Dog Pooping in the House: Why and What to Do

Christina Hawkins, DVM
Written by:
Published: February 25, 2022
Dog Pooping in the House: Why and What to Do

One of the proudest moments of being a dog parent is the joy you feel when you’ve successfully potty-trained your new puppy. As your dog gets older, though, they may have a few accidents every once in a while.

But what if your dog starts pooping in the house more than a few times?

This behavior would definitely be abnormal for a house-trained dog. Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons and what you can do about it.

Why Is My Dog Pooping in the House?

If your dog keeps pooping in the house, they may have a health issue, or something might have changed in their routine, diet, or home environment that’s causing the accidents.

The first step is to rule out a medical reason, which involves making an appointment to see your veterinarian.

Intestinal Parasites

Any medical condition that leads to inflammation of your dog’s intestines or an increased sense of urgency can result in an accident in the house. One common cause of gastrointestinal disease in dogs is intestinal parasites (worms).

Dogs may come in contact with parasites in the yard, at dog parks, or from being in contact with other dogs or cats. These parasitic worms create inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, resulting in diarrhea, blood, and/or mucus in the stool.

Food Intolerance/Allergy

Food allergies or food intolerance may also cause gastrointestinal upset in dogs. Although food allergies in dogs are relatively uncommon, 10-15% of dogs diagnosed with food allergies show signs of both skin disease and gastrointestinal disease, typically in the form of loose stool.

Common food allergies for dogs include beef, dairy, chicken, wheat, and lamb. The intolerance or food allergy may cause your dog to poop more often, have soft yet formed stools, and have more gas and stomach noises.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety has become a more common issue for some dogs, especially if there is a change in how often you are at home with them. If your dog is accustomed to you being home with them most of the day, and then your schedule changes and you’re away for longer periods, this can be upsetting for your dog.

Dogs with separation anxiety will typically start to become nervous or anxious as you get ready to leave the house (grabbing a coat or keys, putting on your shoes, etc.). Your dog may start engaging in behaviors like destructive chewing, pacing, whining, or house soiling.

Noise Phobia / Outdoor Stressors

Your dog may be pooping inside because something outdoors scares them or makes them anxious. Some dogs have a more nervous personality, and loud sounds such as vehicles passing by, dogs barking, thunder, people shouting, or other loud noises can contribute to fear and anxiety.

Your dog may also be anxious from possible predators, rain, people running by, or wheeled objects like skateboards, suitcases, or bikes going by them. If your dog is tense and fearful when outside, they may not use the bathroom until they are back indoors.

Being Distracted

Some dogs may defecate in the house because they did not spend enough time outside to go to the bathroom. When dogs go outside, they usually want to sniff and explore their environment for new sights, smells, or sounds. So if your dog spends a lot of time exploring instead of urinating and defecating, they may not have had enough time to poop outdoors.

Change in Routine

Most dogs get used to a schedule of eating, going for walks, or even playing at certain times. If there is an abrupt change to this routine, your dog may not be prepared, and this can contribute to pooping in the house. With a newly house-trained pet, any new stressors or change in their daily routine can result in setbacks.

Age-Related Issues

As your pet ages, their house-training skills may not be as sharp as they were when they were a puppy. Older dogs can start to show mild signs of canine cognitive dysfunction or mild dog dementia, where they start to forget certain learned behaviors. Common signs seen include pacing, wandering, increased anxiousness, and more episodes of house-soiling.

Another age-related factor is arthritis. An older dog with signs of hip or knee pain may have more difficulty getting into the position to defecate, so they may have trouble going in the appropriate place.

Diet Change

Sudden changes in your dog’s diet can lead to gastrointestinal upset. Whether it’s because you bought a new brand of food or treats or if your dog got into the trash can, a dog’s intestinal tract does not handle this kind of abrupt change well.

The change in diet can cause a massive shift in the microflora biome (good and bad bacteria) that make up your dog’s intestinal tract. This imbalance can cause loose stools, leading to accidents in the house.

How to Stop a Dog From Pooping in the House

No matter the underlying cause of your dog's inappropriate defecation in the house, punishment is not going to resolve the issue. Do not yell at your dog or rub your dog's nose in it, as this is not an effective strategy.

Here are some tips for how to stop your dog from pooping inside. Consult with your veterinarian if these strategies do not help in resolving the issue.

Address Underlying Health Conditions

It is important to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to find any possible medical conditions.

Intestinal parasites can be diagnosed with fecal testing and easily treated with deworming medications. Also, if your pet is at higher risk of exposure to intestinal parasites, it is essential to keep them on monthly prevention as a form of protection.

For food allergies, your veterinarian may recommend a prescription diet such as a hydrolyzed protein or novel protein diet to see if your pet will tolerate the food better.

Ask your vet about adding a daily probiotic to your pet’s food, such as Purina Fortiflora or Nutramax Proviable to help promote a balanced intestinal microbiome.

Seek Help for Your Dog’s Anxiety or Separation Anxiety

Helping your pet with anxiety-related issues often involves some form of behavior modification or desensitization.

For separation anxiety, dogs have to be retrained over time to see being left alone for certain periods as a positive thing. Ask your vet about professional trainers or vet behaviorists that can help with your pet’s specific issue.

Pheromones, such as Adaptil, and calming supplements, such as Zylkene or Purina Calming Care, also help with anxiety. If you feel your pet may need more aggressive therapy, consult with your veterinarian.

Get Recommendations for Age-Related Issues

If your pet is starting to show signs of mild dementia or cognitive dysfunction, schedule a checkup with your veterinarian. There are medications and special diets for senior pets to help them navigate this new stage in their life.

Your veterinarian can also examine your dog for any signs of pain or discomfort associated with arthritis and may recommend joint supplements or pain medications.

Keep Your Dog on Task During Potty Time

If your dog seems to get distracted from the mission of going to the bathroom, you can help them stay on track.

For instance, if your pet has been indoors all day, instead of playing with them when you first come home, immediately let them out in the yard or start the walk. Once they have urinated and defecated, give your dog praise and/or a treat to reinforce the purpose of being outside. Then you can engage in play with your dog.

Change Your Dog’s Diet Gradually

Any time you change your dog’s brand of food, or even the type of food within the same brand, it is important to gradually transition to the new food over at least a week.

Start by giving 25% of the new food with 75% of the old food for two days, then a 50:50 mixture for next two days, and then 75% new food to 25% old food until fully transitioned to the new food.

This gradual transition of food will reduce likelihood of gastrointestinal upset. You could also consider adding a probiotic such as Purina Fortiflora or Nutramax Proviable to help to make this transition smoother and to enhance your dog’s overall gastrointestinal health.

References

Merck Veterinary Manual. Cutaneous Food Allergy in Animals - Integumentary System.

Featured image: iStock.com/chendongshan


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