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 I Found Blood in My Dog’s Poop – Is This an Emergency?

Written By
7 min read

Updated - Jan 27th, 2023

If you’ve found blood in your dog’s poop, don’t panic – but don’t ignore it either.

Bloody dog poop is actually quite common and sometimes just a fluke. The cause of blood in dog poop can be something mild and treatable or something serious that requires an ER visit. The difference usually lies in the amount of blood, the color of the blood, and any accompanying symptoms.

Is blood in dog poop an emergency?

If your dog is pooping large amounts of blood or is having constant bloody diarrhea and appears lethargic or is vomiting, you should take them to the nearest emergency vet right away. If your dog has pooped a small amount of blood and is otherwise acting perfectly normal, a call to your primary vet should suffice.

In either case, it’s always a good idea to:

  • Take a picture of your dog’s poop
  • Keep a stool sample
  • Take note of whether it’s bright red blood or black, tarry blood
  • Take note of any other unusual symptoms

If you can’t get a sample or picture, don’t stress – just do your best to describe the color of the poop and any unusual symptoms to your vet. They’ll be able to decide the best course of action.

What does blood in dog poop look like?

Sometimes, it can be hard to tell if you’re looking at blood or simply a discolored poop! There are two kinds of blood you will typically see in a dog’s stool: bright red blood or black, tarry blood.

Bright red blood in dog poop

If you see bright red blood in your dog’s stool, this is called hematochezia. You may notice it on the surface of your dog’s poop. It’s common for this type of blood to be present on both fully formed stools or loose stools.

The bright red color indicates the blood has not traveled very far through the body and is undigested, giving it that bright red color. This type of bleeding usually begins in the rectum, colon, or anus. Hematochezia can have several possible causes.

Black or tarry blood in dog poop

If you notice black or tarry blood in your dog’s stool, this is called melena. This blood is coming from higher ‌in the dog’s digestive tract and is digested. There are many possible causes for this as well.

Many times, your dog’s stool will resemble coffee grounds. With melena, the blood could originate from the lungs, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, or upper small intestines. Because it travels further through the digestive system it is digested, making it look almost black. 

Your dog may poop in greater volume in cases of melena. If you’re not sure you’re seeing blood, try wiping some of the stool on a white paper towel. The redder pigments will be visible.

If you suspect your dog is showing signs of melena, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

Common causes of bright red blood

Parvovirus

Parvovirus is a common cause of bloody diarrhea and bloody stools in puppies. Symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, blood in the stools, and lethargy. If you suspect your dog has contracted parvovirus, see your vet immediately as it can be life-threatening.

Parasites

Intestinal parasites or worms in dogs can also cause blood in stool. These can include hookworms, whipworms, roundworms, tapeworms, giardia, and coccidia (protozoans). A regular parasite prevention program can eliminate them. Your veterinarian examines your dog’s stools to prescribe specific anti-parasitic medication.

Rectal injuries and intestinal blockages

Dogs love to ingest anything that looks tasty to them. This can get them into trouble and cause irritations of the colon, punctures of the intestinal walls, intestinal blockages, diarrhea, and thus, bloody stools. The fresh blood will be bright red and should stop quickly.

Anal gland problems

Dogs have two scent glands located on either side of their anus, and inflammation or abscesses can result in hematochezia. 

Tumors

Colonic, rectal, anal, or anal gland tumors that bleed can cause hematochezia. 

Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis

While not technically hematochezia, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE ) is a sudden, severe bloody diarrhea. The cause is unknown but may be bacterial. If you notice this kind of diarrhea in your dog, call a veterinarian immediately for assistance, as this condition can be fatal. 

Inflammation

Inflammatory bowel disease and severe colitis can cause hematochezia.  

Common causes of black or tarry blood

Ingesting toxins

Ingesting toxins like antifreeze or rat poison can cause melena. Also, toxic foods such as grapes, onions, and garlic can send your dog into a medical emergency ‌with black, tarry poop or bloody diarrhea. 

Ingesting blood

If your dog licks a bloody injury, has a dental disease that causes bleeding in their mouth, or even swallows the blood from a nosebleed. Their stools will show digested blood or coffee-ground-looking poop when your dog has a bowel movement. 

Blood clotting disorders

Disorders that slow down the clotting of your dog’s blood can range from inherited disorders to acquired disorders. The ingestion of rat poison can also cause a clotting disorder and bleeding.

NSAIDs

Anti-inflammatory drugs can cause ulcers in your dog’s stomach which can bleed. Your vet will monitor your dog’s health while on these medications, but you should also monitor the poop for signs of blood, catching any problems early. 

Post-surgery complications

Anytime your dog has undergone surgery and there is blood in their stool, contact your vet immediately. It could mean there is some internal bleeding.

Tumors or cancer

We never want to think about these, but they happen and can cause melena in your dog’s stools.

Pepto-Bismol

Used to treat diarrhea, Pepto-Bismol may turn your dog’s stool black temporarily. It will return to normal when the medication is completed. It can also cause gastric bleeding, so should only be given to your dog by the recommendation of your veterinarian. 

How do you treat blood in a dog stool?

The treatment your dog needs will depend on the underlying cause of the bloody stool. This is determined through diagnostic tests and examinations. Here’s what may be recommended.

  • Physical examination and history 
  • Parasite test
  • Blood work to rule out anemia, infections, and platelet counts that may affect blood clotting ability
  • Metabolic or chemistry screening to check liver and kidney function
  • X-rays to look for foreign bodies in the digestive system and blockages
  • Ultrasound to look for tumors, check organs, or check for injuries
  • Endoscopy to examine the upper GI tract
  • Colonoscopy to examine the lower digestive tract
  • A fecal occult blood test

Depending on the underlying cause of the problem, your vet may recommend the following care:

  • Fluids for dehydration
  • Oral medications to reduce inflammation
  • Pain medication for stomach cramping and discomfort
  • Vitamin injections – inflammation interferes with vitamin absorption. Vitamin B12 is helpful.
  • Steroids to help the gut calm down and reduce inflammation
  • Probiotics to build up your dog’s immune system
  • Acid reducers for stomach ulcers, vomiting, or diseases that can cause hyperacidity
  • Surgery (Sometimes this is the only way to remove an object that your dog has swallowed)
  • Anti-parasitic medication if parasites or worms are present in the stool
  • Diarrhea medication

Other causes of blood in dog stool:

  • Eating foreign objects, like toys, cooked bones that have sharp edges, rocks, sticks, clothing or towels, spoiled food, and garbage.
  • Rectal polyps and hemorrhoids: Some may protrude from the anus, or you may find blood on your dog’s bum. The surface of polyps and hemorrhoids bleed easily but also stop quickly.
  • Dietary changes: Food allergies, intolerances, or changing to a new food too quickly can cause dog diarrhea or blood in the stool. Always check with your vet to make sure you are transitioning from one food to the other in an appropriate amount of time to protect your dog’s digestive system.
  • Impacted or infected anal glands: Anal gland problems usually cause a dog to lick excessively ‘back there’ or scoot their butt, often signaling they need their anal glands expressed.
  • Stress: Extreme stress from fireworks, moving, a new pet, or a person joining the family can cause colitis – bloody diarrhea, sometimes with mucus. 
  • Bacterial infections: Salmonella and E.Coli, and are a few of the bacterial infections that can cause bloody diarrhea and blood in your dog’s stools. These are contagious to humans. Thoroughly wash your hands when touching dogs with these infections.
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): A chronic disease of the intestinal tract. Frequent inflammations caught early will produce bright red blood. If left untreated, the blood can become dark red.
  • Pancreatitis: The pancreas sends enzymes into the small intestines. When a dog has pancreatitis, the small intestines become inflamed, and infection sets in, causing vomiting and serious diarrhea, which may contain mucus and show signs of blood.

Why is there blood in my dog’s stool?

As you can see, there are many reasons your dog could have blood in their stool. Talking to your vet as soon as you notice it is the best thing you can do. Not only does it help you stay on top of your dog’s health, but also gives them the best prognosis possible.

Poop problems are an unfortunate part of pet parenthood. Pumpkin pet insurance plans can help your pup rebound from unexpected ruh-rohs by reimbursing you 90% of eligible vet bills.

Lynn Guthrie

Writer, Mom of a Fab Fur Fam of Five
Lynn is a writer and long-time Learning & Development Manager at a large PNW retailer. She's also mom to 3 dogs & 2 cats!
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