Oh no! Not the carpet!

Have you ever found a wet spot or seen your furry friend urinate right in front of you? Well, this is a common problem for both dogs and cats. There are many possible causes for this conduct: it could be either a medical or behavioral issue. To determine the root of the problem, the first step is taking your canine or feline friend to the veterinarian.

Your veterinarian will examine your pet and will likely suggest some diagnostic tests which could include a urinalysis, blood work (CBC and chemistry), urine culture, x-rays, or other test the doctor may deem necessary. These tests are used to determine if a medical condition exists, such as a urinary tract infection, bladder stones, diabetes, kidney problems or FLUTD (Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease) just to name a few.

If the medical tests come back normal then the cause of urination is most likely a behavioral issue. The first step in stopping urination resulting from a behavioral issue is spaying or neutering her/him if your pet has not previously had this surgical procedure.

For our canine friends, spaying/neutering them will help stop marking behavior. If they continue to have behavioral marking, here are some tips to help stop the behavior: first, get them on a routine daily schedule for eating, walking, and etc; second, crate train them; and, thirdly, make sure they are getting at least thirty minutes of exercise a day. All three steps can be used individually or all together.

House soiling is one of the most common behavioral issues in cats, and is the top reason cats are euthanized. Cats are very picky when it comes to their litter box. One reason why they could be urinating is due to location aversion, it could be from too much stress or noise near the litter box, trauma in the litter box (like painful urination), litter pan is too small, high up or lack of access. The second reason is substrate aversion; the type of litter. The cat may not like the litter because they don’t like the feel of it or smell of it or it isn’t clean! Finding out what type of litter they like is key. Here are some key therapeutic points on how feline house soiling can be treated successfully:

1) Make the appropriate areas (litter boxes) more pleasant and attractive to the cat.

2) Make the inappropriate locations unpleasant or inaccessible.

3) Decrease the cat’s motivation to perform the inappropriate behavior.

In all cases, punishment should be strictly avoided! Punishing a cat or dog for house soiling before ruling out a medical condition only teaches them not to perform the behavior in the owners’ presence and may lead to fear and complete avoidance of the owner. After determining that your pet has a behavior issue, then move towards exercising the techniques of breaking the bad behavior. If none of these tips work, consult with your veterinarian or animal behaviorist.

Brenda S. Taddeo, DVM, Northern Virginia Veterinary Associates

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