In simple words, hematochezia is the medical term for blood in a dog's stool. Dog owners who routinely observe their dogs' daily outputs are at an advantage as they get to recognize signs of trouble such as diarrhea, the presence of parasites or fresh blood in the dog's stool. The presence of hematochezia is often concerning for dog owners as they possibly associate the presence of blood in the dog's stool with serious health conditions such as cancer. However, in dogs hematochezia is not always necessarily as troublesome, but it's sure worthy of veterinary investigation so to identify the underlying cause and have it addressed.
What Does Hematochezia Look Like?
Hematochezia in dogs appears as blood in the dog's stool. Unlike melena, the blood is red, which means it's fresh, frank blood that has not been digested. The blood may appear as streaks over the stool or mixed within it or there may be a few droplets of blood at the end of the bowel movement. Dogs owners often describe it as "my dog has bright blood in her poop" or "my dog passed blood clots in her stool." The stool may be firm but it is often soft in consistency and may also appear as liquid diarrhea.
Where is the Blood Coming From?
While melena appears as dark, tarry stools, suggesting bleeding from the upper digestive tract, in hematochezia the presence of fresh, red blood is suggestive instead of bleeding in the lower intestinal tract. This means the blood may be coming from the dog's descending colon or rectum. As mentioned, the presence of fresh, red blood in the dog's stool can be frightening to witness, but in dogs it's generally less frequently associated with life threatening diseases as those seen with melena, explains veterinarian W. Grant Guilford in the book "Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine. " However, there are several conditions associated with blood in dog's stools that can be worrisome.
What Does it Mean?
What causes hematochezia in dogs? Colitis, the inflammation of the dog's colon is often a common culprit. Affected dogs typically have blood and mucus in the stool. Typically, the dog's stools start off on the soft side and then become progressively gelatinous, shiny and with mucus, explains veterinarian Dr. Fiona. The mucus is produced by the colon when inflamed, while the blood is caused by erosions that trigger bleeding. Colitis is often seen with dietary indiscretions, abrupt food changes, presence of parasites or protozoans and even stress. In puppies, vomiting, diarrhea and bloody stools can be indicative of parvo virus which needs immediate veterinary attention. Other possibilities that require immediate veterinary attention include hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, blood clotting disorders and ingestion of rat poison.
Did you know? Dog owners often assume their dogs have hemorrhoids when they notice fresh blood on a dog's stool. Dogs though don't get hemorrhoids like humans do, but are more likely to get an impacted/infected anal glands, explains veterinarian Dr. Peter. These can sometimes be oozing bright red blood. Other possibilities are polyps in the dog's colon or rectum, trauma to the anal area and sometimes cancer of the lower bowel.
What Should Dog Owners Do?
Blood in a dog's stool can be a minor, temporary problem or it could be a serious one that needs immediate veterinary attention such as parvo virus, a blood clotting disorder or ingestion of rat poison. It's always best to play the "better safe than sorry" practice.
Blood in a dog's stool is not normal and should be investigated by a veterinarian so that the underlying cause can be addressed. Bringing a stool sample along for the vet visit is a good starting point so that the vet can confirm or rule out presence of parasites or protozoans.
Disclaimer: this article is not meant to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your dog has bloody stools, please see your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.
DVM Greg Martinez Discusses Mucus and Red Blood in Stool
Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Saunders; 7 edition (January 7, 2010)
- A vet examines a dog in New York, Archivist1174 - Own work, Photo of New York State Assemblyman Dr. Stephen M. "Steve" Katz at the Bronx Veterinary Center.CC BY-SA 3.0