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Does Stress Give Dogs Diarrhea? Vet Approved Causes & Signs to Watch For

Patricia Dickson

By Patricia Dickson

shar pei dog having diarrhea

Vet approved

Dr. Lauren Demos  Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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As a pet parent, you know that having a dog comes with the good and the bad, and one of the worst experiences is when your dog gets sick. However, examining your dog’s poop can go a long way toward keeping your canine pal healthy and happy for many years to come. Many things can cause diarrhea in your dog, but most pet parents don’t realize that stress is one of them. We’ll discuss how stress can affect your dog’s health and the signs that indicate your dog is suffering from stress.

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What Is Diarrhea?

By definition, diarrhea is unformed or loose stools that usually occur more frequently than normal and often in more significant amounts. While diarrhea that comes from minor issues can be dealt with quickly, it could be the sign of an underlying, more serious condition, so it’s a good idea to have your pet checked out by a vet for diagnosis and treatment.

hungarian vizsla dog poops in the green park
Image Credit: SasaStock, Shutterstock

What Is Stress Colitis in Dogs?

Stress Colitis in dogs happens when a dog is under a lot of stress. Stress leads to inflammation in the colon and the large intestine, which can cause diarrhea and other signs.

  • Fresh blood in the dog’s stool
  • Using the bathroom frequently
  • Flatulence
  • Mucus in the dog’s stool
  • Producing more frequent but smaller amounts of stool
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Liquid or semi-formed feces

It’s important to note that if your dog has diarrhea and it doesn’t go away quickly, you need to contact your vet. It could be an underlying problem that needs to be taken care of. If the signs we’ve mentioned are also accompanied by vomiting, weakness, fever, or dehydration, it’s best to take your dog to the emergency vet immediately.

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The 9 Stress Signs to Look Out For

It’s essential to determine when your dog is stressed or just exhibiting normal behavior for a dog. In our next section, we’ll discuss some signs that your dog is super stressed.

a black great dane lying on a dog bed
Image Credit: trwirth, Pixabay

1. Panting and an Increased Heart Rate

When your dog is stressed, its autonomic nervous system will kick in, which will cause an increased heart rate, and panting as a result. This is the same as the “fight, flight, or freeze” response humans suffer from when panicked.

2. Shaking and Pacing

Shaking and pacing around are also signs that your dog is under a great deal of stress. In most cases, the shaking and pacing will stop once whatever is stressing your pet is gone.

3. Drooling

Stressed dogs often drool, smack their lips, and lick their lips frequently.

boxer dog drooling
Image Credit: Andrés Carlo, Pixabay

4. Yawning

Dogs don’t just yawn when they’re tired. They also yawn when they are nervous. In fact, the yawns may be longer when a dog is nervous and more drawn out.

5. Dilated Pupils, Stiff Posture, Ear Signals

This is the most obvious sign that your canine pal is stressed. The dog will stand stiffly with its ears on alert and the whites of its eyes showing more than they usually do. The dog can also pin its ears to its head flat when stressed. Dogs also tend to tuck their tails between their legs or shift their weight to their hind legs when scared.

6. Hiding and Acting Depressed

If you’ve noticed your dog hiding behind you or the furniture, or even nuzzling you to try to get you to move away from something, that could mean the thing they are hiding from is what is stressing them out. Some dogs stop moving, completely shut down, and become depressed when they are stressed.

dog hiding under the sofa
Image Credit: Aleksey Boyko, Shutterstock

7. Accidents and Diarrhea

Just as humans tend to get an upset stomach when they are anxious, we’ve already ascertained that canines do as well. Your dog might have diarrhea or have accidents in the house due to the stress they are under.

8. Shedding

Stressed dogs tend to shed more often than average, also.

9. Show Compulsive Behaviors

One of the main ways to tell if your dog is stressed about something is if the dog develops a compulsive behavior that you can’t seem to get it to stop doing. If your dog is really stressed, these behaviors can even become destructive. Below, we’ll list a few of the most common compulsive behaviors in nervous dogs.

  • Licking themselves excessively
  • Chewing objects compulsively
  • Excessive barking
  • Licking the floors and walls

If you see any of the signs of anxiety in your canine pal, it’s best to find out what the situation is that’s stressing them out. If you can’t find the cause and the dog doesn’t get better or worsens, schedule an appointment with your vet.

dog barking outdoor
Image Credit: dog barking outdoor

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What Are the Types of Stress in Dogs?

Dogs tend to suffer from three types of stress: anxiety, fear, and phobias.

  • Phobias: Phobias are the more excessive fears that some dogs suffer from. The most common phobias in dogs are the fear of thunderstorms, fireworks, and loud noises, though these aren’t the only phobias a dog might suffer from.
  • Fear: Fear is your dog’s response to an outside threat. This could result in fear aggression. It’s important to note that fear aggression is normal if your dog feels like there’s a threat nearby. However, some dogs suffer from fear aggression towards people and other animals that are not threats.
  • Anxiety: Anxiety is a feeling of being uncomfortable in a particular situation, which is a severe stressor for many canines. For example, separation anxiety is a type of stressor where a dog gets anxious and often destructive if it’s away from its pet parent for a long time.

How Do You Help Your Dog with Stress?

The best way to help your dog with stress is to remove the source. However, that’s not always possible. You can’t control thunderstorms, fireworks, or even sudden loud noises. One of the best things you can do is avoid stressful situations. For example, don’t take your dog to the fireworks show, and have a safe room for the dog to be in away from loud noises or when there are thunderstorms on the horizon. If you know that someone or something stresses your dog badly, have a safe place for the dog when that person is in your home.

French Bulldog snuggling beside owner
Image Credit: Mylene2401, Pixabay

While the barking, chewing, and diarrhea can seem aggravating and overwhelming, keep in mind how your dog must feel to have these problems and exhibit this behavior. Don’t yell at or physically punish your pet for being stressed, as this will worsen the situation, and it won’t be long until your pet is scared of you.

If all else fails, you can talk to your vet about giving your pet anti-anxiety medication. Your dog’s health issues, age, and triggers will determine the type of medicine and dosage. It’s important to remember that anti-anxiety medicine is sometimes a lifelong treatment; if the dog goes off the medication, the anxious behavior can return.

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Final Thoughts

Dogs, just like their pet parents, can get stressed and have diarrhea because of it. If you see any of the signs of stress in your dog, you can try the tips we listed above. However, if the anxiety worsens, along with other troubling signs, such as diarrhea, it’s best to contact your vet. For severe cases of stress, some veterinarians may recommend a veterinary behaviorist to help your pet.

Featured Image Credit: Istvan Csak, Shutterstock

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