If you are having problems housebreaking your dog, it is imperative that you make sure he does not have a health problem. The most common is a bladder infection. Male or female dogs can have this problem, and the symptoms are easy to overlook. Bladder infections are more common in young puppies, whose immune systems are not mature enough to combat infections. And don't be fooled by the fact that your puppy has had a veterinary examination when he got his shots. The veterinarian cannot tell if your puppy has a bladder infection by an examination. The only way to check is with a urine sample. You can collect this sample at home and take it in while it is still fresh, or refrigerate it until you can get it to the veterinarian. Of course, collecting the sample may provide any nosy neighbors with a lot of entertainment.
One of the symptoms of a bladder infection is frequent urination of small amounts. A dog with a bladder infection will often relieve himself in his crate. If you suspect your puppy is relieving himself more often than normal, you would be wise to have a urine sample checked. Bladder infections are treated with antibiotics.
There are other causes for lack of bladder control, such as an obstructed bladder, an enlarged prostate gland, or kidney failure. Older female dogs who have been spayed sometimes start to lose control over their bladder because they have a deficiency of estrogen, a hormone that is important in maintaining the bladder tone. This can be treated by a veterinarian. Frequent urination and lack of bladder control can be a side effect of cortisone, a drug used often in veterinary medicine.
I'll never forget the story of Buttons, a cute, shaggy three-year-old mixed breed who signed up for one of my obedience classes. Buttons just didn't seem healthy. There was something about the look in her eyes, and she lacked the stamina to work for the whole hour of the class. I expressed my concern to her owner and asked about Buttons' health, including if she was having frequent urination or housebreaking problems. She said no, although questioning did reveal that Buttons had been on cortisone for flea-allergy
problems for many months. Repeated questioning over the next few weeks finally elicited the information that Buttons was paper-trained because she could not hold her urine for very long. Her owner had never had another dog and assumed that this was normal! I quickly sent her off to her veterinarian and, sure enough, Buttons had a bladder infection. Who knows how long she had had it, since the veterinarian had noted a slightly elevated temperature on her last exam a year previous! It could have been that the immunosuppressive nature of the cortisone made Buttons at increased risk for getting a bladder infection. In any case, after 10 days of treatment with antibiotics and elimination of the cortisone, Buttons' owner picked up the newspapers and never had to use them again. In addition, her "couch potato" dog was full of new energy, able to play and participate in the family activities.
Another health problem that interferes with housebreaking is diarrhea. There are many causes of diarrhea, some of which can be frustrating to diagnose
and cure. The effect of overfeeding on stool volume and consistency has already been discussed. Among the causes of diarrhea are worms, protozoan infections, food intolerance, pancreatic enzyme deficiency, and viruses. You and your veterinarian must be persistent in searching for the right cause and the right treatment.
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