All About Marie
- Marie Hulett
- Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at www.blogtalkradio.com/petplace; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 18 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of one baby boy, and pet parent of three cats, two dogs, and a cockatoo.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Geriatric Dog Developing Behavioral Problems
Before I answer this week's question, I would like to pass on some very important information sent to me by a reader. She cautions all bird owners to check the leg bands of their pets. If you acquire a bird as a juvenile, chances are its banded leg will outgrow its identification band which can lead to serious injury. Further, if this is the case, veterinarians have a difficult time removing bands that have become too tight and there is
a risk that the banded leg can be lost in the removal procedure. It is recommended that leg bands be removed upon acquisition of a bird by a new owner. Microchip implants are a far more reliable and safe method for identifying birds. Now to this week's question...
My thirteen year old dog has recently begun urinating and defecating in the house. This is a complete surprise to me because he has been house broken from the day we first adopted him. At first, I thought the problem was just going to be a one time accident. But everyday for the last two weeks, he relieves himself at least one time indoors. It is very frustrating. What can I do?
As pets advance in age, they often experience the problems you are describing. The first thing you should do is take your dog to the veterinarian to make sure this behavior is not health related. If everything checks out OK, then you'll need to work on some new behavior training with your pet.
First, re-teach and re-enforce basic house breaking principles. As soon as he has finished a meal, take him outside or for a walk until he does his business. Praise him and let him know that this is what you want. (Just like people, dogs tend to forget things as they age.)
As much as possible, take him outside every couple of hours to repeat this process. If you must leave him unattended for lengthy periods, confine him to a part of the house that is easy to clean, just on the outside chance he can't hold out until you return. You might also consider investing in a roomy dog crate and line it with his favorite blanket or dog pillow. Place him in the crate when you go to bed and let him outside as soon as you wake up. Dogs will not mess their sleeping area; but don't press his limits. If you keep his crate in your bedroom, listen for his restless sounds during the night. If he can't be still, that's a sure sign he needs to go out.
If you work away from the house, try to arrange to come home during your lunch break to let him outside. Perhaps even a neighbor can check in during the day to take care of this for you. The average working person is gone from home about ten hours (with driving time and lunch breaks included). This is probably too long for your aging dog to control his bodily functions.
Some pet owners actually put specially designed canine diapers on their incontinent pets. Unless you are able to change the diapers as they become soiled, I don't recommend this alternative as it can lead to skin irritations in you pet. Further, this is usually an option reserved for pets who are incontinent due to serious veterinary problems. It seems that your pet is just going through changes associated with the normal aging process.
Having a geriatric dog is like having a new puppy. You'll need to make some allowances for his physical and mental failings. It will certainly take some extra patience on your part and some extra cleaning and deodorizing products! But, he has been your loyal companion for many years and he is now depending on you to stick with him and love him as unconditionally as he has always loved you, especially as he enters a new phase in his life.