Our Santa Cruz vets understand that it can be alarming if your dog has bloody diarrhea. There are a number of reasons why bloody stool in dogs can occur. Today we share some of the causes and when to head to your vet's office.
How can I tell if it's actually blood?
If your pup's stool is streaked with fresh blood, this could be a sign that it’s from either the upper part of their small intestine or from your dog's stomach. If the blood is partially digested it will look a bit like coffee grounds and may have originated from lower in your dog's intestines. Other symptoms you may notice include lack of appetite, abnormal stool such as diarrhea, or fatigue.
If the blood is fresh it may be from your pet's colon, but if it’s dark, tarry, or sticky, it's likely from your pup's stomach or upper intestinal tract.
What could be causing blood in my dog’s stool?
If you’ve spotted blood in your dog’s stool, you’re bound to be concerned - what could be the cause? Should you head to an emergency vet?
Some of the most common causes for bloody diarrhea in dogs include:
- Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE) (severe bloody diarrhea and bloody vomiting, caused by infectious agents)
- Stomach ulcers
- Viral or bacterial infection
- Trauma to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract from eating bones or other materials.
- Foreign body ingestion (toys, rocks, fabric etc)
- Severe vomiting
- Sudden dietary changes that cause irritation or impact the immune system
- Stomach or esophagus tumors
- Poisoning from toxins such as plants
Other symptoms that may become apparent if your dog is experiencing continuous diarrhea include weight loss, fluid loss, dehydration, lethargy, electrolyte imbalances, hypovolemic shock, and hemoconcentration.
There's blood in my dog's stool, what should I do?
Regardless of the cause, bloody diarrhea or vomiting is an emergency that could potentially be fatal if left untreated, so immediate veterinary care is called for.
At Companion Animal Hospital, our board-certified internal medicine vets are here to offer advanced care for pets with internal health conditions.
Our Santa Cruz vets will do everything they can to accommodate same-day urgent care, but for after-hours care contact a 24-hour emergency vet immediately.
What will the vet do if I bring my dog in?
The underlying cause of your dog's bloody diarrhea can be challenging to diagnose. If routine diagnostic procedures are unsuccessful in pinpointing the cause more invasive diagnostic testing may be needed to diagnose the issue.
When you take your dog to your veterinarian or the emergency vet due to bloody diarrhea this is what you can expect:
Taking Medical History
The vet treating your pooch will ask you for a full medical history for your dog. The more information you can give the vet, the better. Valuable information in your dog’s medical history may include:
- Whether they’ve had intestinal blockages, physical obstructions, ulcers or tumors in the past
- Your dog's vaccination record (to rule out parvovirus)
- How severe your pup's diarrhea has been. Has it progressed since it began?
- If you have brought a sample, your vet will do a visual observation of the stool
- Palpitation of the abdomen to check for signs of an abdominal obstruction or pain
- Check cardiovascular function to look for signs of blood loss or dehydration
- Dog skin test to find out if your dog is dehydrated
- Examination of your dog's mucus membranes to look for hemorrhagic losses
Will the vet run tests?
Following the basic examination, depending on your vet's findings, more diagnostic testing may be required. More advanced diagnostics used to determine the cause of bloody diarrhea could include some of the following:
Routine biochemical/blood tests
- Biochemical tests (e.g. liver, blood sugar)
- Packed cell volume (hematocrit) data to confirm whether hemorrhagic gastroenteritis is the cause
- To find any potential intestinal blockages, ulcers, tumors, or physical obstructions
- Microscopic examination of your dog's stool to look for parasites or microbiological organisms
What is the treatment for bloody diarrhea in dogs?
The course of treatment prescribed for your pooch will depend on the underlying cause of your pup's bloody stool, but may include:
- Medications to soothe intestines
- Electrolyte and fluid therapies for hemorrhagic gastroenteritis
- Antibiotic therapy for certain types of infections
- Corticosteroid therapy for cases of hypovolemic shock
- Anthelmintics for parasitic infections
- Surgical remedies for tumors, ulcers or physical obstructions
Will my dog be ok?
In most cases with proper treatment, dogs respond very well and recover quickly. The main priority after your dog’s underlying issue is treated should be healing time, as the inflamed intestines will need time to recover. In some cases, a modified diet can help reduce gastrointestinal disorders and intestinal infections.
Your vet may recommend withholding food and/or water for 24 hours to give your dog's intestine a chance to rest. A bland diet for 3 to 7 days following the 24-hour rest period, then a gradual return to your dog’s normal diet, should help.
It's important to stay vigilant as your dog recovers since certain proteins or other elements may result in the problem recurring. In these cases, your dog may need a specialized hypoallergenic medical diet.
Is there a way to prevent bloody stool or vomiting from recurring?
After infections, some vets recommend restoring intestinal microflora by introducing food additives (such as synbiotics, probiotics and probiotics) to improve gut function and prevent infection from coming back.
If you feed your dog a homemade diet the formula should focus on ideal nutrient profiles along with energy density, depending on the issue being addressed. These diets can be less fatty and have more highly digestible nutrients. Always consult your veterinarian on any dietary changes, particularly if your dog has had problems with bloody diarrhea and vomit.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.