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Is bloody diarrhea in dogs an emergency?

Is bloody diarrhea in dogs an emergency?

When your dog isn't feeling well, it can be a source of worry - and it can be even more alarming when your dog has blood in their stool. Today, our Fremont vets explain some common causes of diarrhea, what to do if your dog's stool is bloody, and when it's time to take your dog to the emergency vet.

Diarrhea in dogs

At Ace Animal Hospital, our vets have treated their fair share of Fremont dogs suffering from diarrhea.

Diarrhea in dogs is very common and can be caused by mild intestinal distress. Often, your dog's gastrointestinal issues are directly related to food: whether it be caused by your dog reacting poorly to eating a small amount of something that makes them ill, such as table scraps, or from switching to a new brand of dog food that isn't agreeing with them.

That said, there are also a number of more serious reasons why your dog could have diarrhea, some of which will require veterinary attention immediately.

Common causes of diarrhea in dogs

There are some likely culprits that can cause diarrhea in dogs:

  • Stress/anxiety
  • Changing food or treats
  • Consuming garbage or spoiled food
  • Ingesting of foreign objects (e.g. toys, bones, fabric)
  • Ingesting toxins or poisons
  • Viral infections like parvovirus, distemper or coronavirus
  • Parasites (e.g. roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, Coccidia, or Giardia)
  • Bacterial infections (e.g. salmonella)
  • Pancreatitis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Colitis
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Intestinal cancer
  • Medications (e.g. antibiotics)

Because there is such a wide variety of potential causes of diarrhea in dogs, it can be difficult to know when your dog's symptoms are reasons to contact your vet. Below, we offer some tips to help you decide when a case of diarrhea is worth a visit to the doctor.

Bloody diarrhea in dogs

If your dog is experiencing bloody diarrhea, the first and most straightforward thing to do is to contact your vet.  There are two types of bloody stool to look out for when your dog is experiencing diarrhea:

Hematochezia is caused by bleeding in the lower digestive tract or colon.  It is bright red in color and could indicate certain potential medical complications.

Melena is blood that has been digested or swallowed.  It is dark, sticky, and almost jelly-like in consistency and it serves as an indication that there may be a serious problem with your dog's upper digestive tract.

A singular streak of blood is often no cause for concern. If, however, the bleeding is consistently present or appears in larger amounts, that is a clear sign of a potentially serious problem, such as a viral or bacterial infection, parvovirus, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, and even cancer.

If you find blood in your dog's stool, in any amount, it is always best to contact your vet. Giving detailed information about your observations allows your vet to give you thorough instructions on what to look out for, and if your dog's symptoms require a visit to the vet.

Other causes of diarrhea in dogs

If your dog has a single episode of diarrhea and is otherwise acting normal, it is likely not a cause for concern. Keep track of your pet's bowel movements to see if things clear up. More than 2 episodes could indicate a problem, so it's a good idea to call your vet if your dog has two or more episodes of diarrhea.

If your dog is struggling to pass a stool but only passing small amounts of watery diarrhea, they could be experiencing a painful blockage due to the ingestion of a foreign object such as a toy. This is a very serious concern and needs veterinary attention right away.

Recurring bouts of diarrhea over a short period of time are a cause for concern as it could be a sign of a serious health issue. This is particularly true if your dog is very old, very young, or has a compromised immune system. Infections such as parvovirus are extremely serious, contagious, and life-threatening. Contact your vet right away if your dog is experiencing repeated episodes of diarrhea.

Dogs showing other symptoms as well as diarrhea should also be seen by a vet as soon as possible. If your dog has any of the following symptoms contact your vet right away to make an appointment:

  • Blood in stool
  • Unusual drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of Appetite
  • Weakness
  • Signs of dehydration (Sunken dry-looking eyes, dry nose, or dry, sticky gums)

If your dog is displaying any symptoms that cause you concern, contact your veterinarian. Your vet will let you know whether your pet's symptoms indicate that an examination is necessary.

Treating diarrhea in dogs

Never give your dog human medications without first consulting your veterinarian. Many over-the-counter medications that ease human symptoms can be toxic to dogs.

If your dog has had one or two runny or soft stools, you may want to allow your dog time to recover by making them fast for 12 - 24 hours.

A bland diet for a day or two could also help to resolve your dog's issue. Plain cooked white rice with a little unseasoned chicken and some canned plain pumpkin (not pie filling) may help to make your dog's tummy feel better. Once your dog feels better, gradually reintroduce their regular food.

Some other things that might help to soothe your dog's upset tummy include natural yogurt, probiotics, peeled boiled potatoes, cottage cheese, egg with no oil added, specially formulated dog foods, and of course, medications prescribed by your vet.

When it comes to your dog's health it is usually best to err on the side of caution. By taking your dog in for an examination you give your vet the opportunity to determine the underlying cause of your dog's diarrhea and recommend the most effective treatment.

If your dog is experiencing diarrhea, contact our Fremont vets to book an exam for your pet. Your veterinarians are experienced in diagnosing and treating the causes of diarrhea in dogs.

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Ace Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Fremont companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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