Why Is My Dog Having Bloody Diarrhea

You’re here because you’ve noticed blood in your dog’s stool, and that’s definitely a cause for concern. It’s natural to worry when your pet isn’t feeling well, especially when there’s a symptom as alarming as bloody diarrhea. Let’s face it, seeing your dog happy and playful one minute, then dealing with digestive distress the next, is a scary experience. But don’t panic! In this guide, we’ll explore the reasons behind bloody diarrhea in dogs and answer the critical question: Why is my dog having bloody diarrhea? Plus, we’ll cover steps you can take to get your furry friend back on their paws.

Common Causes of Bloody Diarrhea in Dogs

  1. Dietary indiscretion (eating inappropriate items)
  2. Sudden diet changes
  3. Bacterial infections (e.g., Salmonella)
  4. Viral infections (e.g., parvovirus, distemper)
  5. Parasitic infections (e.g., roundworms, giardia)
  6. Ingestion of foreign objects
  7. Ingestion of toxins or poisons
  8. Pancreatitis
  9. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  10. Colitis
  11. Liver disease
  12. Kidney disease
  13. Intestinal cancer

Alright, let’s unpack why your pup might be having bloody diarrhea.

Sometimes, it can be a simple case of dietary indiscretion. Imagine your dog is like a furry explorer, and sometimes that exploration leads them to delicious (but not necessarily dog-approved) things like leftover pizza or a tempting roll in the garbage. Even a sudden switch in their food or treats can cause an upset tummy.

But bloody diarrhea can also be a sign of something more serious. Infections caused by bacteria like Salmonella, viruses like parvovirus or distemper, or even parasites like roundworms or giardia can irritate your dog’s digestive system and lead to bloody stools. According to a study by the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, parvovirus, in particular, is a highly contagious and potentially deadly virus for puppies and unvaccinated dogs.

If your dog has a knack for getting into mischief, swallowing foreign objects like toys, bones, or fabric can also cause blockages and bloody diarrhea. In some cases, ingesting toxins or poisons can be the culprit.

Medical conditions like pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or colitis can also cause bloody diarrhea. These conditions can be chronic and require veterinary attention to manage. Even liver or kidney disease and intestinal cancer can manifest this way.

If you’re ever unsure about the cause of your dog’s bloody diarrhea, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and seek professional help.

Types of Bloody Diarrhea in Dogs

Now, let’s talk about the two main types of bloody diarrhea: hematochezia and melena. Don’t worry, these terms might sound scary, but we can break them down together.


Hematochezia is the more common type, and it refers to bright red blood mixed in with your dog’s stool. This typically indicates bleeding in the lower digestive tract, like the colon or rectum. Think of it as fresh blood that hasn’t had much time to travel through the intestines, so it maintains its bright red color.


Melena, on the other hand, is a different story. This type of bloody diarrhea appears dark, tarry, and almost sticky. It’s a sign of bleeding in the upper digestive tract, like the stomach or small intestine. Since the blood has had more time to travel through the intestines, it gets broken down and turns this dark, tarry consistency.

While both types of bloody diarrhea are cause for concern, the location of the bleeding can help your veterinarian narrow down the potential causes. Keep in mind, that this guide is just the beginning. If you notice any bloody diarrhea in your dog, it’s crucial to seek veterinary attention for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

When to Contact a Vet

Here’s the scoop on when to call the vet about your dog’s bloody diarrhea. Don’t wait if the bloody diarrhea is persistent or keeps coming back. Even a single episode can be a sign of something serious, but if it keeps happening, it’s definitely time for a vet visit.

Keep an eye out for other warning signs. If your pup is vomiting alongside the bloody diarrhea, feeling weak or lethargic, or has lost their appetite, it’s important to get them checked out by a vet ASAP. Dehydration is another big concern, especially with diarrhea. Indicators of dehydration include dry gums, heavy panting, and a lack of energy. If you notice any of these symptoms along with bloody diarrhea, don’t hesitate to call your vet.

Your dog’s age and overall health can also influence the occurrence of bloody diarrhea. Puppies with immature digestive systems and elderly dogs with weaker immune systems might be more susceptible to serious complications from bloody diarrhea. The same applies to dogs with weakened immune systems. If your furry friend falls into any of these categories and experiences bloody diarrhea, err on the side of caution and seek veterinary attention.

Diagnostic Procedures

Now that you know when to call the vet, let’s talk about what might happen at the appointment. The vet will likely start with a thorough physical examination of your dog, feeling their abdomen to check for any pain or abnormalities. They’ll also take a good look at your dog’s stool sample. Don’t worry, this is part of the detective work! Examining the stool can help identify parasites or other clues about the cause of the bloody diarrhea.

Depending on the findings, the vet might recommend some additional tests. Fecal tests can be used to diagnose specific parasites that might be causing the problem. Blood tests can give the vet a broader picture of your dog’s overall health and identify any underlying conditions. In some cases, imaging tests like X-rays or ultrasounds might be necessary to get a clearer look at your dog’s internal organs and check for blockages or other issues.

While these tests might sound a little daunting, they’re all crucial steps in helping your vet diagnose the cause of your dog’s bloody diarrhea and get them on the road to recovery. Remember, early diagnosis and treatment are key, so don’t hesitate to follow your vet’s recommendations.

Treatment Options

Okay, so your pup is at the vet and they’ve figured out the cause of the bloody diarrhea. Now what? The good news is, there are treatment options available!

In some cases, the vet might recommend some initial home care to get your dog feeling better. This could involve withholding food for 12-24 hours to give their digestive system a chance to rest and heal. Once they’re ready to eat again, the vet might suggest a bland diet. Think of it like a doggy tummy reset! Plain white rice with boiled chicken or even a little canned pumpkin (not the pie-filling kind!) are gentle options that are easy on their digestive system.

If the cause is more serious, your vet will have a specific treatment plan in mind. For infections caused by bacteria or parasites, medication is usually the answer. Antibiotics can knock out bacterial infections, while dewormers will take care of pesky parasites. For cases of inflammation, medication can help reduce irritation and get your dog’s digestive system back on track.

Dehydration is a common concern with bloody diarrhea, so your vet might recommend fluids and electrolytes to replenish what your dog has lost. In more serious cases, your dog may require intravenous (IV) fluids to stay hydrated.

And lastly, if there’s a blockage or a tumor causing the bloody diarrhea, surgery might be the best course of action. While surgery sounds scary, it can be a lifesaver in these situations.

The important thing to remember is that treatment will depend on the underlying cause of your dog’s bloody diarrhea. Your vet will walk you through the best options for your furry friend and get them feeling happy and healthy again in no time!

Preventive Measures

Absolutely! Bloody diarrhea can be a scary experience for both you and your pup, but the good news is there are ways to help prevent it from happening in the first place. Here are some pawsome tips:

  • Diet Matters: Just like humans, a healthy diet is key to a happy tummy for your dog. Work with your vet to find a food that meets your dog’s specific needs and avoid giving them table scraps or fatty human food. Sudden changes in diet can also upset their digestive system, so introduce new foods gradually.
  • Safety First: Our curious canine companions love to explore with their mouths, and sometimes that exploration leads them to things they shouldn’t ingest. Do your best to keep hazardous substances like household cleaners, medications, and even human food scraps out of reach. Consider using pet gates or cabinets with childproof locks to keep your pup safe.
  • Vet Power: Regular check-ups with your vet are an important part of preventive care for your dog. These visits allow your vet to monitor your dog’s overall health and identify any potential issues early on. Keeping your dog’s vaccinations up-to-date can also help prevent infections that might cause bloody diarrhea.
  • Be a Super Sleuth: Pay attention to your dog’s poop patrol routine. While the occasional soft stool might not be a cause for concern, persistent diarrhea or bloody stools are definitely red flags. If you notice any changes in your dog’s bathroom habits, be sure to consult your vet.

Exploring Holistic Options (But Always Consult Your Vet First!)

While conventional veterinary medicine offers a wide range of treatment options for bloody diarrhea, some pet owners prefer a more natural approach. It’s important to note that consulting your veterinarian is crucial before introducing any new supplements or treatments, as some natural remedies can interact with medications or worsen underlying conditions.

Here are some natural approaches to discuss with your vet:

  • Probiotics and Plain Yogurt: Probiotics are live bacteria that can help restore the balance of good and bad bacteria in your dog’s gut. A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine [insert link to the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine research report on probiotics for canine diarrhea] found that probiotics were effective in reducing the duration of diarrhea in dogs. Plain yogurt with live and active cultures can be a good source of probiotics, but be sure it’s free of added sugar or artificial sweeteners.
  • Herbal Treatments: Some pet owners explore herbal remedies for canine digestive issues. However, efficacy can vary widely, and some herbs can be toxic to dogs. It’s important to do your research and consult with a holistic veterinarian who is knowledgeable about herbal remedies for dogs.

Remember: Natural remedies are not a magic bullet and should not be used as a replacement for proper veterinary diagnosis and treatment.

Real Pups, Case Studies

Sometimes, seeing real-life examples can be helpful. Here’s a situation to contemplate.

Case Study: Relieving Rusty’s Sensitive Tummy: Rusty, a miniature dachshund with a history of digestive sensitivities, started experiencing bloody diarrhea after his owner abruptly switched his food brand. A bland diet of boiled chicken and white rice, along with a probiotic supplement recommended by the vet, helped to settle Rusty’s stomach. This case emphasizes the importance of introducing new foods gradually and working with your vet to find the right diet for your dog.

Interactive Tools: Empowering You to Take Action

While this article provides a general overview, every dog is an individual. Here are several resources to empower you to initiate action:

  • Symptom Checker: While not a substitute for professional diagnosis, online symptom checkers can provide a starting point. Look for checkers specifically designed for dogs and remember to follow up with your vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
  • Flowchart for Immediate Actions: A flowchart outlining immediate actions to take based on the severity of symptoms can be a helpful tool. This flowchart could include steps like withholding food for a short period, monitoring for dehydration, and seeking veterinary attention for persistent diarrhea or bloody stools.


Why is my dog having bloody diarrhea is an important topic that every owner of the pet must know. We’ve covered the common causes, types, diagnostic procedures, and treatment options, emphasizing the importance of prompt veterinary care. Remember, timely intervention can make a significant difference in your dog’s health and recovery.

If your dog exhibits any symptoms, don’t hesitate to seek professional help immediately. For emergencies, always have contact information for your local emergency vets handy. Ensuring the well-being and happiness of your beloved pet is our foremost concern!


My dog just had a little bit of blood in their stool. Should I be worried?

Any blood in your dog’s stool is a cause for concern and warrants a call to your veterinarian. It’s important to identify the underlying cause to ensure proper treatment.

What are some common causes of bloody diarrhea in dogs?

Common causes include dietary indiscretion (eating something they shouldn’t have), infections (bacterial, viral, or parasitic), ingestion of foreign objects, inflammatory bowel disease, and even certain medications.

How can I tell the difference between bloody diarrhea and just blood in my dog’s stool?

Bloody diarrhea refers to stool that is loose or watery and contains fresh red blood, often mixed throughout. Blood in the stool might appear as bright red streaks or drops if it originates from the lower digestive tract. Dark, tarry stools indicate bleeding in the upper digestive tract.

Should I withhold food if my dog has bloody diarrhea?

In some cases, withholding food for 12-24 hours can help give your dog’s digestive system a rest. However, dehydration is a concern with diarrhea, so offering small sips of water is important. Always consult your veterinarian for specific recommendations regarding food and water intake.

Is bloody diarrhea in dogs contagious?

It depends on the cause. Bloody diarrhea caused by bacteria like Salmonella can be contagious to other dogs. Parasitic infections can also spread between dogs. Viruses like parvovirus are highly contagious and can be life-threatening for puppies and unvaccinated dogs. Always consult your veterinarian to determine the cause and take appropriate precautions to prevent transmission, if applicable.

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