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Diarrhea in Dogs: Is bloody diarrhea an emergency?

If your pup is suffering from diarrhea, they are likely experiencing discomfort - and you're probably feeling alarmed. Here, our Memphis vets list some common causes of diarrhea in dogs, what to do if your dog's stool is bloody, and when it's time to call an emergency vet. 

Diarrhea in Dogs

Our vets in Memphis see our fair share of dogs suffering from diarrhea. 

Since mild bouts of diarrhea are very common in dogs and may be triggered by mild intestinal distress, this is to be expected. Intestinal distress is often directly tied to food—either from eating an item that didn't agree with them (such as human food or table scraps) or trying a new brand of food that upset their tummy. 

That said, there are also many more serious reasons why your dog may have diarrhea, some of which will need immediate veterinary attention. 

Diarrhea in Dogs - The Common Culprits

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

  • Eating spoiled food 
  • Ingesting poisons or toxins
  • Change in diet or treats 
  • Anxiety or stress 
  • Bacterial infections (such as salmonella)
  • Ingestion of foreign objects such as bones, fabric or toys 
  • Viral infections such as distemper, coronavirus or parvovirus 
  • Pancreatitis
  • Liver or kidney disesase
  • Colitis
  • Medications such as antibiotics
  • Intestinal cancer
  • Parasites - Giardia, Coccidia, hookworms, whipworms, roundworms 

With so many potential causes, it can be difficult to know whether your dog's symptoms should prompt you to call your vet. In this post, we'll explain how to decide when a case of diarrhea is worth a visit to your veterinarian. 

Bloody Diarrhea in Dogs

We strongly recommend contacting your emergency vet if your dog's diarrhea is bloody. If your dog is experiencing diarrhea, look for these two types of bloody stool. 

Hematochezia is caused by bleeding in the colon or lower digestive tract. It is bright red and can point to potential medical complications

Melena is blood that's been digested and swallowed. This jelly-like blood is dark and sticky and can indicate a serious problem in your dog's upper digestive tract. 

Singular blood streaks are often a fluke. However, if there's consistent bleeding or if there is a larger amount of blood, this is a clear indicator of a much larger problem such as a bacterial or viral infection, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, parvovirus or even cancer. 

If you discover blood in your dog's stool in any amount, it's always best to err on the side of caution and call your vet for further advice to find out if they recommend bringing your pet in for an exam. 

Other Instances Where Diarrhea in Dogs Is a Reason to Contact Your Vet

If your dog has a single 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 things clear up. 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 pass a stool but 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.

Recurring bouts of diarrhea over a short period could be a sign of a very serious health issue, particularly 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 consulting your veterinarian. Many over-the-counter medications that work well for people can be toxic to dogs.

If your dog has had one or two runny or soft stools, 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 to resolve your dog's issue. Plain-cooked white rice with a little 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.

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 allow your vet 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 bloody diarrhea and you are unable to reach your primary veterinarian, contact our Memphis emergency vets on evenings, weekends and major holidays. Our vets at Animal Emergency Center have experience in diagnosing and treating the causes of diarrhea in dogs.

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