About Stress Colitis in Dogs

A trip in the car can stress some dogs enough to bring on colitis.
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Stress and colitis are conditions that can affect your dog separately, but sometimes they team up and cause a double whammy -- the anxiety caused by stress bringing on the digestive upset of colitis. Although not serious, stress colitis can be inconvenient if your dog is not able to make it outside to use the restroom in time.

What Is Stress Colitis?

When your dog has colitis, it means his colon is swollen or inflamed. The colon is your dog's large intestine; it controls the absorption of water and storage of waste until it passes out of your dog's body. Colitis can be caused by many things, including a poor or unusual diet, pancreatic disease, irritable bowel syndrome, internal parasites and stress. Stress colitis, as the name suggests, is caused by situations when your dog is exceptionally anxious or distressed.

Common Causes

Stress in dogs is often the result of sudden changes, such as moving to a new home or staying overnight at a boarding facility. Anything out of the ordinary can cause stress, although some dogs are more accepting of unusual situations than others. Common stress-inducing situations for dogs include new additions to the household such as other pets, children or overnight guests; travel, even short trips around town; severe storms; going to the veterinarian; and being left alone for long periods of time.

Signs and Symptoms

Diarrhea is the main and often only symptom of colitis. It is not simply runny stool, however; it is slimy or gooey. It often contains mucus or blood. Many times a dog's bowel movement will start out normal and then become runny. Your dog may need to relieve himself more often than usual, and may display a deep sense of urgency for only a small bowel movement.

Common Treatments

Because it comes on suddenly and ends as soon as the stress is resolved, treatment is not always necessary for stress colitis. You should contact your veterinarian, however, especially if your dog is very young, elderly, or has a health condition, to be sure it is not serious. If treatment is necessary, your vet may prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication, ask you to withhold food for a short period of time, or offer only mild foods or foods with plenty of fiber.