Can Blood in a Dog's Stool Be Caused by Stress?

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

Stress-Related Bloody Stools in Dogs

Just as you may get a bout of diarrhea the day prior to an interview or an important exam, your dog may get diarrhea with bloody stools when stressed. Typically, the course of events is quite obvious.

Your dog may get diarrhea when boarding, when he moves to a different place, or just moments before entering the show ring. In this case, the cause of the diarrhea is quite obvious, it's episodic and clearly linked to the unusual event. The proving factor is that bloody diarrhea happens exclusively during the stressful event and not typically in the absence of it.

In most cases, the colon is to blame. The colon is the large, lower section of the intestine. When a dog is stressed, the colon gets inflamed causing rapid transit times and the release of mucus. This condition is known as colitis.

The dog typically has a soft stool that progresses into a gelatinous mass which often contains mucus. Mucus is a slimy substance normally produced by the intestines to keep the colon's lining well lubricated. However, when the mucous increases it's a sign of inflammation.

Also, at times, small erosions may form as well causing bleeding. It is still not well understood why dogs are more predisposed to develop bloody stools compared to humans.

Other accompanying symptoms include frequent bowel movements with a sense of urgency. Your dog may whine, pant and shiver to let you know he needs to be taken outside. After several bowel movements, some dogs may position themselves and strain with nothing coming out.

This is called "tenesmus" and it's often confused for constipation. In reality, it's just a clinical sign caused by the sensation of feeling the need to pass stools, despite an empty colon.

What Can Be Done About Stress-Related Bloody Stools in Dogs?

Fortunately, the bloody stool episode is often short lived and resolves within 24 to 48 hours, explains Just Answer veterinarian Dr. Marie. However, if it lasts longer than that and the dog starts acting lethargic, and refuses to eat, a vet should be seen.

Keep in mind that even though you may assume it's just stress, at times the colitis may be caused by another health problem that needs addressed. In some cases, an underlying health condition may flare up when the dog is stressed causing bloody stools in dogs. For instance, when a dog is stressed conditions such as coccidiosis, pancreatitis and inflammatory bowel disease may raise their ugly head.

How to take care of stress-induced diarrhea in dogs? First and foremost, try to resolve the source of stress! This should help go to the source of the problem. If this is not possible, consider that there are many calming aids for dogs such as DAP diffusers, calming CDs and tablets such as Composure by Vetriscience.

Then, if there is diarrhea, but your dog is lively, has a great appetite and is his usual, happy self, you can try a 24 hour fast. This fast is helpful as it gives the colon a chance to rest. Feeding an irritated colon, only makes it more irritated!

However, it's not a bad idea to give some plain, canned pumpkin (not the pie type with spices added!) during this fast. Give 2 tablespoons per 10lbs body weight twice daily, recommends Just Answer veterinarian Dr. Fiona. During this time, clear fluids given a little bit at a time will help keep the dog well hydrated. Besides water, you can give unflavored Pedialyte, rice water (the water left over from boiling rice) or onion-free, garlic/free chicken or beef broth diluted 50:50 with water.

Afterward, a bland diet for dogs can be started for a few days until better stools are formed. Afterward, the dog can be weaned off it by adding gradual amounts of his regular food.

It's important to note that sometimes the stress-induced colitis may be severe requiring a vet's intervention, In such a case, the vet may prescribe Flagyl (metronidazole) which helps reduce inflammation.

Warning: always keep an eye on your dog's stool! Also, consult with your vet if the blood in your dog's stool doesn't resolve or if the amount is increasing as your dog may develop anemia! Signs of anemia are weakness, pale gums and lethargy (learn to recognize the normal color of your dog's gums so you know when there is trouble!).

Note: You may feel compelled to try using Pepto Bismol to help solve the diarrhea, but don't! Pepto Bismol contains aspirin which is a blood thinner, and therefore, it's known to increase bleeding, and you definitely don't want that!

Questions & Answers

Question: What causes stress in dogs?

Answer: Many things can causes stress in dogs. To just name a few, the addition of another dog, guests, the arrival of a new baby, noises, aversive training methods, other animals, being in a household with children, furniture moved around, walks in trafficked areas, being left alone too long, being boarded, hospitalized, going to the vet, car rides if the dog is not used to them, and so much more.

© 2013 Adrienne Farricelli

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 16, 2013:

Thanks Mathira!

mathira from chennai on September 16, 2013:

alexadry, excellent tips for dog lovers. I am one of them and I found your hub very useful.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 16, 2013:

Yes, I remember we sold lots of these bags at the vet's office.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 16, 2013:

Yes midget, many dogs indeed get this when they are boarded in kennels, kind regards!

Elizabeth Parker from Las Vegas, NV on September 16, 2013:

Our one dog has colitis and we've been feeding her DCO, which has worked great. Another great hub!!

Michelle Liew from Singapore on September 15, 2013:

I have had this problem with some of my dogs before and I agree completely, stress is a culprit, Alexandry. Thanks for sharing, and I share this with pet lovers too.


Dogs, the most loyal beings, man’s best friend are the most amazing creatures to be around. They are those selfless creatures who give us companionship in all moods and emotions. If you are happy, your dog will jump along with joy. If you are sad, he also becomes sad. You can have a discussion about your entire day and narrate all your happy and sad stories and you’ll never feel like you are talking to someone who cannot speak because all their barks and moans make you feel that they understand what you are up to and want to say.

Potential Causes of Red Blood in Dog Stool

If your dog’s stool contains blood that is bright red, there are a few explanations that may mean there’s nothing to worry about. In fact, if you only notice this happen once—and if the amount of blood present in the stool isn’t substantial—you can probably just ignore it, or bring it up with your vet at your dog’s next regularly scheduled appointment.

Hemorrhoids or Other Irritations

A little bit of bright red blood on the outside of the stool may indicate hemorrhoids or other irritation near the outside of the anus. If your dog will let you, take a look at see if you notice anything that could have caused the problem visible on the outside of her body.

Enlarged Anal Glands

Enlarged anal glands can sometimes cause a small amount of bright red blood in your dog’s poop. If you think this might be the case, you’ll need to have them expressed by a groomer or a vet.

Serious Illnesses

If your dog’s stool is bright red and also watery, this is more of a cause for concern. Bright red, bloody diarrhea is a symptom of several illnesses that are unfortunately not uncommon in dogs. Many of these illnesses are fatal, so your dog needs to be seen by a vet right away.

If your dog is still a puppy, take her to the vet immediately even if you only notice a small amount of red in her stool. There’s a chance she could have parvovirus. This can be fatal to puppies and must be treated by a professional right away.

Blood in dog stool causes: hematochezia

Contrary to what happens in humans, hematochezia is not indicative of hemorrhoids in dogs. Either way, if your dog has hematochezia we suggest consulting a veterinarian as soon as possible because the underlying issue or cause of this blood in feces could be serious. The causes of fresh blood in dog stool (bright red blood) can vary. Here are some possible causes of dog feces with blood:

  • Parasites: Parasites are one of the most frequent causes of fresh blood in dog stool. The most comon parasites are hookworms, trichocephalus and nematodes. Additionally, protozoa, such as coccidia, can also cause hematochezia. Your vet will test your dog's feces and determine which parasite is present. Once a veterinarian knows the cause behind your dog pooping blood, they can treat the condition accordingly.
  • Parvovirus: Parvirosis is a serious disease that mainly affects puppies. Rottweilers, German shepherds and Dobermans are the dog breeds which are more prone to suffering from parvovirus. A puppy affected by parvovirus will experience dog diarrhead with blood and vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite and fresh blood in the stool. Parvovirus disease can be fatal. This is why it is advisable that you consult your veterinarian immediately if you suspect Parvovirus. Is your puppy vomiting and has diarrhea? Find out more about parvovirus here at AnimalWised.
  • Food: Some dogs have a tendency of overeating. Overeating can cause irritation in your dog's colon, diarrhea and the presence of fresh blood in their feces, which in this case also contains mucus [1] .

    Additionally, modifying in your dog's diet can have similar effects. Therefore, if you are going to change your dog's food, we suggest applying this change progressively over a period of several days. If a change in diet is too sudden, it can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. Bare in mind that some dogs have sensitive stomachs, therefore, even a a new treat it can still cause bloody diarrhea in dogs. This blood is usually cause by inflammation in the colon from sensitivity. Food intolerances and allergies can also cause fresh blood in feces. If you believe that your dog may be suffering from an allergy or intolerance, we suggesting reading up Dog Food Allergies and Intolerance.

  • Haemorrhagic gastroenteritis: the origin of this infection is difficult to determine. Haemorrhagic gastroenteritis can cause vomiting and dog diarrhea with dogs. If your dog is suffering from hemorrhagic gastroenteritis it may need fluid therapy and appropriate medication.
  • Rectal wounds: Has your dog recently eating a sharp object, like a stick or bone? If so, this object may have eroded the intestinal wall of the dog’s lower digestive system while following the intestinal tract.If this is the case, you will often be able to see this object in your dog’s poo.

    Another cause of fresh blood in dog stool could be due to rectal polyps. Rectal polyps are defined as abnormal growths. A veterinarian will diagnose this through rectal palpation or by endoscopy. These polyps can sometimes be carcinogenic and should be treated accordingly by a veterinarian.

  • Stress: In some cases, a stressful event can cause hematochezia to your dog. Is your dog stressed? Events that cause stress in your dog include: a move, elongated stay in a dog shelter, the arrival of a new dog in the house or the arrival of a new family member in a home (baby). If you want to find out whether or not your dog may be stressed, take a look at our article on 10 Signs That Your Dog Is Stressed.

Causes of Blood in Dog Stool

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Dog blood in stool can be medically categorized as either hematochezia or melena.

In the case of hematochezia, the blood in the dog stools is bright red and is usually mixed in with the stools. The red color indicates that the blood comes from the lower intestines, most likely from the colon and the rectum.

In the case of melena, the blood causes the stools to turn black and tarry, indicating that the source of bleeding is in the stomach or upper small intestine, and the blood has been partially digested.

There are numerous possible causes of dog bloody stools - some are more serious than others. Below are some common causes of hematochezia and melena.

Watch the video: Colitis In Dogs - Prevention, Treatment, And FAQs. Vet Explains

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