The appearance of blood in your dog’s stool or vomit can cause concern and alarm. In this post, our Charlotte vets discuss causes, symptoms and treatment options for bloody diarrhea and vomit in dogs.
How can I tell if my dog’s stool or vomit is bloody?
If the vomit or stool is streaked with fresh blood, this may indicate that it’s from either the upper part of the small intestine or the stomach. If the blood is partially digested, it may have originated from lower in the intestines and appear similar to coffee grounds. You may see signs of lack of appetite, abnormal stool such as diarrhea, or fatigue.
If the blood is fresh, it may be from the colon. If it’s dark, tarry or sticky, it may be from the stomach or upper intestinal tract.
Why is there blood in my dog’s stool or vomit?
If you’ve spotted blood in your dog’s stool or vomit, you’re likely justifiably alarmed - what could be the cause? Should you head to an emergency vet?
Possible causes for bloody vomit or 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 tract (from eating bones or other materials)
- Foreign bodies
- Severe vomiting
- Sudden dietary changes that cause irritation or impact the immune system
- Tumors in the stomach or esophagus
- Poisoning from toxins (e.g.: from consuming certain plants with heavy metals such as arsenic)
Other symptoms that can occur along with continuous vomiting or diarrhea include weight loss, fluid loss, dehydration, lethargy, electrolyte imbalances, hypovolemic shock and hemoconcentration.
What should I do if I see blood in my dog’s stool or vomit?
In any case, bloody diarrhea or vomiting is a veterinary emergency that could potentially be fatal if left untreated, so immediate veterinary care will be needed.
At Carolina Veterinary Specialists, our board-certified internal medicine vets are equipped to offer advanced care for pets with internal health conditions. Our emergency veterinary team treats animals in circumstances requiring urgent medical care, including life-threatening emergencies.
The underlying cause of bloody vomit or diarrhea may be challenging to diagnose. If routine diagnostic procedures are unsuccessful, more invasive diagnostic procedures may be needed to diagnose the issue.
Diagnostic procedures can include:
Taking medical history
The more information you can tell 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
- Vaccination record (to rule out parvovirus)
- How severe the diarrhea or vomiting has been. Has it progressed since it started?
- Visual observation of the stool or vomit to see if blood is present
- Palpitation of the abdomen to check for abdominal obstruction or pain
- Cardiovascular function to look for blood loss or dehydration
- Skin test to find out if your dog is dehydrated
- Examining mucus membranes to look for hemorrhagic losses
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
- Cultural assays to find any potential parasites or microbiological organisms
In most cases with proper treatment, dogs respond very well and recover. The course of treatment for your pooch will depend on the condition’s underlying cause.
Treatment may include:
- Surgical remedies for tumors, ulcers or physical obstructions
- 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
Management Following Treatment
The main priority after your dog’s underlying issue is treated should be healing time, as the inflamed intestines will need time to recover. An improved diet may help reduce gastrointestinal disorders and intestinal infections.
Water or food should not be provided for at least 24 hours to give the 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.
Stay vigilant as certain proteins or other elements may result in the problem recurring. In these cases, your dog may need a specialized hypoallergenic medical diet.
After infections, some veterinarians are advocating for the importance of restoring intestinal microflora by introducing food additives (such as synbiotics, probiotics and probiotics) to prevent infection from coming back.
If you use a homemade diet for your dog, 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.