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If my dog has blood in his stool is this serious?

Anytime your pet is bleeding the rule of thumb is he/she should be evaluated by their veterinarian. Bloody stool (hematochezia) is one of the most common problems for which our veterinary patients present. Bloody stool can range in seriousness from gastrointestinal parasites, colonic irritation, irritable bowel syndrome, to cancer.

An important thing to distinguish is whether your pet is passing digested blood or frank blood. Digested blood or melena is caused by bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract. Melena is a black tar color when it is passed. Frank blood is bright red and indicates bleeding in the lower gastrointestinal tract. In general melena is more serious than frank blood; however in either situation a veterinarian should evaluate the seriousness of your pet’s condition.

A frequent condition seen especially in small urban dogs is hemorrhagic gastroenteritis or HGE. This is when dogs are having voluminous amounts of bloody stool usually along with vomiting. This stool is characterized as frank blood (bright red blood in the stool). HGE can be very life threatening and often requires the patient to be admitted to the hospital. Anytime an animal is loosing large amounts of fluid through vomiting or diarrhea they are in danger of becoming dehydrated, which can progress to a life threatening state.

Keeping your pet on a monthly heartworm preventative almost all of which also contain protection against gastrointestinal parasites is a good way to keep these parasites at bay. Certain of these parasites can cause bloody stool. When your veterinarian evaluates your pet they may choose to submit a stool sample to the lab to screen for parasites. Other common tests they may discuss with you are routine blood work and potentially an abdominal ultrasound, endoscopy, or colonoscopy. As previously stated, if you notice blood in your dog’s stool have your pet evaluated by your veterinarian. Most problems are easier to correct when they are addressed sooner rather than later.

Elaina Petrone