What Does it Mean If Your Dog Has Blood in its Stool?

Pet Care


April 23, 2020

Millions and millions of people all around the world love and care deeply for their canine friends. People have been doing it for centuries upon centuries. Dogs have been faithful companions, diligent workers, and fearsome guard dogs all throughout history.

Caring for a dog has always been a commitment, no matter what the dog’s job was and no matter what period of time it was. One aspect of caring for a dog is paying attention to its health and condition, and making sure that your dog is as happy to see you as ever.

When you choose to care for a dog, that means that there is always going to be the faint chance that something happens to your dog’s health and something worrying happens. For instance, you might be taking your dog outside on one of its usual walks and you notice that there is blood in dog stool. Blood is a worrying sight in the first place, as it is not usually supposed to leave the body. Seeing blood can and should be a cause for immediate concern for your dog’s health, and the first thing you should do is contact your vet. You should also prepare yourself to come into the clinic quickly, as this can be an urgent situation, depending on the details.

While you are getting in touch with the vet, you can work on understanding the situation at hand. Of course, looking closely at dog stool is never fun, but it will help you understand how much of an urgent situation you are dealing with. You should consider the type of stool, and any other symptoms your dog might be experiencing. From there, you will need to learn about what causes bloody stools and what it means about your dog’s health. Once you have a solid grasp on these concepts, you can begin thinking about how you want to handle the situation until you can visit the vet.

What Types of Bloody Stool Are There?

At first, you might think that blood in the stool is a problem that needs a lot of analyzing. There is blood where there isn’t supposed to be blood. While this is true, there is more to it than that. The type of stool can indicate certain problems in your dog’s digestive system. The color and consistency of the blood can indicate where in the GI tract the bleed occurred. These are important to note, as they can help you understand the situation.

There are two main types of stool that have this issue: regular stool and diarrhea. As most people know, diarrhea is stool that is watery and not entirely solid. Bloody diarrhea can be more alarming and more difficult to clean up, and it can sometimes indicate very severe problems. Regular stool that is bloody is not something to discredit though, as they are both problematic situations.

There are also two types of blood in the stool: hematochezia and melena. Hematochezia refers to bright red blood that has the usual consistency of blood in the body. This will indicate that the bleed is in the lower digestive tract or the colon, and it narrows down the number of possible causes notably, as there are only a specific set of conditions that cause this. The other type of blood, melena, refers to dark, tar-like blood that has a jelly-like consistency. This indicates that the blood was either swallowed or digested in the stomach, which means that the bleed happened in the upper digestive tract. While it won’t be pleasant, you can check the type of blood by wiping a paper towel on the stool to see if the blood is closer to red or black in color.

What Does Bloody Stool Mean?

Blood in the stool usually means that there is a bleed somewhere in the GI tract of your dog. This goes from the mouth and esophagus to the colon and anus. Depending on where the bleed is, the consistency of the blood will change. Bleeds in the upper GI tract (mouth, esophagus, and stomach) are dark and tarry because they had to go through the digestive process. Bleeds in the lower GI tract (intestines, colon, and anus) are bright red because the blood was not altered that much as it passed through your dog’s system. The bleed itself can be caused by anything from organ failure to ulcers to parasites.

There are a couple cases where it doesn’t necessarily mean that your dog is bleeding in its GI tract. For instance, if the blood is not actually blood, but rather food coloring. If you know for an absolute fact that your dog ate a considerable amount of food that had red food coloring in it, then there’s a chance that the “blood” in your dog’s stool is actually just food coloring. It is still worth checking with the vet, as blood in the stool is not something to risk going untreated.

The other instance where there is no bleed in the GI tract is when the bleed happens right at the very end, so to speak. In some cases, an infection near your dog’s anus can bleed as your dog relieves itself. This can, understandably, cause your dog’s stool to appear bloody, although the blood came from the end of the journey, rather than somewhere in the middle. Similarly, if your dog has somehow been injured in the rectal area, this can also cause stool to be bloody, but not in a worrisome sense. The easiest way to check if this is the case is to simply lift your dog’s tail up and see if there is anything noticeably different about the anus. If you notice that the problem is with your dog’s anus, you still need to address this issue with your vet, but it is not a cause to find the nearest emergency vet clinic.

What Causes Bloody Stool in Dogs?

There are many, many things that can cause blood to appear in your dog’s stool. Some of these issues are life-threatening and need to be dealt with immediately, while others still require attention, but are not as urgent. The causes of bloody stool in dogs can be categorized into three different problems: eating the wrong thing, long-term diseases, and acute diseases.

Eating the wrong thing is fairly straightforward. Dogs are infamous for eating anything and everything, including their own feces. Therefore, it should be no surprise that dogs will eat things that they shouldn’t. This category includes things that are obviously not foods, involving the following problems: foreign bodies (indigestible objects), sensitivities and inflammation from new foods, parasites, bacterial and viral infections, toxins, and occasionally trauma to the gut, depending on the nature of what was eaten. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to monitor what your dog eats.

Long-term diseases are also what they sound like. They are diseases that tend to be chronic, or even congenital. These issues are usually long-lasting without treatment, or can become a permanent part of your dog’s life regardless. This includes the following problems: inflammatory conditions affecting the bowel, cancers, pancreatic disease, liver disease, Addison’s disease, and blood clotting disorders.

Finally, acute diseases are problems that are acutely caused. Left untreated, they can become incredibly problematic for your dog. However, these issues usually appear without any prior warning or build-up. They can include the following problems: extreme stress, infected/impacted/inflamed anal glands, ulcers, and side effects from new medications.

How Can You Prepare for the Vet?

There are a few other things that you should look for and consider when you are talking to your vet about your dog and its bloody stool. Looking at the overall condition of your dog will help your vet determine just how urgent the situation is, and if you already know what to look for, then you can make sure that the call to the vet goes as smoothly as possible. Other symptoms will usually help the vet narrow down what could be happening to your dog before you arrive at the clinic.

First things first, you will want to note how long your dog has had bloody stool, and if this has ever happened to your dog before. This helps the vet determine if this is a new, old, or recurring problem with your dog. There’s a good chance the vet will also ask if the stool is diarrhea, and if so, how long it has been like that, as this will help determine what is causing the gastrointestinal issue.

Your vet will also probably ask if you noticed your dog eating anything it shouldn’t be eating, as this will determine if the issue is caused by something the dog ate rather than a disease or illness. Your vet will also ask if your dog is allowed to roam free outside, as this could mean your dog ate something unsupervised, and if it was outside, then there’s a good chance whatever the dog ate was either infected with bacteria or parasites.

After that, your vet will begin asking about additional symptoms. These symptoms will include vomiting, lethargy, appetite loss, and decreased thirst. All of these will help determine the severity and urgency of your dog’s condition. Often, appetite loss, decreased thirst, and overall lethargy are the warning signs that you need to take your dog to an emergency clinic, as they indicate some of the more problematic diseases.

What Should You Do?

There isn’t much that you can do, unfortunately, other than bring your dog to the vet as soon as you can. Blood in a dog’s stool is a problem that requires medical attention, and unless you are a vet, that means that a vet’s office is the only place that can help your dog out. You can make things easier for the vets by preparing a stool sample.

There are plenty of guides that explain the best ways to collect stool from your dog to present to the vets. With this being said, if your dog is not eating or drinking and/or appears lethargic, you should forgo collecting the stool sample and take your dog in for an emergency vet visit, as this is indicative of a very unhealthy dog.

If your dog’s stool is bloody and is diarrhea, then you will need to pay more attention to how much your dog drinks, as dehydration is always a risk for any creature that gets diarrhea. If you have to wait for your vet appointment, but your dog is still eating/drinking and has energy, then the most that you can do is keep your dog as comfortable as possible.