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Is bloody diarrhea in dogs an emergency?

It is alarming to see that our canine companions clearly aren't feeling great, which makes it stressful when your dog has unexplained diarrhea. Today, our Beacon vets explain some common causes of diarrhea, what to do if your dog's stool is bloody, and when it's time to head to the vet.

Diarrhea in Dogs

As with most vets, our veterinarians at The Beacon Veterinary Associates treat their fair share of Beacon dogs suffering from diarrhea.

This is to be expected; mild diarrhea in dogs is quite common and can be caused by mild intestinal distress. Often, intestinal distress is directly related to food: whether it's an adverse reaction to something that doesn't agree with them, such as table scraps, or switching to a new brand of dog food that does.

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.

Diarrhea in Dogs - The Common Culprits

Below are some of the most common reasons for diarrhea in dogs:

  • Stress or anxiety
  • Change in diet or treats
  • Eating garbage or spoiled food
  • Ingestion of foreign objects such as toys, bones, and fabric
  • Ingesting toxins or poisons
  • Viral infections such as parvovirus, distemper or coronavirus
  • Parasites - roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, Coccidia, or Giardia
  • Bacterial infections - such as salmonella
  • Pancreatitis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Colitis
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Intestinal cancer
  • Medications such as antibiotics

With such a wide array of potential causes, it can be difficult to know when your dog's symptoms are reasons to contact your vet, read on for advice to help you decide when a case of diarrhea is worth a visit to the doctor.

Bloody Diarrhea in Dogs

The most straightforward indication that you should consider contacting your vet is when your dog's diarrhea is bloody. There are two categories of bloody stool to look out for when your dog is experiencing diarrhea

Hematochezia is bright red in color and is a sign of certain potential medical issues. It results from bleeding in the colon. 

Melena is the blood that has been digested or swallowed. This dark, sticky, almost jelly-like blood indicates that a serious problem in your dog's upper digestive tract might be to blame.

Singular streaks of blood are often a fluke. However, if the bleeding is consistently present or if the bleeding is in larger amounts, that is a clear indicator of a much bigger problem, such as a viral or bacterial infection, parvovirus, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, and even cancer.

If you find any amount of blood in your dog's stool, it is always best to contact your vet. Describe exactly what you have observed so that your vet can give you detailed instructions on what you should be looking for and if it makes sense for your dog to come in for a visit based on its symptoms.

When To Contact Your Vet

If your dog has one episode of diarrhea and is otherwise acting normal, it is likely not a cause for concern. Monitor your dog's bowel movements to see if the issue resolves itself. More than 2 episodes could indicate a problem, so it's a good idea to call your vet if your canine companion has two or more bouts of diarrhea.

If your dog is straining to defecate but is only passing small amounts of watery diarrhea, it 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, contact your vet or head to the nearest emergency animal hospital for care.

Repeated bouts of diarrhea in a short period of time could indicate a serious health problem, especially if your dog is very old, very young, or has a weakened immune system. Severe diarrhea may indicate an infection such as parvovirus, a deadly, contagious, and life-threatening disease. If your dog has repeated bouts of diarrhea, contact your veterinarian right away.

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:

  • Bloody 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 consulting your veterinarian, as many over-the-counter medications that work well for humans can be very harmful to pets.

If your dog has had one or two runny or soft stools without accompanying weakness, vomiting, or other concerning symptoms, you may want to give your dog some time to recover by simply fasting for 12 – 24 hours.

A bland diet for a day or two may help your dog's problem. Plain-cooked white rice with some unseasoned cooked chicken and canned plain pumpkin (not pie filling) can help soothe your dog's stomach. After your dog has recovered, gradually reintroduce its regular food.

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 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.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog has diarrhea, get in touch with our Beacon vets to book an examination for your dog. Our vets have experience in diagnosing and treating the symptoms of illness in dogs.

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Our vets at The Beacon Veterinary Associates are now accepting new patients! Our experienced team of veterinary professionals are passionate about giving the cats and dogs of Beacon the health care they need. Contact us today to schedule your pet's first appointment.

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