While it can be quite alarming, rectal bleeding in dogs isn’t always an emergency issue. What does it mean?
Well, it all depends on the severity of the bleeding, the cause, and the amount. While even a small amount of visible blood in your dog’s poop or on the carpet after a scooting session is worth a call to your vet, rectal bleeding is only a truly urgent issue if the bleeding is acute. If your dog is losing significant amounts of blood, seems dehydrated, disoriented, or otherwise in pain, take them to an emergency vet clinic immediately.
0-30 minutes in: Observe the Bleeding
Let’s start off by talking about one of the most common signs of canine “rectal bleeding” that isn’t rectal bleeding at all: bloody diarrhea. Loose, obviously bloody stools that appear like raspberry jam are usually indicative of Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE), or bleeding in the digestive tract. It’s most common among small dogs. If the diarrhea is consistent and voluminous, get your dog to a vet to ensure they don’t become dehydrated. If it stops on its own, make an appointment with your regular veterinarian in the next 24-48 hours for assessment.
If you’re sure it’s not bloody diarrhea, it’s time to check the color of the blood itself. If the blood is very dark red, it’s likely coming from inside the digestive tract or rectum. If it’s bright red, it’s likely coming from closer to the surface, such as the skin in and around the anal opening.
Both issues should be addressed by a veterinarian, but dark blood is more immediately concerning.
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30-60 minutes in: Do Some Digging
Well not, like, literally. One of the most common causes of rectal bleeding in dogs is constipation. Has your dog had trouble going to the bathroom of late? Note this when you talk to your vet. If you can visibly see an obstruction inside the anus, do NOT attempt to remove it! This could perforate your dog’s intestines and cause serious internal damage. Rush your dog to an emergency clinic immediately.
Ask yourself whether you’ve seen signs of parasites, polyps, or tumors, all of which can cause rectal bleeding. Are your dog’s anal sacs engorged? It may just be that they need emptying; clogged anal glands are a common cause of bleeding, too.
1 hour – 2 hours in: Watch and Wait
If you have reason to believe the bleeding was a one-off incident – you saw a streak on the carpet or a smear on the outside of your dog’s poop – you’re fine to watch for future occurrences and/or any concerning symptoms from your dog.
Any sustained bleeding, whether the blood appears in your dog’s poop or just near their anus area, is a reason to call your veterinarian. She’ll likely want to run some diagnostic testing to rule out parasites or medical causes then put a plan in place to prevent infection, stave off pain, and maintain hydration in your dog.