Dog owner picking up dog poop

Key takeaway

Dogs can have blood in their stool for many reasons, ranging from stress to underlying illnesses. If you notice blood in your dog’s stool, along with other signs of illness like diarrhea or vomiting, talk to your vet as soon as possible.

Being a pet parent means doing many things you'd never thought you'd do in your life, such as inspecting dog stool. You can learn a lot about what's going on inside your dog's body by their poop. For example, you can determine everything from whether they have worms to whether that snack you shared with them the other night was a good idea.

Looking at your dog's stool is a great way to learn about their health, and you should start doing it every day. Changes in color, frequency, and texture are typically some of the first signs of many illnesses.

Seeing blood in your dog's poop can be one of the most concerning changes you'll see when they go potty. If your dog has blood in their stool, you need to know the cause, what to do about it, and when to go to the vet.

Unfortunately, blood in your dog's stool could mean a lot of things, and how much blood in their stool and the type of blood you see can impact the diagnosis of the problem and its treatment.

If you notice blood in your dog's stool, it's important to take them to the vet as soon as possible. Your vet will examine your pet for a variety of potential illnesses that are known to cause bloody stool so they can begin treating them immediately. This article will discuss what bloody stool looks like, some common causes, and what to do about it.

Types of blood in dog stool

What To Look For

Most pet parents believe they'll know bloody stool when they see it, but there are actually two types of blood in stool: hematochezia and melena.1

  • Hematochezia: Hematochezia is bright red, and you'll know it’s blood when you see it. Bright red blood means that the bleeding is occurring in the lower digestive tract or colon.
  • Melena: Melena is slightly more difficult for pet parents to see as it's a dark, tarry color and consistency. Melena indicates that the blood was swallowed or digested, so the bleeding is occurring in the upper digestive tract. Unfortunately, melena isn’t always easy to see. If you think their poop is a strange color, consider rubbing a white paper towel on it to see if the color is red.

What Causes Blood In Dog's Stool?

Blood in stool can come from bleeding somewhere within your dog's intestinal tract, such as with the case of canine parvovirus, or it can come from trauma caused by worms.2 As we've already discussed, there are two types of blood in dog stool, and it is either bright red or darker and tarry. The color and consistency of the blood and the stool can help you learn more about the common causes of blood in a dog's stool.

Hematochezia

Bright red blood is easier to see whether your dog is going potty outside or had an accident inside. While noticing this type of blood in your dog's stool can be alarming, it doesn't necessarily mean they are suffering from an illness. While it's always best to consult with your vet, a streak of bright red blood in a single, otherwise healthy stool shouldn't be cause for immediate alarm. However, if your dog continues to poop blood or they're experiencing other symptoms, such as diarrhea or vomiting, consult your vet immediately.

Common causes of hematochezia

Common causes of bright red blood in your dog's poop include:

  • Colitis
  • Parasites
  • Trauma
  • Toxins
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Anal sac problems1

Melena

Tarry stools are typically more difficult for pet parents to see with the naked eye because they're as dark as the rest of the stool. Additionally, some dogs might have a naturally dark stool.1 As we've already mentioned, melena in your dog's stool is related to bleeding in the upper intestinal tract.

Common causes of melena

Common causes of dark tarry stools include:

  • Parasites
  • Infections
  • Ulcers
  • Tumors
  • Trauma
  • Foreign bodies
  • Toxicity
  • Pancreatitis

Blood in stool indicates that there's something unhealthy going on in your dog's digestive tract, so it's important to schedule a visit with your vet to get them diagnosed and treated as soon as possible, no matter what type of blood they're experiencing. Additionally, if your dog is showing other symptoms, such as loose stool, vomiting, or lethargy, take them to the vet immediately, as it could indicate a life-threatening illness.

What To Do If Your Dog Has Blood In Their Stool

If you notice your dog has blood in their stool, note the appearance of the stool, including color and consistency, along with the type of blood you see. For example, if the blood is bright red and your dog's stool is loose, it could indicate colitis, which can help your vet form a treatment plan. If possible, try taking a photo of any problems with their stool to help your vet understand the possible causes for blood in your dog's stool.

Once you've examined the stool, call your vet to schedule an appointment. Your vet may ask you questions to help you determine if it's an emergency situation. For example, you'll need to know how often your dog has been pooping blood, what the blood looks like, and let your vet know if your dog is experiencing any other symptoms along with bloody stool, such as nausea, vomiting, lethargy, and dehydration.

There are some situations where blood in stool is an emergency and others where it isn't. You can always ask your vet if it's an emergency when you talk to them on the phone, or you can take your dog to the nearest emergency vet as a precaution. Blood in stool could be a minor issue or a sign of an underlying illness that requires immediate treatment, so it's important to talk to your vet as soon as you notice blood in your dog's stool.

Treatment for blood in a dog's stool will depend on the cause. For example, if your dog has diarrhea with blood in it after stressful events, it could indicate they have colitis. In this case, your vet will prescribe colitis medication and potentially anxiety medication to help your dog deal with stressful events that don't upset their stomach.

Ultimately, blood in dog stool is treated in various ways, depending on your dog's physical exam and any lab tests your vet has run to determine the underlying cause. Different forms of treatment may include:

Oral Medication

Depending on the cause, your vet might prescribe your dog oral medication. For example, if they're pooping blood, they might have intestinal parasites that are causing problems in their intestinal tract. Most vets ask that you bring a stool sample in for your pet's yearly wellness exam to help detect the presence of intestinal worms early on. If your vet diagnoses your dog with parasites, they'll give your dog a deworming medication to help get rid of the worms causing blood in your dog's stool.

Additionally, because other viruses, such as parvo, can cause blood in stool, your vet might prescribe medication for any underlying illness. Medications can be used to reduce inflammation to stop vomiting and diarrhea, along with bloody stool. Of course, the medication used to treat blood in stool depends on your pet's diagnosis.

Fluids

Dogs with digestive problems experience dehydration because they lose fluids through vomiting, diarrhea, and blood loss. Your vet may give your dog IV fluids to help prevent or reduce dehydration. Additionally, if your dog is experiencing vomiting or diarrhea at home, ensure they have access to fresh water so they can rehydrate if they're feeling well enough to stand.

Probiotics

Just like humans, dogs can take probiotics to improve their gut health. Probiotics can help balance out the good and bad bacteria in your dog's digestive system to aid in digestion.

Paid Medication or Acid Reducers

Pain medications and acid reducers can help relieve some of the symptoms associated with the common problems that cause blood in stool. Illnesses that cause bloody stool can be painful and lead to bloating and cramping. Your vet may prescribe a pain medication to make your dog more comfortable while they're being treated for an underlying illness or to help them manage discomfort while their body fights infection.

Surgery

Depending on your dog's diagnosis, they might need surgery to treat the underlying cause of blood in their stool. Surgery is typically necessary for bowel obstructions due to foreign objects, but they may also perform surgery to biopsy your dog's internal tissue to help diagnose and treat an illness. Surgery can also be used to reposition internal organs that have shifted in the case of bloat, which can be fatal to dogs.

Blood In Dog's Stool: FAQs

What does it mean when a dog has blood in their stool?

Blood in your dog's stool could mean a lot of things; if you notice blood in your dog's stool at all, it's important to call your vet as soon as possible. Many underlying conditions, including colitis and worms, can cause bloody stools, so it's important to speak to a vet about diagnosing the cause so you can find the best treatment plan.

Is bloody stool an emergency in dogs?

Bloody diarrhea and vomiting are emergencies, especially if they last for more than 12 hours. Many dogs experience diarrhea and vomiting from minor upset stomachs, such as eating too much too quickly, which can subside quickly. However, blood in stool is an indication that your dog could have an underlying illness that is affecting their health and wellness.

When should I worry about blood in my dog's stool?

Seeing blood in your dog's stool is not healthy. If your dog has a diagnosed condition that causes blood in their stool or loose stool, you may not have to rush your dog to a vet. For example, if you know your dog has stress-induced colitis, you can expect bloody stool or loose stool after a stressful event.

However, you should always talk to your vet as soon as you notice any changes in your dog's stool, whether or not there is blood.

Close up of dog poop bags with dog on leash in background

Final Notes

Healthy dogs should not have blood in their stool. There are many reasons your dog might have blood in their stool, but it's important to have them diagnosed by a licensed vet who can help treat the problem. Many dogs get blood in their stool due to underlying illnesses, some of which can result in a poor quality of life for your pup unless treated properly.

Whether your dog has a sensitive stomach or you're worried they may have an underlying disease, you'll need to work closely with a vet to help diagnose, treat, and monitor your pet. Dutch's licensed veterinarians can help you effectively treat your dog from the comfort of your own home, so you don't have to worry about taking a sick, stressed dog to the vet. Instead, you can talk to one of our vets who offer telemedicine for pets about the problems your dog is experiencing to get the care they need without any stress.

References

  1. Staff, AKC. “What to Do If You Find Blood in Your Dog's Stool.” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 21 Mar. 2022, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/blood-in-dog-poop-stool/.

  2. “When Your Dog Has Blood in His Stool.” Michelson Found Animals Foundation, https://www.foundanimals.org/when-your-dog-has-blood-in-his-stool/.