How Long Do Dogs Hold Their Poop?

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Most of us lead very busy lives. Whether you’re out running errands or you’re stuck at the office, you might begin to worry about your dog as the time ticks by. How long should you leave your dog alone before they will need to go outside? How long can a dog hold its poop? More importantly, how long should you leave your dog at home before you can take it for a walk?

How Long Can a Dog Hold Its Poop?

Most healthy, adult dogs will readily go to the bathroom an hour or so after a meal. They can, however, hold their stool much longer if necessary. In fact, for the most part, a healthy adult dog can hold their stool for 12 hours or more. If you get stuck in traffic or at the office, your dog could be OK. However, just because a dog can hold their stool for several hours doesn’t mean they may like to. Think of the times you may have been scrambling to find a public restroom or searching for the closest rest stop.

While humans may have signs telling us when our discomfort may come to an end, your dog doesn’t always know when you’ll be home to let them out. Most urban and suburban areas have doggy daycare facilities and dog walkers that can help keep your dog comfortable if you aren’t able to let them out for several hours. Every dog has different bathroom habits, and for some dogs it’s completely normal for them to poop just once a day. A good guideline to follow is to give your dog the opportunity to go to the bathroom at least every eight hours.

The eight-hour rule applies differently depending on the age of a dog. Puppies or senior dogs won't be able to hold their stool as long as adult dogs. Puppies can hold their stool for about an hour for every month old they are. So a puppy that’s 2 months old may only be able to hold their stool for two hours. This is one of the reasons puppies shouldn’t be left alone for more than a few hours. As tedious as it is to let a puppy out so frequently, it can save them the stress of having to hold it so long and you the frustration of coming home to an accident. As dogs age, they have less ability to hold their stool as long as they once did. Age-related changes, such as incontinence, canine cognitive dysfunction, or other physiological changes may prevent them from being able to hold it a full eight hours anymore. 

What Can Prevent a Dog From Holding Their Poop?

There are various illnesses and disease processes that can hinder a dog’s ability to hold their stool. Intestinal parasites, pancreatitis, food allergies, bacterial infections, and even a sudden diet changes can all cause diarrhea in dogs. A dog suffering from diarrhea will almost certainly not be able to hold their stool as long as they normally can and certainly not for eight hours. Chronic illnesses such as inflammatory bowel disease can also prevent a dog from being able to hold their stool as long as they normally would be able to. 

Are There Any Health Concerns With Making a Dog Hold Their Stool?

It can cause emotional stress for a dog to have to hold its stool for extended periods of time. From the moment house training begins, a dog will want to please its owner by holding their bathroom habits until they are let outside. If they absolutely cannot hold it any longer and feel they need to eliminate inside, that can be incredibly stressful for them. Things happen and sometimes you can't get home when you would like. With this in mind, if you come home to an accident in the house, avoid punishing or scolding your dog as this only causes further stress to the dog.