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It can be very scary to see your dog vomit anything, let alone blood. If you ever experience this, it's natural to quickly wonder why, but it's also important to stay calm. Seeing specks of blood in dog vomit is definitely unnerving and almost always necessitates a call to your local veterinarian to get your dog checked out. Remember that getting your dog checked early for specks of blood in dog vomit can lead to a better prognosis in most cases. The first thing you should do if you think you notice blood in your dog's vomit is contact your veterinarian immediately. Below are some of the steps they may walk you through to help determine the cause, but more than likely, they will want you to bring in your dog ASAP.
1. Examine the Vomit
As a pet parent, it's important to note any and all details if your dog is vomiting blood and to examine what exactly your dog brought up.
Note the color of the vomit. If your dog is vomiting blood that is bright red, that indicates that something in the digestive tract has been recently bleeding, usually in the esophagus or stomach. If the blood is dark, clotted or looks like coffee grounds, that means the blood is partially digested and that something has either been bleeding for a while or bled a while ago. Keep note of whether there are simply some specks of blood in dog vomit or if there are larger amounts.
Check to see if there is anything else weird in the vomit, like pieces of a chewed up toy or evidence of rat bait, which can look like green granules. Take a picture of what you find to show your vet.
2. Understand What May Have Caused the Problem
When your dog is vomiting blood, remember to take a breath and take a moment to observe your pet. There are many reasons why a dog may vomit blood, but they're usually related to irritation or trauma of the upper digestive system, including the esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth and the stomach) and the stomach. It can also happen if they are swallowing blood from nose bleeds draining into the back of their throat.
If you see bloody vomit, it might be due to something as simple as injured gums. Sometimes, dogs can chew aggressively on a toy or bone and cut their gums, which can result in some bloody discharge from the dog's mouth. Lift your dog's lips and take a look to see if an oral injury is present. If your dog is in pain, they may react differently when they are feeling like themselves; in this instance, your dog may nip, bite or growl at you. It might be worth wearing gloves and having a partner hold your dog. If the situation gets out of hand and your dog is not being cooperative, it's best to try and find a way to get them to the vet and have a professional examine their mouth for signs of trauma.
Another common cause of bloody vomit in a dog is a stomach ulcer. Ulcers occur when a dog produces excessive stomach acid that erodes the lining of the stomach. Stomach ulcers are painful, and they can be accompanied by loss of appetite and excessive tiredness. Dogs with a stomach ulcer can often vomit up material tinged pink, or they can cough up mucus that looks bloody. They may also vomit something that looks like coffee grounds, which indicates that an ulcer has been bleeding for a while. Stomach ulcers can also cause diarrhea that is dark and looks like tar. You should call your veterinarian immediately to get your dog in for a check-up if you see this type of vomit.
There are a number of medical conditions that can result in your dog vomiting. Cancer associated with the stomach or esophagus can be accompanied by signs including excessive tiredness, weight loss and loss of appetite. Bleeding tumors in the esophagus or stomach can make a dog feel nauseated and cause a dog to vomit blood.
The problem could also lie outside the digestive system. Dogs that are suffering from severe liver disease, kidney disease or autoimmune disorders may vomit material that is blood tinged. Dogs can also develop a clotting disorder that can result in bloody vomit. The most common cause of clotting disorders in dogs is related to accidental consumption of rat bait, which interferes with vitamin K and causes excessive bleeding. Another cause of clotting disorders in dogs is severe liver disease. In either case, your dog needs the help of a vet.
Parasites or Foreign Bodies
If your dog ate something they shouldn't have, it could be irritating or blocking the digestive tract which can result in bloody vomit. Intestinal parasites, including hookworms and roundworms, have both been known to cause bloody vomit in dogs. In particular, hookworms can be particularly damaging to the lining of the intestinal tract. Fortunately, you can protect your dog from most intestinal parasites with a simple monthly broad spectrum dewormer from your vet.
3. Visit Your Local Vet
Sometimes a dog that is coughing up bloody sputum from the lungs or trachea can be confused with vomiting blood. There are many things that can cause a dog to cough up bloody discharge, including congestive heart failure and heartworm disease. If you see your dog coughing up anything pink, red or that looks like coffee grounds, it's time to enlist the help of your local vet.
At the hospital, your vet will examine your dog and determine if any tests are required. Testing depends on the cause of the problem and can include things like X-rays or bloodwork. Treatment depends on the underlying cause. If it is something like an irritated digestive tract or a stomach ulcer, then medication may be prescribed. Your veterinarian may also start your pup on therapeutic food that is easy to digest while their GI tract recovers. Remember, the sooner you are seen, the better your pet's prognosis (and your peace of mind) will be.
Dr. Sarah Wooten
A 2002 graduate of UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Sarah Wooten is a well known international speaker in the veterinary and animal health care spaces. She has 10 years experience in public speaking and media work, and writes for a large number of online and print animal health publications..Dr. Wooten has spoken in the veterinary education space for 5 years, and speaks on leadership, client communication, and personal development. Dr. Wooten is also a certified veterinary journalist, a member of the AVMA, and has 16 years experience in small animal veterinary practice. In addition to being a speaker, author, veterinarian, and co-creator of the wildly popular card game 'Vets Against Insanity', she co-owns Elevated Eateries Restaurant group in Greeley with her husband of 21 years, and together they are raising 3 slightly feral mini-humans. When it is time to play, she can be found skiing in Colorado or diving with sharks in the Caribbean.
Go big...or go home. To learn more, visit drsarahwooten.com.