Stress & Diarrhea in Dogs

If you've ever been under extreme stress from work, finances, family issues, or any other circumstance, then you probably noticed the effects it had on your body. Maybe you experienced an upset stomach, had trouble sleeping or experienced frequently elevated heartbeat. Stress doesn't just have a negative impact on humans, though. It can affect your dog in similar ways, and can even cause dog diarrhea.

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Stress & Diarrhea in Dogs
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Stress colitis

According to the VCA Hospitals, stress can cause colitis in dogs. Colitis, an inflammation of your dog's large intestine or colon, also describes dog diarrhea. When your dog has colitis, your dog may produce frequent semi-formed or liquid feces. Sometimes you'll also see blood in the dog stool.

To diagnose your dog's issue, your vet will likely talk with you about recent changes in your dog's life, including food changes, major life events, and recent illnesses. Then, your vet will collect a stool sample to test for intestinal parasites and infection.

If your vet determines that your dog does not have a significant illness and believes diarrhea may be due to stress colitis, she will likely give you a home treatment for your dog.

Treating stress colitis

According to Pet Premium, your dog's treatment will depend, in part, on his condition. Diarrhea can quickly dehydrate dogs, so your vet may administer IV fluids to hydrate your dog. Your vet may also recommend that you feed your dog a bland diet.

The Arlington Animal Hospital recommends fasting your dog for 12-to-24 hours, then start him on a diet of boiled rice and boiled lean chicken breast. Feed your dog about a quarter of the amount of food he would regularly eat, and offer these feedings every six-to-eight hours. Feed the bland diet for four-to-five days until your dog's stool has returned to normal, then gradually introduce small amounts of his regular food as you reduce the bland diet.

It's important to monitor your dog during the home treatment carefully. If the problem worsens or doesn't improve after a few days, you will need to return to the vet for additional treatment.

Identifying the source of stress

If your dog is experiencing diarrhea because of stress, it's important to not just treat your dog, but to also address what is stressing her. Dogs can be stressed by any number of different things, including:

  • A move.
  • A family member who has moved away.
  • The introduction of a new pet.
  • Grief for a family member or another pet.
  • Trips or vacations.
  • Time spent in a boarding facility.

Try making a list of recent changes to see if you can identify what may be stressing your dog. If possible, try to remove that source of stress, or work with an animal behaviorist to help your dog cope with the change.

Signs of stress in dogs

Your dog may demonstrate his stress in other ways, too, so be sure to watch for additional signs that your dog is feeling stressed. You may notice a decrease in your dog's appetite, and your dog may isolate himself from people or other pets when he's feeling stressed. A stressed dog may start to sleep more than usual and appear lethargic. You may also notice your dog act unusually aggressive toward other pets or people.

Some of the above signs, such as the decrease in appetite and lethargy, can indicate other physical issues and illnesses. Be sure to work closely with your vet to stay on top of your dog's health. Remember that diarrhea can quickly dehydrate your dog, so call your vet if your dog's issues don't resolve soon.