PDSA

Our family has a small crossbreed, who is around 10 years old. He’s just started weeing indoors, which he has not done before, despite us taking him out for toilet breaks even more frequently. His favourite place to do this seems to be the first step of the staircase. We have taken him to the vet, who has checked his kidneys, and he doesn’t seem to have anything medically wrong, so we are assuming it is behaviour-related. Nothing has changed in the home or his environment, so we are puzzled.

Kirsten Dillon advises…

While you are absolutely right to have obtained a vet check to rule out urinary issues at 10 years old, I would also want the vet to take a look at possible canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) – similar to human Alzheimer’s. One of the symptoms of this is inappropriate toileting with a sudden onset, much like you have described.

Other symptoms are: failure to respond to commands they previously used to, disturbed sleep, staying in one place for a longer time than usual and appearing to be confused. While these are also natural signs of ageing, when they present together, it could be time to visit your vet again.

Although 10 is not necessarily ‘old’, you don’t say what breed mix your dog is, and some breeds are more prone than others. Thankfully, there is a very effective medication called Selegiline and your vet will discuss this with you at length.

If you don’t think this could be the case and his reasons are simply behavioural – such as marking or laziness to go outside – simple management is the easiest way to deal with the issue. Correct clean-up of urine is vital. Use a solution of 10:1 water and biological washing powder in a spray bottle, as this will break down the enzymes that cause him to return to the same place. It is often necessary to replace carpet, as the scent can permeate through to the underlay. Also, try blocking access to the stair by using a baby gate or even putting a box on it and see what happens then.

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