Q: I have a great dog, and he always has been really smart and well behaved. He was easy to house train as a puppy, and even when I worked unexpectedly long days he never had accidents. He is 13 years old now, and all of the sudden I am coming home to accidents in the house. Yesterday I was only gone for a short while, and when I got home two piles were on the floor! He sleeps most of the time and eats really well.
He had a checkup and vaccines eight months ago, so I know he is healthy. My family is really upset about all the accidents.
A: When an older dog who is well trained suddenly starts to have accidents, it is usually due to a health issue. Dogs age much more rapidly than humans, and eight months for him is like six years for a person. Even if his last exam was a month ago, he should have a new evaluation to check everything.
I would start with having a fecal analysis for parasites. It is very easy to test and to treat.
A complete examination will start at the nose and mouth and go all the way to the tail. Small issues like ear infections or a dental abscess can cause senior dogs to have problems.
Your veterinarian should check the rear quarters very well to look for any small masses on the rectal area that may be causing irritation. He or she will empty the two anal sacs that are internal on each side of the rectum and check for an infection or tumors in these small glands.
Most of the time the problem is easily fixed, if caught early.
Occasionally it can be a more complex issue and require more testing and treatment. Unfortunately, dogs can get cognitive impairment similar to aging humans, and they may become confused and incontinent. This can be treated with medications and special diets.
The joints should be checked and the range of motion evaluated. Joint pain is common in older dogs, and it can cause them pain to get in position to defecate. Starting medication can help eliminate accidents. Make sure you are walking him at regular intervals, and try not to go as long between bathroom breaks. He can’t go as long as he did as a puppy.
Constipation also can be an issue, and he may need a change in diet to help keep the stool at a consistency that will help him with his eliminations.
Senior dogs have special needs, and a little extra care can go a long way in making their lives more comfortable. Feeding him a diet formulated for a senior dog’s unique needs can help extend his years and the quality of those years.
I recommend that senior dogs get examinations two or three times a year to help uncover these issues and start preventative programs that can make them more comfortable.
Dr. Susan M. Baker received her degree at the University of Florida in 1985 and practices veterinary medicine in Palm Beach County, Florida. Get advice and pet information at palmbeachpost.com/pets. This article appeared in The Palm Beach Post.