Blood has nothing to do outside your dog’s body. It belongs inside his or her blood vessels. Therefore, each time you notice it anywhere in your dog’s vomit or stool, you should be concerned.
The presence of blood in your canine friend’s stool can be an indication that several things might be going on, so you can’t know for sure what’s wrong with your Fido. However, it definitely pays off to know how to make the difference between one type of blood and the other (yes, there are several types) both to put your own mind at ease and to know how to communicate with your vet.
Let’s look at why blood appears in your canine buddy’s stool, how it can look, and what it can indicate. No matter the type of blood, however, we have to emphasize that you should take your dog to the vet as soon as possible if you notice any in his or her feces.
What causes bloody poop?
The presence of blood in the stool is not a medical condition per se. In fact, it is merely a symptom of a condition, but it can also indicate indigestion, in some cases.
We’ll showcase the two types of bloody poop below, along with some of the possible things that could cause them. Just know that there are some probable factors that can trigger a hemorrhage, but that it does not mean that your own Fido has one of them.
Bright versus dark blood
There are two types of blood that you can notice in your canine friend’s stool — melena and hematochezia. While melena is dark, almost jelly-like, and you’ll notice that the whole fecal mass is sticky and somewhat tarry, hematochezia consists of bright, red blood.
Neither of these is necessarily more alarming than the other. It just means that the location of the hemorrhage is different. In cases of melena, for example, the origin of the blood is somewhere in the upper digestive tract. Hematochezia happens when there is a hemorrhage in the colon or generally, the lower digestive tract.
How the way the stool looks can tell you what’s wrong
The shape, consistency, and color of the feces matter a lot when it comes to a definitive diagnosis, and these are some of the things that the veterinarian will want to find out about them when you go in for a checkup.
Bright red blood can be caused by a variety of things from parasites (hookworms), toxins, inflammatory bowel disease, trauma, colitis, and even anal sac infections or impactions. Bacterial and viral infections shouldn’t be left out from the list, either, as parvovirus or hemorrhagic gastroenteritis can be two other causes for your dog’s bloody stool.
In all of these cases, the vet will use a set of tests to determine the cause of the hemorrhage. Otherwise, if it remains unknown, the treatment that your dog will receive will only be symptomatic. It’s quite likely that the appearance of bright, red blood is associated with diarrhea (not with hard stools), which means that your dog is also suffering from dehydration. As such, the vet will initiate a symptomatic treatment to solve this issue first and then administer more specific medication.
Very dark, tarry looking stools indicate that the blood was digested. Therefore, it went into the intestinal tract close to its upper entrance. That means that the origin of the blood can be the stomach, for example, or the duodenum (the first part of the intestine, where part of the digestive process occurs). Naturally, dogs with melena might also have other symptoms such as vomiting with strands of blood.
Dark, tarry stools are usually difficult to notice compared to bright red blood in your dog’s poop. Some of our canine friends are naturally predisposed to having hard, dark stool compared to others, especially depending on their diet. However, you should notice whether your dog’s stool looks darker than the usual.
Melena can be caused by ulcers, infections, inflammatory disorders, tumors, foreign bodies, as well as trauma, but also kidney failure, pancreatitis, liver disease, as well as a variety of hormonal imbalances.
What to do?
First of all, no matter the type of blood you’ve noticed, you have to take your dog in for a checkup. This can help you save your dog’s life, in some situations, or prevent a medical condition from getting a lot worse.
If your dog has melena or hematochezia for the first time and you suspect that it was caused by a medical treatment you’ve given him, stop the medication at once.
Since the hemorrhage can be caused by many things, one of the first tests that the vet will do is an analysis of the stool. It’s highly likely that bloodwork will also be necessary, and it might be quite helpful in some cases – such as when your dog is suffering from certain types of cancer or some infections.
If your dog is vaccinated, you can at least rest assured that his life won’t be put at risk as it would if he were to suffer from parvovirosis, for example. Most bacterial infections and even those caused by Clostridium perfringens or Campylobacter (two bacteria that are quite hard to kill) can be treated with antibiotics.
Cancerous masses, trauma, fissures, or intestinal blockages are far more complicated to manage. To make sure that you are able to provide your dog with the right care that he or she might need under such circumstances, it would be a good idea to get pet insurance.
Although there is no practical way of making sure that your dog will never have to experience this issue, you can apply a set of preventive measures almost without thinking about them. All responsible pet parents will make sure that their Fido’s vaccination plan is respected, so there’s no way that he or she might suffer from parvovirus.
You should also make sure that you give your dog preventive treatment for parasites. Your vet will explain how often you have to do that. Additionally, try to make sure that no dietary indiscretions ever happen (or keep them to a minimum) as they can irritate your canine buddy’s colon, and as such, they can cause either bloody stools or diarrhea.
Anal gland problems can be another culprit, so if you notice that your dog’s anus is swollen or that he’s dragging his bottom along the ground, just take him to a vet.