Let’s face it, there’s nothing quite as panic-inducing for a pet parent as spotting a pool of bloody diarrhea on the living room carpet. It’s a stomach-churning sight that can send even the most composed dog owner into a tailspin.
Throughout my career as a veterinarian, I’ve frequently encountered cases of dog bloody diarrhea, a concerning symptom that can unsettle any pet owner.
You’re not alone – every year, thousands of pet parents find themselves in this exact situation.
But before you start imagining the worst-case scenario, take a deep breath; the solution to your four-legged friend’s issue may be just a few paragraphs away.
Bloody Diarrhea in Dogs
Dogs may experience bloody diarrhea due to various reasons, ranging from minor and harmless to more severe and potentially life-threatening causes.
An important first step is to assess whether your dog’s stool contains fresh, bright red blood (we call this ‘hematochezia‘), or partially digested blood (termed ‘melena‘).
Partially digested blood is often more difficult to identify, since rather than the vivid, unmistakable appearance of bright red blood, your dog’s stool will have an appearance similar to that of coffee grounds, or may appear black and tarry. It’s diagnostically important to differentiate hematochezia from melena, since the two tend to be associated with a different collection of underlying causes.
It’s also important to try and quantify how much blood is being produced, and to take careful note of any other symptoms your dog is experiencing. These factors are of great diagnostic value, and will help you decide whether or not your pet requires emergency vet attention.
Top Causes of Bloody Diarrhea in Dogs
Roundworms, hookworms and whipworms can all cause blood diarrhea in dogs. These intestinal parasites can be prevented through the judicious use of preventative medications on a regular basis. Single-celled parasites such as giardia (a frequent cause of traveller’s diarrhea in humans) and coccidia can also cause bloody stool. Your vet will be able to identify intestinal parasites by sending a sample of your dog’s stool to the lab.
Sometimes, our furry friends can have a case of tummy trouble. Dietary indiscretion, or eating something they shouldn’t, is a common cause of doggy diarrhea. It could happen after a sneaky late-night trash can raid, some playful scavenging at the dog park, or even indulging in treats or human food.
Likewise, any sudden change to your dog’s normal diet may result in bloody diarrhea or other undesirable changes to your dog’s poop, such as looseness or the presence of mucus.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Inflammatory bowel disease occurs due to inflammatory white blood cells assembling in large numbers in the lining of your dog’s intestinal tract. In some cases, this is a response to dietary allergens, or to bacterial infections within the gut, but in many cases no definitive cause can be identified for the development of IBD.
Stomach ulcers can result in severe bloody diarrhea, and have the potential to be life threatening if the ulcer progresses all the way through the stomach lining. Ulcers in the stomach or intestinal lining can occur for many reasons, such as renal (kidney) disease, or the use of steroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (‘NSAIDs’).
Colitis and Gastroenteritis
If your furry friend is experiencing colitis, it means their large intestine (large bowel) has become inflamed. This can happen due to various reasons like parasites, viral and bacterial infections, or certain medications. The inflamed intestines may bleed, leading to the production of bloody stool.
Gastroenteritis refers to more widespread inflammation throughout the digestive tract. In this case, your dog’s stomach lining is inflamed, as well as both the small and the large intestines. The involvement of your dog’s upper digestive tract means vomiting may occur alongside your dog’s diarrhea.
Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE)
Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, also known as acute hemorrhagic diarrhea syndrome, is a sudden-onset condition that most commonly affects small breed dogs, particularly at times of stress (such as being kennelled due to an owner going on holiday). At the time of writing, the exact cause of HGE has not been determined, although several contributing factors are suspected including bacterial infection and a possible allergic component.
Of all the viral infections that can affect your dog’s health, few are more feared amongst dog owners than parvovirus. This highly contagious disease attacks the immune system, often resulting in a very low white blood cell count – a very serious concern – as well as destroying the cells that line the intestines. Parvovirus is most likely to affect puppies and unvaccinated pets. If your dog’s symptoms are consistent with parvovirus, it’s crucial to see a veterinarian immediately.
Foreign Body Ingestion
The consumption of foreign objects such as toys or stones can also cause bloody diarrhea, particularly if the offending object possesses sharp or angular edges which may scratch or scrape the inside of your pet’s delicate digestive tract. Eating bones – especially cooked bones – can result in similar complications.
Certain toxic substances can lead to inflammation of the lower digestive tract, resulting in bloody diarrhea in dogs. Ingesting items like acorns, rat poison, or large amounts of chocolate may cause severe bloody diarrhea. Additionally, certain prescription and over-the-counter medications can have the same effect. Always remember to avoid giving your dog any human medications unless specifically advised by your veterinarian.
Blood clotting is complicated, and your pet’s clotting system might fail for a number of different reasons. The most common inherited bleeding disorder in both dogs and humans is Von Willebrand’s disease (vWD), a condition with a particularly high prevalence in the Doberman Pinscher’s population. Other types of bleeding disorder may develop at any age; we call these “acquired”, rather than inherited, bleeding disorders. Bloody diarrhea and an increased tendency to bruise and bleed may result.
Unfortunately gastric (stomach) and intestinal cancers are also a possible cause of bloody stool. A cancer diagnosis might be higher on the list of possibilities if your dog’s diarrhea is accompanied by weight loss, particularly if your pet is elderly.
What to do if Your Dog has Bloody Diarrhea
If you’ve noticed blood in your dog’s stool, first decide whether or not the situation is an emergency (see ‘Is Bloody Diarrhea in Dogs an Emergency?’)
Not an emergency? Great! In that case, start by checking whether or not your pet is up to date with worming treatments. If not, tick this box first, along with starting a bland diet. You can also consider adding one or more of the home remedies discussed below.
If your dog’s diarrhea is getting worse instead of improving, or if it persists for more than 3 days despite home care, it’s a good idea to schedule a vet visit at the earliest opportunity.
Is Bloody Diarrhea in Dogs an Emergency?
It’s important for dog owners to be aware of the circumstances in which bloody diarrhea becomes a medical emergency. If your dog is producing very frequent and/or watery diarrhea, or diarrhea with a large amount of blood present, then a visit to the vet should not be delayed.
Likewise, if your pet has other symptoms alongside the bloody stool, such as vomiting, lethargy (dullness or sleepiness), or signs of abdominal pain, book an urgent same-day vet visit. These can be signs of a more serious problem, so immediate veterinary care is required in these instances.
Finally, if you believe your pet may have had access to toxic substances such as chocolate or rat poison, or could have ingested a foreign object, see a vet immediately.
However, if your dog has bloody diarrhea but is acting normal, then there are some home remedies you can try while waiting for a vet appointment.
What Home Remedy is Good For a Dog with Bloody Diarrhea?
1. Bland Diet
If only a scant amount of blood is present in your dog’s stool, and he or she is otherwise well, then you may not need to visit the vet immediately. Instead, for mild cases of intestinal distress, try a bland diet first. Plain boiled or grilled chicken or white fish (with no oil or seasonings) and boiled rice is a great low-cost option for pet parents who aren’t allergic to cooking, although these days specially formulated dog foods are also widely available.
Giving your furry friend bland food for a few days, followed by a gradual return to their regular diet, can often do the trick for mild cases of bloody diarrhea caused by dietary indiscretion or sudden diet change.
You can also consider investing in a specialized hypoallergenic medical diet, particularly if your dog’s bloody diarrhea seems to recur each time you try to re-introduce their normal dog food.
Kaolin, also sometimes called “china clay,” is a white, powdery clay composed primarily of the mineral kaolinite. Aside from being an essential component of china and porcelain, kaolin is a useful natural remedy for diarrhea in dogs. Kaolin is able to grab onto water, toxins and bacteria (a process known as ‘adsorption’) within your pet’s digestive tract, easing diarrhea and helping to protect the intestinal lining.
Pectin is a natural carbohydrate found in abundance in certain fruits. Taken orally, it works as a prebiotic helping to maintain a normal balance of gut flora. Combined kaolin-pectin products may also help soothe your dog’s inflamed digestive tract by forming a protective layer on the intestinal lining.
Handily, kaolin and pectin are frequently available as a partnership, in over the counter anti-diarrhea medications for dogs.
This easy to use paste by Vetoquinol contains both kaolin and pectin, as well as Enterococcus faecium, to boost levels of “good” gut bacteria.
4. Activated Charcoal
Touted as a helpful hangover cure in people, activated charcoal is well known for it’s ability to adsorb toxins (including bacterial toxins) from the digestive tract allowing them to pass harmlessly toward the exit. Whilst activated charcoal can certainly help ease doggy diarrhea, the more extravagant claims made by manufacturers should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Many over-the-counter charcoal products profess to be able to cure toxicities, when in reality, if your pet has eaten something truly dangerous, delaying an urgent vet visit and relying instead on charcoal power is likely to have disastrous consequences for your pet! So – use, but don’t abuse, this handy little molecule.
For mild cases of diarrhea, then this product from VetDtox can help get your pet back on track to solid stools!
How do Vets Treat Bloody Diarrhea in Dogs?
In order to best treat your pet’s bloody diarrhea, your vet will need to establish the underlying cause. They will start by checking your dog’s medical history and conducting a physical examination. Diagnostic tests such as checking a stool sample, blood tests, endoscopy or an abdominal ultrasound scan may also be recommended.
In certain instances, particularly when there is a strong suspicion of a cause, giving antibiotics or other medications (like worming medications or antidiarrheals) a try before undergoing diagnostic testing can be considered. If the treatment proves effective, diagnostics may not be necessary at all. It’s like taking a proactive approach to tackle the issue head-on!
Why Does My Dog have Bloody Stool?
Bloody diarrhea in dogs can occur for a wide variety of different reasons. Possible causes include intestinal parasites; dietary indiscretion or a sudden change in diet; inflammatory bowel disease; stomach or intestinal ulcers; colitis or gastroenteritis; bacterial or viral infections (such as parvovirus); foreign body or toxin ingestion; bleeding disorders or cancer.
What if my Dog has Bloody Diarrhea but is Acting Normally?
If your dog’s diarrhea is mild and contains only a scant amount of blood, and he or she is otherwise completely well with no additional symptoms, it may be possible to try treating the diarrhea at home with a bland diet and one or more of the home remedies outlined above. Pets with a large amount of blood in their stool, or those who also have other symptoms require prompt veterinary attention.
What Home Remedy is Good for a Dog Bloody Diarrhea?
Feeding a bland diet is a great place to start if your dog is suffering from a mild cause of bloody stool and is otherwise well in him or herself. Kaolin clay, pectin and activated charcoal can also be useful home remedies for mild cases of bloody diarrhea in dogs.