Our dogs are very special family members. They show us unconditional love and bring us endless joy and happiness. When they become ill or are experiencing pain or discomfort, we want to do everything in our power to help them. So when we see what we believe to be blood in our dog’s stool, this can be very alarming. The following information is intended to provide you with a good understanding of the types of conditions that can cause blood to be mixed in your dog’s stool and what actions you should take to find out what may be causing this in your dog’s stools.
You might be relieved a little to learn that this is a common symptom for dogs and it can be an indication of a wide range of things of which many are harmless. However, because blood in your dog’s stool can be a symptom of some more serious health conditions, you should definitely contact your veterinarian to let them know and follow any advice they provide.
The first and most important question that needs to be addressed when you think you see blood in your dog’s stool is whether or not immediate or emergency attention is warranted. _It’s very important to note that If you’re certain that what you’re seeing is blood in your dog’s stool and your dog is presenting other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy or is refusing to eat or drink, you should take them to a veterinarian or to an emergency clinic immediately as these can be symptoms of a very serious condition or gastrointestinal obstruction.__(1) __And, if this is a young puppy that is experiencing blood in their stool you should also get them medical attention immediately as this could be a symptom of Parvovirus which can be fatal if it is not treated very quickly.__(2) __And, any adult dog experiencing large volumes of bloody diarrhea or young puppy with bloody diarrhea should be taken to an emergency clinic for treatment as soon as possible as these conditions can life threatening. __(3)_
Other than the blood you notice in your dog’s stool, if they seem happy and are eating and behaving normally, you should call a veterinarian to let them know what you’re seeing and to ask for advice. Based on the information you give to them they’ll assess your dog’s symptoms and let you know if they think you need to bring your dog into their office for an examination. The information you should collect and be prepared to provide to the veterinarian is outlined below. This may seem like a tremendous amount of information to collect, but this information is necessary for the veterinarian to assess your dog’s condition and diagnose the cause.
Assessing the Blood in Your Dog’s Stool
Another important first step is to confirm that what you are seeing in your dog’s stool is or is not actually blood. A reddish or blood red color can be in your dog’s stool as a result of them eating something that contains red food coloring or red dye (i.e., red candy or something like a lipstick or a child’s marker or crayon). As long as your dog seems to be feeling and acting normal, you may want to take the time to look around to see if there’s any evidence of something being eaten that could be the culprit. If so, as whatever was eaten is passed, the reddish color should also pass and disappear.
If the color you’re seeing in your dog’s stool is extremely dark and you’re not sure if it’s blood, you might consider collecting a small fresh (and moist) sample of the stool and placing it on a white paper towel. This may make it easier for you to determine if what you’re seeing mixed in with the stool is in fact, blood.
If you can easily see blood in your dog’s stool or if you’re not able to confirm if what you’re seeing is blood or not, you should call a veterinarian for advice, as if it is blood you are seeing this could be caused by a wide range of conditions and the specific cause will have to be determined by a veterinarian.
Before calling your veterinarian, examine your dog’s stool closely so that you can provide the veterinarian with as much information as possible. Providing your veterinarian with a detailed description of the stool that includes shape, consistency and color of the blood can help the veterinarian determine the source of the bleeding. For example, there are two distinct types of bloody stools and your veterinarian will want to know which type your dog is experiencing. Letting your veterinarian know if the stool is solid with bright red blood mixed in it (which can indicate that the blood may be coming from a lower area of the intestinal tract), or if the stool is the consistency of diarrhea (which indicates the blood is likely coming from a higher area of the intestinal tract),
By developing a better understanding of these two distinct types of bloody stools and being able to share this information with the veterinarian’s staff when you contact them, you are helping them to diagnose the problem. This level of information will also enable the veterinary staff to determine if your dog should be seen as an emergency at their office or at an emergency clinic or if an examination can be delayed until you can bring your dog to their office at a time that’s convenient to you,
Hematochezia is blood that appears bright red looking in a dog’s stool. This type of blood is usually produced from a dog’s lower intestinal tract as the fresh looking blood has likely not been digested and has only traveled a short distance through a dog’s body. The source of the blood is probably relatively close to the point of exit. This type of bleeding can be typically caused by viral diarrhea, colitis, inflammatory bowel disease or cancer.(2)(3) More detail about the variety of causes that can lead to the production of hematochezia are provided below.
The color of this type of blood is very dark red or black (can be ‘inky’ looking) in your dog’s stool and can have the consistency of jelly and these stools are more commonly solid. This blood has been digested which indicates it has been in the intestinal tract longer and is coming from areas that are closer to the stomach than the point of exit. Common causes of this type of bleeding can include stomach inflammation, ulcers or cancer.(2)(3) More detail about the variety of causes that can lead to the production of melena are provided below.
Again, if you’re able to provide your veterinarian with details about the type of stool and blood you’re seeing using the information provided above and below, this will help them to diagnose the most likely cause of the blood and enable them to better advise you on the next steps you should take (i.e., take them for emergency care, make an appointment for an examination, etc.) If the veterinarian will not be examining your dog immediately, they may also be able to give you advice on how you might be able to alleviate any symptoms or discomfort your dog is experiencing in the interim (such as recommending a certain food that might help settle intestinal problems).
Collect a Stool Sample
You should also plan to collect a stool sample to take with you to the veterinarian’s office or emergency clinic for evaluation and testing. Unless otherwise directed by your veterinarian, you can follow the basic steps below to collect a sample:
* Samples should be fresh (still soft and moist) — from within the last 4 to 6 hours
* Turn a zip lock bag inside out over your hand to collect the sample and then turn the zip lock bag right side out around the sample. If you don’t want to use your hand, you can wrap the inside out zip lock around a large spoon instead of your hand to collect the sample.
* A good sample size is approximately the same size of cube of sugar cube (or about 1/2 teaspoon full)
* Seal the baggie completely
* If it will be more than a few hours before you can get the sample to the veterinarian’s office or animal hospital, you should store the sample in the refrigerator
15 Possible Causes of Blood in Your Dog’s Stool Causes of Hematochezia (Bright Red or Fresh Blood) in a Dog’s Stool
As described above, hematochezia is blood that most likely comes from a source close to the point of exit from your dog’s body such as the rectum or colon. Although your dog’s condition will have to be evaluated by a veterinarian to determine the actual cause of the bleeding, below are some possible causes of this specific type of bleeding:
Parvovirus is an extremely serious virus that is often found in unvaccinated puppies. Symptoms of this virus include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, a loss of appetite and bloody stools. Parvovirus can be fatal, so puppies suspected of having this virus should be treated as quickly as possible (i.e., taken to an emergency clinic). Black and tan dog breeds such as Rottweilers, German Shepherds and Dobermans are more prone to this virus than other breeds.
Parasites are a common cause of blood in dogs’ stools and include hookworms, whipworms and roundworms. Other symptoms of parasites include fatigue, the dog scratching or rubbing their rear end, diarrhea with blood, bloated belly and increased appetite. You may also see worms or eggs in your dog’s feces. Your veterinarian should be able to identify the specific type of parasite and prescribe deworming medication.
3) Dietary Changes, Indiscretions and Food Allergies
Changes in your dog’s diet, overeating or your dog eating something they shouldn’t (such as garbage) can irritate your dog’s colon causing inflammation, vomiting, diarrhea and bloody stools (which may also have mucus). If you want to change your dog’s food, you should do this gradually over the course of several days (maybe offering your dog a 50/50 mix of the old food and the new food).
Food allergies can also cause intestinal irritation and inflammation and result in bloody stools. Sharing information about what your dog has been eating recently will help your veterinarian determine if food allergies may be playing a role in causing the blood in your dog’s stools.
4) Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis
Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (or HGE) produces a profuse amount of dark, clot or jelly like bloody diarrhea and vomiting. The cause of this illness is often unknown but dogs that have this condition are very sick, can become dehydrated quickly and need immediate care and attention. Dogs experiencing these symptoms should be taken to an emergency clinic.
5) Rectal Injury
If your dog eats a bone or some other type of sharp object, this can potentially cut, scrape or injure your dog’s lower intestinal lining or rectum when it passes through these areas resulting in bloody stools. Your veterinarian will be able to determine if this is a possible cause and provide or recommend treatment for this type of injury.
6) Rectal Polyps
If your dog’s stools are solid but have fresh blood on the surface, this could be an indication of a rectal polyp. Rectal polyps are abnormal growths on a dog’s rectum that are highly vascularized. As stools pass over the polyp they can cause the polyp o bleed. It’s important to have polyp’s checked by a veterinarian as they can be cancerous.
Stressful events in your dog’s life can cause your dog to develop a case of colitis which can produce mucus and bloody diarrhea. Examples of what might be considered a stressful event include moving into a new home, the addition of a new family member or another dog to your household or the boarding of your dog in a new or unfamiliar kennel.
Causes of Melena (Dark Red or Black ‘inky’ Looking Blood) in a Dog’s Stool
As previously mentioned is the term used for blood in a dog’s stool that has been through the digestion process. Digestion causes the blood to appear very dark red, black or ‘inky’ looking. Because this blood has been digested, it will have originated at a point in your dog’s body at an early point in the digestion process such as the lungs, esophagus, stomach or small intestine. This type of bleeding can be caused by serious conditions and requires investigation and examination by a veterinarian. However, some potential causes of melena can be the following:
8) Ulcers Caused by the Use of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS)
If your dog has been given aspirin or some other type of NSAID (such as Rimadyl), these drugs have the potential to cause bleeding ulcers your dog’s stomach. The blood from the ulcers can cause melena to occur. You should make sure that your veterinarian knows your dog is taking this type of medication and monitor your dog’s stools for signs of melena.
9) Blood Clotting Disorders
There are some canine conditions that can cause blood clotting disorders and bleeding (such as Von Willebrand’s disease (vWD). Dogs affected by these disorders may also have other symptoms like purple tinted skin. If dogs ingest rat poison this may also result in clotting disorders and bleeding which can produce melena in stools. If you believe there is a possibility that your dog may have eaten rat poison, you should take them to an emergency clinic for attention and treatment as quickly as possible.
10) Post-Surgery Complications
If your dog has had any type of surgery recently and is now experiencing blood in their stools you should contact your veterinarian immediately as this could be an indication of internal bleeding. This type of complication can occur up to 72 hours following surgery.
11) Cancerous Tumors
As cancerous tumors can cause bleeding, this is another reason to have a veterinarian examine the cause of blood in your dog’s stools to rule this out as a potential cause. This is particularly common in elderly dogs experiencing blood in their stools.
12) Ingestion of Blood
If your dog ingests blood this can also produce dark bloody stools. Your dog can ingest blood by licking a bloody wound or after experiencing an injury to their nose or mouth.
13) Intestinal Blockages
The variety of items that dogs decide to eat each year is extensive. Dogs have been known to eat not just the traditional items such as bones and sticks but toys, socks, underwear and even passports! If your dog eats something that they are not able to digest properly this can result in an intestinal blockage which if left untreated can cause bloody stools. Other symptoms include drooling, vomiting and loss of appetite. As with other conditions, your veterinarian will have to examine your dog and probably run additional tests to identify any sort of intestinal blockage and will be able to advise you on any procedures that may be required to remove the blockage.
If your dog has experienced physical trauma recently such as contact with a moving vehicle, a fall, or maybe a fight with another dog, they may have sustained an internal injury that is causing blood to show up in their stools. This is yet another reason it is important to take your dog to your veterinarian so that they can evaluate your dog’s condition.
15) Bacterial Infections (such as those caused by Campylobacter or clostridium perfringens)
Bacterial infections that invade your dog’s intestines can cause severe diarrhea and bloody stools. Your veterinarian will be able to identify this type of infection and would likely prescribe an appropriate antibiotic treatment for your dog.
Additional Information to Collect and Share With Your Veterinarian
In addition to a description of the type of stool and blood you are seeing in your dog’s stool, additional information that will be helpful to share with your veterinarian or staff at an emergency clinic to assist them with their evaluation includes:
* Medications you may have administered to your dog recently (including things like aspirin or Pepto Bismol)
* Food your dog has eaten recently
* Unusual behavior or activity you may have noticed (i.e., scratching, fatigue, etc.)
Again, a bloody stool is a common symptom for dogs and this symptom can be an indication of a wide range of things of which many are not serious. However, because of the wide range of issues that could cause this symptom and with the degree of seriousness ranging from benign to fatal dependent upon the cause the most important step to take any time you find blood in your dog’s stool is to contact a veterinarian as soon as possible so that investigation to determine the cause can begin as soon as possible.
Treatment for your dog will depend entirely on what your veterinarian is able to determine might be causing the bleeding. Food allergies can be treated with dietary changes and conditions such as parasites and infections can be treated with medications. Other conditions such as serious infections, intestinal obstructions or tumors may require hospitalization, surgery and longer term recovery care. The success of any treatment plan, however, is largely dependent upon an accurate determination of the cause of your dog’s condition. You play an important role in this process by collecting and sharing as much information as possible about your dog with the veterinarian that is providing care for your dog.