A closer look: Bloody Stool (Melena and Hematochezia) in Dogs
Bloody stool is a common, non-specific symptom associated with many conditions. Many cases are mild and resolve without treatment, whereas other cases indicate a life threatening emergency.
Symptoms and severity of bloody stools vary according to where the blood originated from in the colon and underlying cause. Blood that originates anywhere from the nose/mouth to the small intestine is digested and presents as black, tar-like, foul smelling feces known as melena.
Red blood in the stools is known as hematochezia and originates from the bottom of the small intestine, colon, and rectum. Melena and hematochezia can occur at the same time if bleeding is present in multiple locations.
Underlying causes are numerous and prognosis is similarly varied.
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Bloody stools in dogs are categorized by the type of condition causing the symptoms. Categories and examples of conditions associated with blood in stool include:
In addition, blood in stool can be caused by injuries, such as sharp or blunt force injury to the gastrointestinal tract.
Blood in the stools usually warrants urgent veterinary attention, but cases that present alongside other serious symptoms require emergency veterinary treatment.
Testing and diagnosis
Investigation of bloody stools includes:
- Physical examination
- Laboratory testing such as fecal analysis, blood tests, and urinalysis
- Antigen test for parvo
- Diagnostic imaging including X-rays, endoscopy, and abdominal ultrasound
Treatment varies depending on the underlying condition. If the condition is known then specific treatment includes medication and surgery.
Most cases require symptomatic treatment alongside testing.
Supportive treatment includes:
- Medication such as gastroprotectants
- Fluid therapy
- Nutritional support
- Blood transfusion in severe cases
Sometimes dogs eat something red where the color passes through the gastrointestinal tract. If a dog defecates on printed paper (such as when using newspapers during housetraining) and the ink bleeds, it may be mistaken for blood in stools. Dogs that have been fed activated charcoal for treatment of toxicosis pass dark black stools.