do a thorough analysis to rule out potential diseases or conditions.

Stress and anxiety. Dogs don’t always respond well to change. If you’ve moved recently, had to modify your work schedule, or experienced a change in your family dynamic (such as the loss of another pet), your dog may experience stress or separation anxiety during the adjustment period. Any change to their environment can lead your pet to have accidents in your home.

Gastrointestinal (GI) issues. Many older dogs experience GI issues that contribute to their inability to expel waste, which can then get backed up and eventually cause them to have an accident. Alternatively, older dogs can also have overactive bladders or colons, leaving them little time to make it outside.

Teaching an old dog new tricks: accident prevention and management

Methods for prevention

Change up your pup’s routine — You may be used to taking your dog out a couple times a day. But senior dogs can’t hold it as long as they used to between potty breaks. So long as it isn’t painful to do so due to arthritis or other mobility issues, try taking your dog out more frequently. Between 4 and 6 times a day is a great goal to aim toward.

Maintain stellar nutrition —Nutrition is one of your best tools for preventing cognitive and physical decline in your pup. In fact, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) cites nutrition as one of the primary lifestyle factors to focus on as your dog enters their senior years.

Additional tips and tricks for nutrition in senior dogs

Consider the following nutrition-related tips when assessing your senior dog’s diet:

Feed your pup a healthy diet — Excessive weight gain can create or intensify medical conditions that lead to accidents. Prescription diets, like Purina’s NeuroCare Formula, contain arginine, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants to support brain health in aging pups. These nutrients may even be beneficial to dogs with CCD.

Add antioxidants to your dog’s daily diet — The AKC Canine Health Foundation recommends adding dietary or supplemental antioxidants, which are known to decrease the damaging effects of free radicals. Studies also show that antioxidant-rich diets are a valuable strategy to counteract aging-related cognitive decline in elderly dogs.

Try an omega-3 supplement — One supplement we love is Native Pet’s Omega Oil, which is packed with omega-3s and omega-6s from wild-caught fish and other natural ingredients. It’s good for your senior dog’s skin, coat, and brain!

(Video) Senior Dogs 🐶 Habitual Behavior Problems

How to prevent your senior dog from having accidents (2)

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Tips for indoor potty training

Sometimes medical conditions such as arthritis prevent dogs from making it outside to potty. But that doesn’t mean you have to forever resign yourself to cleaning up accidents inside. Many pet parents have found success with indoor potty training (no, not of the porcelain variety). Here are a few tips courtesy of AKC to get you started:

Try newspaper or potty pads — Dogs can be trained to have an indoor spot, so long as it’s a regular, designated area. If your pup is having accidents, they’ll be happy to know they have a safe space to go without being reprimanded. You might start with inexpensive newspaper or potty pads, but keep in mind that both require a bit more attention and cleanup than other options.

Opt for an indoor “doggie box” — These can be fashioned out of a large cat litter box, though there are also dog-specific versions on the market. The key is to keep it low to the ground to make it easy to access, particularly for senior dogs with a hard time getting around.

Bring the grass inside — If your pup isn’t quite grasping the concept, you might need to bring the outdoors to them. Use some lawn sod or artificial grass to replicate the experience they’re most familiar with outside. Don’t be afraid to use a paper towel with a light urine sample to lightly scent the area until they recognize it as their designated spot. Placing the sod in a kiddie pool can also help contain any mess.

Use a cue — Your dog probably got used to cue words that prompted them to run to the door in anticipation of a potty break. Do the same for inside, but replace “time to go outside” or “time for a walk” with “time to potty” or “go potty.” This will help encourage them to use the bathroom in their new spot.

Bring on the treats — Reward your dog with treats for their efforts. Moving the process inside is a big shift for them from their previous habit, so every good outcome should come with plenty of praise and reinforcement.

👉 Many dogs have it ingrained from early puppy training that they must go outside to potty. Reversing that training can be tough, but don’t give up! And remember: It’s a myth that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Patience and persistence are key.

Doggie diapers

If indoor training isn’t feasible or doesn’t seem to be working, consider doggie diapers. While some dogs don’t like feeling restricted, other dogs don’t mind the presence of a diaper at all. It’s worth trying out a pack to see if your dog will get used to them.

We recommend a couple of different options:

(Video) House Breaking an Older Dog or Rescue | Sarah Says Pets #TrainedbySarahHodgson

How to prevent your senior dog from having accidents (3)

A great option for senior dogs

Top Paw Disposable Dog Diapers

These doggie diapers are made with a thin, soft, and comfortable material that’s impressively absorbent. Adjustable straps help secure this diaper, although they might not be best for super active or wiggly pups.

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How to prevent your senior dog from having accidents (4)

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Hartz Disposable Diapers for Dogs

Comfortable, soft, and gentle, these diapers work for male and female dogs of all sizes. And you won’t find many other products with reviews this high. The diapers even come in fun, stylish designs.

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Stay calm and clean on

Remember that an accident is just that: an accident. Your dog didn’t do it on purpose and likely can’t help it. You may have to accept that regular cleaning is a new way of life.

But you don’t have to break the bank with cleaning supplies. Natural cleaners, such as vinegar solutions, do wonders. And for harder-to-lift stains, have a bottle of enzymatic cleaner at the ready. The AKC also has some great tips for getting rid of doggie urine stains and odor from a variety of floor types.

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Knowing when it’s time

It’s a sensitive subject to broach, but it’s important to recognize that senior dogs experiencing accidents may be approaching the end of their life. You should always consider any pain they might be experiencing and their overall quality of life.

The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center has a useful survey and guide to help you and your veterinarian determine the best course of action for your pet.

Frequently asked questions

Why has my older dog started peeing in the house?

Senior dogs might start peeing in the house if they’re experiencing medical conditions that are affecting them physically or mentally. Consult your vet to determine what the underlying cause might be.

How can you prevent a senior dog from peeing inside?

As dogs age, it becomes harder for them to hold their bladder. You can help prevent them from peeing inside by increasing the frequency of your pup’s pee breaks. (We suggest between 4 and 6 times a day.) If mobility is an issue, you may not be able to prevent them from peeing inside, but you can set up a designated spot or try doggie diapers.

What can I use as a deterrent to keep my dog from peeing inside?

If a senior dog has a medical condition, they likely won’t be able to stop from peeing inside — no matter what you try using as a deterrent. Instead of making it more difficult for your pooch, which can cause pain and discomfort, it’s best to accept the lifestyle change and take measures to mitigate smells and stains. Try using doggie diapers or equipping a designated spot in the house with potty pads or a box.

Does vinegar prevent a dog from peeing in the house?

Vinegar won’t stop a dog from going if they gotta go. Even if your dog doesn’t like the smell, they’ll likely just find another spot — and you don’t want to douse your whole house in vinegar. Stick with vinegar for cleaning up pee, but don’t try to use it as a deterrent.

What are signs that your older dog is dying?

Senior dogs display end-of-life symptoms in a variety of ways, including uncontrollable bowels, incontinence, drastic behavioral and personality changes, confusion, physical decline with limited movement, and extreme lethargy, to name a few. If you observe any of these symptoms, consult your veterinarian.

What causes a potty trained dog to regress?

Potty trained dogs may regress if they have a medical condition (such as a urinary infection) that makes it hard for them to hold it, age-related issues controlling their bladder or bowels, or because of behavioral problems such as marking. Consult your vet to determine if a medical issue is causing your pup to have accidents.

📚 Essential reads

  • The best vitamins and supplements for senior dogs

    4 min read

  • A guide to osteoarthritis in dogs

    13 min read

  • How to clean pet urine out of a mattress

    5 min read



What to do when your senior dog keeps having accidents? ›

Dog incontinence is a normal sign of aging, but if your older dog is peeing in the house, it could also indicate a more serious health issue. Incontinence can be caused by many different things, including aging, disease, infections, and pain. If your senior dog is urinating in the house, consult a vet immediately.

How do you prevent old dog incontinence? ›

How to stop a dog from urinating indoors? You can help your incontinent dog by using bedding, such as vetbed, which draws moisture away from the skin. Dog incontinence pads are also available for an old dog peeing inside. You should also wash the back of your dog's legs regularly to reduce the risk of urine scald.

Why is my 14 year old dog peeing a lot? ›

Reasons for dogs to start urinating more frequently include urinary tract infections, diabetes, kidney or liver disease, or incontinence. It would be best to have your dog seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible, and they may want to run some lab work to see what is going on.

Can incontinence in old dogs be cured? ›

Urinary incontinence in dogs can often be successfully treated or managed with surgery and medications. Specific treatment of an underlying disease or condition with surgery or medications may resolve incontinence.

Why can't my senior dog hold his pee? ›

Older dogs of both sexes can struggle with incontinence, which is the inability to control the elimination of urine and/or stool. Common causes of incontinence in senior dogs include urinary tract infections, kidney disease, arthritis, and dementia.

How can I treat my dogs urinary incontinence at home? ›

Some natural remedies that are used to help with dog incontinence are phytoestrogens, corn silk (for supportive treatment and remedy), saw palmetto (for anti-inflammation), implementing a grain-free diet, and even acupuncture.

What do vets give dogs for incontinence? ›

Phenylpropanolamine (brand names: Proin®, Propalin®, Cystolamine®, Uricon®, Uriflex-PT®) is a sympathomimetic medication used to treat urinary incontinence due to poor muscle tone in the urethral sphincter.

Why do older dogs start peeing inside? ›

As dogs age, the bladder muscles can become weak and they can't hold it like they used to. Dogs experiencing incontinence often pee on the floor, furniture, or their bed while sleeping because this is when their bladder muscles are most relaxed, allowing urine to leak out.

How often does a senior dog need to pee? ›

Senior dogs typically need a bathroom break every 4-6 hours. That may, however, depend on the specific breed of dog, their weight, and their other health problems, among other issues. Some older dogs may need to pee more often.

Why is my older dog peeing in the house and drinking a lot of water? ›

Urinary Tract Infections in Senior Pets

In general, UTIs are a variety of infections that may affect the kidneys, the urethra, and the bladder. Bladder disease, however, is a type of UTI and includes bladder stones. The most common symptom of a UTI is excessive urination, which is the result of increased water intake.

What medication is used for incontinence in older dogs? ›

Diethylstilbestrol (DES)

The most common prescription medication for treating urinary incontinence in dogs is diethylstilbesterol or DES. DES is a synthetic form of estrogen and should only be used for female dogs who have been spayed. DES comes in a capsule form and helps your dog maintain urine control.

What is the best medicine for dog incontinence? ›

Proin, the short name for phenylpropanolamine (often abbreviated as PPA), is a popular prescription medication for urethral incontinence in dogs.

How long can senior dogs hold their pee overnight? ›

A young dog can hold their pee for up to 10-12 hours if needed, but that doesn't mean that they should. The average adult dog should be allowed to relieve itself at least 3-5 times per day. That's at least once every 8 hours.
Puppy (<6 months) =1-3 hours
Senior (>7 years) =4-6 hours
Senior (>12 years) =2-4 hours
2 more rows
Apr 24, 2021

Can a dog stop being incontinent? ›

Your veterinarian may prescribe a medication for an incontinent hormonal issue. Other drugs are available to improve urethral tone but note that these often come with side effects in dogs, such as restlessness, anxiety, and hypertension. Above all, maintain your dog's hygiene to avoid skin infections.

What are the symptoms for a dog holding pee too long? ›

Although he physically might be able to do so, extended periods of holding it in can lead to urinary tract infections or urinary crystals and stones. The inability to urine can also lead to behavioral issues. Frustrated dogs can bark, chew, and become extremely anxious, which can lead to a frustrated owner.

How do you live with an incontinent dog? ›

5 Ways to Care for a Pet with Urinary Incontinence
  1. #1: Fit your pet for diapers to contain urinary accidents. ...
  2. #2: Keep your pet clean to avoid infections. ...
  3. #3: Use waterproof pads under your pet's bedding. ...
  4. #4: Take your pet for more frequent walks. ...
  5. #5: Talk to your veterinarian about urinary incontinence treatment options.

Can I give my dog Benadryl for urinary incontinence? ›

Certain drugs are not compatible with Benadryl, so always speak to your vet before dosing. In addition, dogs with glaucoma, high blood pressure, or urinary incontinence should not be given Benadryl.

What can I give my dog for urinary problems? ›

Antibiotics. If your dog's UTI is being caused by a bacterial infection, your vet may prescribe a round of antibiotics for your pet. If your vet prescribes antibiotics for your dog's UTI you can expect to see an improvement within a couple of days.

How old is a senior dog? ›

Small dogs are considered senior citizens of the canine community when they reach 11-12 years of age. Their medium-sized friends become seniors at 10 years of age. Their larger-sized colleagues are seniors at 8 years of age. And, finally, their giant-breed counterparts are seniors at 7 years old.

Why is my elderly dog suddenly incontinent? ›

Common causes of incontinence in senior dogs include urinary tract infections, kidney disease, arthritis, and dementia. Supplements and medications can help treat incontinence in dogs, though if there is a root health issue causing it you can certainly treat that.

Why is my older dog having poop accidents in the house? ›

This behavior has a name– Fecal Incontinence – and it is not an unusual occurrence with senior dogs. A number of physical/cognitive problems related to aging can cause fecal incontinence, including weakened or damaged anal sphincter muscles, spinal nerve damage, or cognitive decline.

Is incontinence a normal part of aging in dogs? ›

Though senior dogs of both sexes can suffer from incontinence, the issue is far more common in female dogs. This is because, as female dogs age, their control of the neck of their bladder can deteriorate. Urine can all too easily leak out when the exit of the bladder is not fully closed.

Why does a senior dog start peeing in the house? ›

Age-Related Causes

The most common cause of an older dog peeing in the house is that, simply, they can't hold it like they used to. Their muscle tone has been reduced, and the control they once had over their bladder to wait until they're outside is fading. Not only that, but their hormones are changing as well.

Why is my dog peeing when lying down? ›

So, what causes dogs to leak when they are lying down? While many different factors can cause urinary incontinence in dogs, some of the most common reasons include urinary tract infections, bladder infections, spaying (for female dogs), and old age.

How do I stop my older dog from peeing and pooping in the house? ›

Set up a routine where she is taken outside every couple of hours. Establish a place in the yard where she is to potty, and take her to that same spot every time. Use a leash. Allow her to sniff around and get used to going to that spot, even if she doesn't do anything.

What should I do if my old dog keeps peeing and pooping inside? ›

The best thing to do when accidents start to happen regularly in the house is to take your senior dog to the vet. Discuss the possibilities above with them to possibly pinpoint the cause and see if there is any medication you can give your dog to try and reduce the frequency of potty accidents.

Why is my senior dog peeing and pooping in the house? ›

Your older pup may have a condition called canine cognitive dysfunction. It's like Alzheimer's disease in people. They could forget what to do on walks, then come inside and poop. Talk to your vet or a pet therapist about treatment options.

How many times a day should a senior dog pee? ›

The general guide is senior dogs should be let out to go to the toilet every four to six hours, but again, this will depend on their breed, weight and if any health issues are present.

How do you treat urinary incontinence in dogs? ›

Medications that increase urethral sphincter tone such as phenylpropanolamine (PPA) or imipramine, or hormone replacements such as estrogen or diethylstilbestrol (DES) are commonly used alone and in combination. Many dogs that respond poorly to PPA alone will benefit from a combination of PPA and DES.


1. Senior Dog Peeing Inside the House?
(Senior Tail Waggers)
2. RE-Train Your Adult Dog 🐩 to Potty 💩 outside the house. II Dog Potty Training II Monkoodog
3. Urinary Incontinence in Older Dogs - The Buzby Dog Podcast
4. Stop Dog Potty Accidents | Quickly, Easily and Gently
(Kuddly Kyiah A ShiChi!)
5. Caring for a Senior Dog - Aging with Dignity
(Ask A Vet Tech!)
6. Tips for Potty Training Your Adult Dog
(APDT Headquarters)


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