When Little Accidents Become A Big Problem
Cleaning up after our pets is a fact of life, especially when they are young or when they are poorly and no reasonable owner will mind.
However, in later life it is not uncommon for previously very clean pets, to start to mess in the house. This is not only extremely unpleasant but can lead to us feeling resentment towards them, even though we know it is probably not their fault.
So, if you have an older pet who suddenly starts having accidents, what can you do about it?
Firstly, a trip to the vets is in order! There are many health problems that can cause issues like this and they are not always that obvious.
Illnesses which causes animals to drink more and have fuller bladders that they might not be able to hold on to for long, are common. Most can be easily diagnosed by testing the urine (so remember to take a sample to your consultation!) and the blood. Kidney Failure, Diabetes and Cushings Disease are all frequently found in elderly animals and treatments can be very effective.
It is also important to appreciate that many older pets suffer with arthritis, which can make getting up and down very uncomfortable. So, often they simply don’t empty themselves as often as they should and by the time they have to get up, it is too late and they lose control. Medications will soothe painful joints and practical changes in the house such as covering slippy floors with mats to improve grip, moving litter trays closer to beds and helping your pet out to toilet regularly, will also really help.
Urinary incontinence doesn’t tend to lead to puddles on the floor but it does mean beds are often damp in the mornings or after a snooze. It is most often seen in older, female dogs, especially if they are of a larger breed or are over-weight. Once underlying diseases have been ruled out, it is generally very effectively controlled with treatment.
Faecal incontinence is unfortunately a lot harder to solve and is usually related to a generalised back-end weakness, in which arthritis often plays a big part.
Finally, dementia can play a huge role in the loss of toilet training in an older pet and it is not only heart breaking and extremely frustrating but it can be very difficult to resolve. Particularly as by the time we realise their mind is not quite right, they are pretty severely affected and medicines can struggle to make a difference.
We all love our pets and to watch them slow down in their old age is difficult enough without having to deal with them becoming incontinent or losing their house training as well. Although it is natural and understandable to become frustrated with them, it is also important to realise that it is very unlikely to be their fault and they are probably extremely distressed by it as well.
In many cases there will be an underlying cause and diagnosis and treatment from your vet can make a huge difference and ensure your relationship is as loving and rewarding as ever.
However, sometimes we aren’t able to improve the situation, no matter how hard we try. At this stage, especially for pets who otherwise seem well, it is important to know that it is not ‘cruel’ or ‘unkind’ or ‘selfish’ (all words I have heard from guilt-stricken yet devoted owners), to consider putting them to sleep. They are, inevitably, at the end of their lives and many pets tend to have withdrawn from us in other areas as well. Also, your quality of life and that of your family is important. Living with an incontinent pet is stressful, unpleasant and potentially a serious health hazard.
So, if you decide that enough is enough and that euthanasia is the right choice for you, your pet and your family, you must not feel shame or that you have failed them. You will not have arrived at this decision lightly. The very fact it has caused so much distress is proof of how deeply loved your pet is.
Being able to put our pets to sleep in a peaceful, pain free and caring way, at a time that is right for them and us is a blessing. We should never be afraid of choosing this option, especially when we know in our heart-of-hearts that it is the right one.