Eliminating inside is a common issue for puppies, but what causes an adult dog to defecate in the house despite being potty trained?
An adult dog pooping in the house suddenly can result from behavior problems, health issues, or a change in your pet’s environment.
Let’s answer the question “why is my adult dog pooping in the house suddenly” as well as provide steps you can take to manage the issue.
Reasons for Adult Dog Pooping in the House
Here are the most common reasons for an adult dog to suddenly begin pooping in the house, even if they are already house trained.
Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety can result in high levels of serotonin in your system, which can lead to spasms in the colon. Dogs are prone to experiencing this symptom, especially among animals with separation anxiety.
Dogs are social animals and can become stressed when you’re away. More than half of pet owners say their animal has separation anxiety, making it a widespread issue.
With many owners working from home during the pandemic, getting used to being alone again can be stressful for pets who adopted a new routine.
Separation anxiety isn’t the only cause of stress or fear when your dog is home alone. A loud noise, a thunderstorm, or even a delivery driver knowing on the door can startle your pet and result in elimination.
Changes in Environment
A change in your pet’s environment can cause stress and result in a mild gastrointestinal upset. It’s not unusual to see dogs experience nervous diarrhea as a result of your household welcoming a baby, a new pet, or a house guest. Moving to a new home can have a similar effect.
Do Dogs Poop for Revenge?
The answer is no. Research suggests that dogs can hold a grudge against some people, especially in the context of protecting their owners.
However, dogs don’t see defecating as disrespecting or challenging your authority. Coming home to an accident can feel personal, but it’s not something your dog does to get back at you.
Eating the same food every day is beneficial for your dog. Our pets thrive when they can follow a routine, and you’ll find that many dogs are fussy about eating if you introduce a new brand of food.
A new food, treat, or supplement can affect your dog’s digestive system and upset its intestinal flora, resulting in loose stools that are difficult to hold in.
Medication can also cause your dog to eliminate inside. Anti-inflammatory drugs are a common culprit, but many prescription medications use lactose and other binding substances that can cause GI upset. Giving the medication with food can help.
Snow and Inclement Weather
While some dogs enjoy playing in the snow, others don’t like cold temperatures. Small breeds with short legs are particularly sensitive to cold and wet weather.
If your dog is not a fan of winter weather, it might avoid eliminating outside and have an accident in the house.
Age and Incontinence
As your companion ages, you’ll notice some changes in their body and behavior. Senior dogs often become less active, which can cause constipation. Your dog might struggle to relieve themselves during your daily walks and end up going in the house instead.
An adult dog pooping in the house suddenly can also result from a lack of muscle tone. As pets age, they often lose muscle mass. It can be difficult to hold feces and urine in with weakened muscles, which can lead to both fecal and urinary incontinence.
Canine cognitive dysfunction is another possibility. This condition is similar to dementia in humans. A third of dogs between the ages of 11 and 12 suffer from some of these symptoms, and two-thirds of dogs between 15 and 16 have some signs of cognitive dysfunction.
Common symptoms include confusion and irritability. Dogs with this condition can sometimes become forgetful of house rules and training.
Marking behaviors help dogs indicate where their territory is. Most dogs will use urine, but they will also occasionally mark with feces.
Your dog might mark in the house if they have any reasons to feel that another animal is threatening their territory. A new pet in the home, a scent from a new dog your neighbors adopted, or even seeing an unfamiliar dog walk past a window can trigger marking behaviors.
Marking is more common in intact males. Once your dog has marked an area, use an enzyme cleaner to get rid of the smell and prevent your pet from marking the same spot again.
A common cause of gastrointestinal upset in dogs is dietary indiscretion or garbage gut. Dogs are highly food-motivated and will often scarf down food scraps or even get into the garbage.
Eating spoiled food or things that don’t agree with their system can result in loose stools that are difficult to hold in. Common culprits include dairy, meat, foods rich in fat, and eggs.
If your dog suffers from diarrhea for more than a day and shows signs of discomfort or symptoms like vomiting, it’s best to schedule a vet appointment.
Dietary indiscretion can resolve itself, but your dog might need fluids to prevent dehydration. Your vet can prescribe medication to help with nausea and loose stools. Probiotics and a bland diet are often part of the treatment plan.
Other Health Issues
An adult dog pooping in the house suddenly can suffer from an underlying health condition. Note that eliminating inside once isn’t cause for concern.
However, you should keep an eye on your pet and look for other symptoms. If eliminating inside becomes a recurring issue, it’s best to schedule a check-up with your vet.
The following conditions can cause diarrhea and make it difficult for your dog to wait until the next walk:
- Parasites like coccidia, giardia, or worms will often cause loose stools.
- Your dog might eliminate more frequently as a result of a viral or bacterial infection like parvo or distemper.
- Conditions like kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, or pancreatic insufficiency can also cause diarrhea.
- Infections and inflammatory bowel disease can cause inflammation in the GI tract.
- Certain types of cancer can affect the bowels.
There is a wide range of health issues that can result in incontinence. If your dog eliminates in the house once and has no other symptoms, you’re more than likely looking at a behavior problem.
If your dog suffers from diarrhea, vomits, or is lethargic, schedule a vet appointment. Your vet will use blood work, imaging, and other techniques to determine the root cause behind the issue.
Tips for Managing Accidents
These tips will help you address medical issues and correct behavioral problems:
- Your priority should be to rule out medical issues. Monitor your pet for signs of lethargy and other worrisome symptoms. Schedule a vet appointment if your dog vomits or suffers from severe diarrhea.
- Could your dog have eaten some food scraps? Feed a bland diet for the next 24 hours to help settle your pet’s GI tract. Schedule a vet appointment if symptoms like loose stool or discomfort persist.
- Your pet might need a training reminder. Use positive reinforcement and praise your dog for eliminating outside.
- Stick to a schedule. Most dogs have an internal clock and need to go outside in the morning and within 30 minutes to one hour after eating.
- Restrict your dog to an area of the house to prevent marking. You can use a crate or baby gate to keep your pet in an area that will be easier to clean in case of accidents.
- If you have a senior dog or need to leave your pet home alone for long hours, lay out some potty pads or invest in an indoor doggie bathroom.
- Manage separation anxiety. Short and frequent absences can help your dog get used to being alone.
- Give your pet a chance to get used to changes in their environment, whether it’s a new house, a new pet, or a new family member.
Important — Don’t Scold Your Adult Dog for Pooping in the House!
While scolding a dog for pooping in the house should never be done, even as part of house training, it is especially important not to do so in the case of an adult dog who has suddenly begun to poop inside.
Your dog is not pooping inside intentionally, and yelling at them for doing so will only make them stressed and upset, which can actually make the pooping situation even worse, depending on the underlying cause.
It’s better to concentrate on making it more likely that your dog poops outside, and figuring out what’s causing the sudden change in behavior.
As you can see, there are a number of reasons for an adult dog pooping in the house suddenly. Observing your dog closely and identifying the cause can make managing the issue less difficult.
Unfortunately, in some cases such as with an aging incontinent dog, pooping in the house may just be a way of life and it will be a matter of doing your best to minimize the inconvenience and mess.