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Symptoms of Internal Bleeding in Dogs

Internal Bleeding in Dogs

The symptoms of internal bleeding in dogs may manifest as a result of trauma and several secondary conditions. Regardless of the cause, internal hemorrhage is a serious and potentially life threatening scenario requiring emergency veterinary care to keep the bleeding under control. Being aware of the symptoms of internal bleeding in dogs is important. If you suspect your dog is suffering from internal bleeding see your vet as soon as possible. The symptoms of internal bleeding in dogs are found at the bottom of the article and they are marked in bold for quick retrieval.

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Internal Bleeding in Dogs

Internal bleeding in dogs is simply bleeding that can't be seen from outside the body. While external bleeding occurring outside the dog's body is easy to recognize as the blood flows out of the body through some form of laceration, puncture wound or abrasion, internal bleeding remains an insidious condition that may not be readily noticed by dog owners in a prompt manner.

Internal bleeding, also known as internal hemorrhage, takes place when an artery or vein inside the body is damaged and the blood collects inside the body. Internal bleeding in dogs can occur in various locations and may therefore occur from tissues, organs and the blood may even fill up cavities of the body such as the head, chest and abdomen.

The amount of bleeding that takes place may vary depending on how much damage occurs, how vascular the affected area is and the body's ability to repair the damage. Repair mechanisms involve the dog's blood clotting system. In order to halt the bleeding, the dog' blood vessels must spasm so to decrease blood flow to the damaged area. Not always though are such mechanisms sufficient to prevent major blood loss.

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Because evident symptoms of internal bleeding may only become evident several minutes or even hours or days after it begins, it's important that dog owners learn to recognize early signs of trouble, or even better have the dog seen by the vet if there are probabilities that internal bleeding may be taking place as a result of trauma, surgical complications or simply secondary to certain medical disorders.

Internal Bleeding From Medical Conditions

 A ruptured spleen is common in large dogs.

A ruptured spleen is common in large dogs.

Internal bleeding may develop secondary to various medical conditions. Some medical conditions may not cause the dog to show relevant signs until later on, when things get more critical.

For instance, a common condition affecting large breed dogs is a ruptured spleen. Affected dogs will slowly grow over the years a tumor on their spleen without showing any problems.

Then, suddenly one day, this tumor ruptures and the dog starts bleeding internally. Signs of a ruptured spleen in dogs include lethargy, pale mucous membranes and a distended abdomen from the accumulation of blood (hemoabdomen).

Dogs prone to internal bleeding may also suffer from hereditary or acquired bleeding disorders (coagulopathies) such as thrombocytopenia, von Willebrand’s disease and several vasculopathies which may cause them to bleed more easily and profusely.

In some cases, internal bleeding can take place as a result of ingesting rat poison with warfarin, severe ulceration of the intestinal tract (may occur as a result of chronic use of NSAIDs such as Rimadyl/Metacam) or as a result of heartworm disease.

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Internal Bleeding From Surgery

Every time a dog undergoes surgery, and the vet will be cutting through tissue, there is risk for potential internal bleeding to take place.

Fortunately, in most cases, the vet's precautions to prevent this from happening are effective enough.Once the surgical procedure is near completion, the vet will ensure that all bleeding is under control by cauterizing blood vessels and/or performing direct ligation of the vessel.

However, on some occasions, bleeding may still occur. Blood vessels may be cut and spasm but may not show any signs of bleeding until hours of days later. Sutures and staples may dislodge allowing some blood vessels to bleed. Internal organs that may have been injured during surgery may start to bleed. Some dogs may be more prone to bleeding due to underlying bleeding disorders.

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While on several occasions the bleeding is minimal and the body repairs the leak itself, in some cases, the affected dog may need to be rushed to the vet. The veterinarian may need to have the dog undergo surgery again so to find the source of the bleeding and correct it. Blood transfusions may be needed if the blood loss is significant.

Internal Bleeding from Trauma

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Internal bleeding is a common consequence when a dog is subjected to trauma. There are two types of trauma that can cause internal bleeding: blunt trauma which takes place when the dog's body collides with something at high speed as it happens when a dog is hit by a car, assaulted or ends up falling from a certain height, and penetrating trauma, which takes place when a foreign item happens to penetrate the body causing damage to blood vessels, as it may occur with gun shot wounds, stabbing or falling onto a sharp object.

In dogs, being kicked by a horse of hit by a car is a common cause of blunt trauma. With blunt trauma, the outside of the dog's body may not necessarily show signs of damage, but compression to internal organs may trigger injury and bleeding.

Blunt force applied to the dog's chest or abdomen, can cause lung bruising or internal bleeding which signs may become apparent in the first 24 hrs. In some cases, when hit by a car, the impact may cause a rupture to the dog's bladder, therefore it's important to ensure that the dog is able to urinate in the next few hours, suggests veterinarian Dr. K.

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On top of that, the impact may cause a dog's spleen to rupture and that will result in massive amounts of internal bleeding that may cause death quickly. This happens because the spleen acts as a reservoir for blood and when it ruptures, all its blood ends up pooling into the dog's abdomen, leaving none in circulation for vital organs such as the the heart and brain, explains veterinarian Dr. Fiona.

As in humans, it is best to have dogs subjected to trauma assessed by a vet to play it safe and ensure there are no broken bones or evidence of internal bleeding. Some dog owners may elect to monitor for any symptoms of internal bleeding in dogs or other signs of trauma; however, seeing the vet is the safest option.

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Symptoms of internal bleeding in dogs

Symptoms of Internal Bleeding in Dogs 

Regardless of the underlying cause, internal bleeding in dogs can cause a variety of signs. The symptoms of internal bleeding in dogs vary depending on what part of the body is damaged. Early detection is important. If you notice any of these symptoms of internal bleeding in dogs, see your vet at once.

Pale gums: A dog's gums are a good tell-tale sign of good blood perfusion, that is, that ability of blood to flow through the circulatory system and provide oxygen-rich blood to tissues. When blood perfusion is good, a dog's gums are a nice bubble-gum pink. In a dog suffering from internal bleeding, the gums may become pale and so may the tongue.

Slow capillary refill time: when you press with a finger on a healthy dog's gums and then release, the color should fade but then return quickly. If the gums stay white for more than two seconds, this can be indicative of internal bleeding .

Lethargy: as the blood escapes internally, the body will be deprived of red blood cells, causing anemia. One of the most common signs of anemia in dogs includes weakness and lethargy. As the bleeding continues, affected dogs may develop signs of shock and may collapse.

Feeling uncomfortable:blood that is leaking freely can feel irritating, and is therefore likely to cause some uncomfortable feeling and possibly pain to some degree, but likely these feelings are masked by the associated lethargy and weakness taking place in internal bleeding.

Enlarged abdomen: this can take place when large amounts of blood end up pooling into the dog's abdomen, causing what's medically known as hemoabdomen. The bleeding may occur secondary to trauma and due to liver or spleen ruptures.

Signs of bruising: the skin may offer clues indicative of internal bleeding. Be watchful of a dark color of the skin, which may be more noticeable by the dog's belly area or the presence of pin-point red/purple dots (petechiae). 

Leakage of blood: the blood may leak from any orifice, mouth, nose, ears etc. Blood in the stool, under the form of bright red drops (hematochezia) may be indicative of internal bleeding taking place in the lower digestive tract, while presence of digested blood (melena) may be indicative of internal bleeding taking place in the upper digestive tract. Digested blood is dark and may cause feces to appear dark or black, with a coffee ground- like appearance. Blood in the urine too may be a sign of a bruised bladder that is bleeding while the inability to urinate may be a sign of ruptured bladder.

Shock: when there is intense internal bleeding, shock may set as a result of the decreased blood volume in the dog's circulatory system. Symptoms of internal bleeding in dogs progressing to shock include increased heart rate, low blood pressure, low body temperature, cold legs and a poor pulse.

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