Knowing how your dog feels and recognizing its different emotional states is an important part of the pet parenting experience. It comes as a surprise for many dog owners to learn that dogs can poop due to strong emotions such as fear and excitement.
Dog poops when excited/scared – why? In housebroken and physically healthy dogs, spontaneous elimination (peeing and pooping) is a telltale sign of abnormal emotional states – extreme excitement or uncontrollable fear. Both states are concerning and can have long-term behavioral effects.
In this article, we will talk about why dogs poop when faced with strong emotions. We will cover the different reasons and situations and then give tips on managing the problem and preventing spontaneous elimination incidents.
Do Dog Gets Diarrhea when Excited?
Yes, dogs can get diarrhea when excited. In most cases, excitement manifests with uncontrolled peeing, but some dogs can develop an episode of acute diarrhea. Just like people, when faced with emotional situations, many dogs get diarrhea.
The excitement-triggered diarrhea episodes are self-limiting, meaning they resolve on their own over the course of one or two days. Plus, more often than not, diarrhea is the only clinical sign – the dog does not vomit and has a normal appetite.
On the other hand, if the dog, in addition to diarrhea, shows other signs and symptoms, or diarrhea persists for more than two days after the suspected exciting event, chances are there is an underlying issue. In such cases, it is best to call the veterinarian and schedule an appointment.
Do Dogs Poop when Scared?
Yes, dogs can also poop when scared or dealing with stress and anxiety. For example, imagine your dog did something mischievous, and you scolded it. Then before you know it, there is a big poop in the middle of the living room. The first thing that comes to mind is that the dog pooped out of spite. However, this is not the case. The dog pooped because the confrontation made it upset and scared.
My dog poops when scared – why?
To understand why your dog poops when scared, you need to understand the roots of your dog’s fears and anxiety. There are many different stressors and triggers. However, to keep things simple, we will review the most common anxiety forms in dogs.
Fear number 1: Being left alone
The fear of being left alone is medically termed separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is a widespread issue and has detrimental effects on the dog’s overall health and welfare. Some dog breeds are more prone to separation anxiety than others, but ultimately it can occur in any dog. The telltale signs of separation anxiety include destructive and compulsive behaviors – excessive barking or whining, furniture damage, and licking the paws.
Fear number 2: Spooky and loud sounds
Perpetual noises and sudden loud sounds are common stress trigger. The scientific term for this phenomenon is noise phobia. Noise phobia is a valid issue in both dogs and people. In dogs, the most common noise phobias include events like thunder and fireworks. Even the vacuum cleaner and the doorbell can be sources of noise-induced distress and anxiety in more sensitive dogs.
Fear number 3: Strange pets and people
Poorly socialized dogs are often afraid of other pets and people. The lack of socialization makes dogs fearful in general. However, those fears usually spike when dealing with unknown situations – people, dogs, or other pets. The fear of strangers can sometimes evolve into aggression, making things even worse.
Fear number 4: Changes in the environment
Dogs are creatures of habit and thrive on routines and schedules. As unusual as it sounds, changes in the environment can have a huge impact on dogs. For example, replacing your dog’s food and water bowl can be a stress trigger from one place to another. Another valid stress trigger is remodeling and changing the furniture in the house.
Fear number 5: Car rides and trips
Many dogs have a genuine dislike of car rides. For some dogs, it is the sense of being trapped and powerless, and for others, it is the unusual sound of the engine. Even if your dog is not sensitive to either of these things, chances are it has motion sickness. Motion sickness is distressing and can put your dog in an anxiety mode.
Fear number 6: Veterinary visits
Almost all dogs are scared of veterinary visits – either vets or the settings (too many smells and the presence of other pets). This is a tricky situation considering the number of times you and your dog will have to visit the vet. Therefore, it is good to invest time and patience in preventing pooping and diarrhea during and after vet visits.
Stress diarrhea in dogs
Stress diarrhea is a bit different than pooping due to fear. Namely, pooping is usually a one-time thing that occurs immediately after the stress-causing event. On the other hand, stress diarrhea develops when the dog is subjected to a long stressful event or persistent change in the environment.
For example, dogs hate thunder. If thunder strikes, the dog will get scared and probably respond by pooping and hiding under the bed. However, if the thunder persists all night and the dog suffers from noise phobia, it will develop diarrhea. In such cases, diarrhea may not start immediately (the first bout can occur the morning after the thunders or even the next day).
So, simply put, the same event or trigger can result in both pooping and diarrhea. However, which is more likely to happen depends on the event’s length.
Is It Bad if My Dog Poops when Excited or Scared?
Yes, a dog pooping or peeing due to strong emotions is a bad situation. When we say bad, we do not refer to the mess you will have to clean after the incident. We refer to the dog’s deeply troubling emotions.
Namely, a situation causing minor feeling surges is fine, but a dog would need to feel extremely stressed or excited to lose control over its bowel movements.
If your dog is potty trained and suddenly starts pooping inside the house, you need to carefully evaluate the situation. First, try making a correlation between the pooping and what is going on before the incident (are there any visible changes in the dog’s behavior).
Just to be on the safe side, it is advisable to see your trusted veterinarian and have the dog thoroughly examined. If the vet rules out the presence of medical issues, it is safe to assume you are dealing with behavioral problems. Depending on the exact type of behavioral issue (stress, hyper-excitability), it might be a good idea to consult with a licensed canine behaviorist.
How Do I Prevent My Dog from Pooping when Excited or Scared?
We have already reviewed the different anxiety forms on dogs – how they develop and what they entail. With that part being covered, it is time we say a word or two about the potential prevention methods. Since different anxiety forms require different approaches, we will discuss each separately.
Dealing with separation anxiety
Separation anxiety is a challenge but manageable with the right approach. Here are some useful tips on dealing with dogs with separation anxiety:
- Make sure your dog has various safe spaces around the house (crates, beds)
- Exercising your dog before leaving as tired dogs tend to do less of a fuss when left alone
- Pretend you are leaving but come back shortly and give treats upon arrival
- Hire a dog sitter (this can be a temporary or permanent solution based on your dog’s level of separation anxiety)
- Provide your dog with engaging and interactive toys that will keep it occupied for quite some time after you leave
- Talk to your veterinarian about dog appeasing hormones and natural calming supplements.
Dealing with noise phobias
When dealing with noise phobias, it is critical not to overcompensate. Namely, if you pretend everything is fine and ignore your dog or are too attentive, you will only make things worse. Instead, you need to focus on classic counter-conditioning – play games, teach tricks, or simply make your dog work for treats while the noise event lasts. Many dog owners find Thundershirts to be extremely efficient for dogs with noise phobias. In more severe cases, you can even talk to your veterinarian about using CBD calming supplements.
Dealing with the anxiety of strange pets and people
The best way of preventing this type of fear is investing time and effort into proper socialization. This is a lengthy process, but it pays off in the long run. If your dog has passed its socialization phase, you need to stimulate positive encounters – avoid forcing things and letting your dog get comfortable. It will help if you ask strangers to greet your dog or even give them treats if it approaches.
Dealing with environment-induced anxieties
Never make sudden changes in the dog’s environment. If you need to move the dog’s food and water bowl to a different place, do this gradually by placing the bowls a bit further from the old and closer to the new place. In planning to do some remodeling, take things slow – one part of the house at a time.
Dealing with the anxiety of car rides and trips
You should make the car happy instead of a scary place. The best way of doing this is giving lots of treats when approaching the car and putting your dog’s favorite toy or blanket inside. For dogs with motion sickness, avoid giving meals before travels and, if necessary, consider proper medications (e.g., Dramamine).
Dealing with stressful veterinary visits and exams
The best way of teaching your dog veterinary appointments are not scary is by making several visits just for the sake of seeing the clinic – no treatments and procedures. Simply going there, spending some time, and leaving. That way, your dog will stop correlating the veterinary setting with needles, handling, and painful memories.
What About Stress Diarrhea? Can I Prevent It Too?
In theory, it is possible to prevent stress diarrhea, especially if you are aware of the upcoming stressful event. For example, if you have a scheduled vet visit and your dog is terrified of both car rides and veterinarians, chances are you will be dealing with stress diarrhea afterward.
You can start supplementing your dog with probiotics about one week prior to the appointment to prevent this scenario. Now, chances are you are wondering what probiotics have to do with stress diarrhea prevention in dogs.
Well, the answer is a lot – you can use probiotics to prevent stress-related diarrhea. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, “Efficacy of a Probiotic‐Prebiotic Supplement on Incidence of Diarrhea in a Dog Shelter: A Randomized, Double‐Blind, Placebo‐Controlled Trial,” showed that supplementing dogs with probiotics and prebiotics results in decreased incidence of stress diarrhea.
So, in addition to boosting gut health and providing immune system support, probiotics can help prevent stress-related diarrhea in dogs. Plus, probiotics are natural, safe, and suitable for dogs of all ages and sizes.
Today, there are many different brands offering pet probiotics. However, they are not all made the same – some are better quality while others are not so beneficial. If you are not sure which probiotic supplement is best for your dog, consult with the vet.
Summing Up: Dog Poops when Excited/Scared
A dog pooping when excited or, more commonly, when scared is a nasty situation. On the one hand, you need to do a thorough cleaning after the incident, and on the other, you know your dog is emotionally unwell and needs help.
Luckily, there are various things you can do to prevent such issues in your dog. However, to do exactly what your dog needs, first, you should determine the underlying stress trigger. Once the trigger is identified, you can work on counteracting it and properly addressing the fear.
Dealing with a fearful dog is challenging and sometimes requires professional help. Do not hesitate to contact a canine behaviorist. It is helpful when someone watching from the outside pinpoints the issues and provides objective management tips.