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Dog Coughing Up Blood: A Veterinarian’s Recommendations

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dog coughing up blood

There have been a few times when a dog has come into my clinic coughing up blood. If you ever had a dog that is coughing up blood, they need to see your vet or a local ER vet as soon as possible. While this could be nothing to worry about many times this can indicate that there is something severe going on that needs medical attention right away.

Why is My Dog Coughing Up Blood?

These are some of the most common reasons that a dog would be coughing up blood

  • End stage heartworm disease
  • Mass in the lungs that has ruptured
  • Severe respiratory infection
  • GI ulceration

What Does It Look Like When a Dog Coughs Up Blood?

There are many different looks of blood that your dog could be coughing up.

  • Bright red blood: If your dog is coughing up bright red blood this indicates that the blood is fresh and undigested. This could mean that there is a cut in their mouth that is bleeding or a bleed in the upper airways.
  • Dark coffee-colored blood: Bloody vomit that is a dark red almost coffee ground color usually indicated that your dog has a gastric ulcer. A gastric ulcer or GI ulcer is a thinned area
  • Blood with worms: Some dogs may cough up blood with worms in them. This may be heart worms or intestinal parasite.
  • Clotted blood: If your dog is coughing up clotted blood this could mean that they have been bleeding for a little time.
  • Frothy blood: If your dog is coughing up a frothy blood, they may have congestive heart failure or severe lung disease.

The look and type of blood that your dog is coughing up can help your vet determine what is causing your dog to vomit. Pictures are always very helpful. While it may be gross, taking a picture of the blood that your dog is coughing up will help your vet quickly determine what is causing your dog to cough up blood.

Is My Dog Suffering? Is It Serious?

Vomiting blood can be life-threatening. While your dog may not be in pain after they vomit blood, this would indicate that they have an underlying issue that is going on that really needs to see your vet. Some dogs may be bleeding internally and need surgery right away or they may need medications to help decrease their vomiting and help their breath much better.

Top 4 Reasons Causing A Dog To Cough Up Blood

These are the top 4 reasons that can cause your dog to cough up blood.

  1. End-stage heartworm disease

If your dog has heartworms, these worms will swim around in your dog’s heart, vessels and lungs. This can cause a lot of damage to these organs. Many times, if your dog has a large load of heartworms, it can cause your dog to hack and cough. Many times, dogs with end-stage heartworm disease may be coughing and vomiting up blood. This is also known as caval syndrome and is often a fatal condition.

If your dog does have caval syndrome the most common treatment is surgically removing the heartworms from your dog’s vena cava. This is the main blood vessel that brings blood back to your dog’s heart. This type of surgery is often very risky and only done at a specialty clinic. The cost of this treatment can reach up to $3,000 to $5,000+ since most of these procedures and treatments need to be done at a specialty clinic.

2. Mass in the lungs that has ruptured

Cancer and other masses can occur in your dog’s lungs, especially as they get older. If these masses rupture it can cause your dog to cough up blood. If your dog does have a mass in their lungs, it would be best for them to see your vet. Your vet will want to take x-rays to see the size and severity of these masses.

If your dog has a mass in their lungs there may be surgery that can be done to remove the mass or chemotherapy to help decrease the size of these masses. Surgery to remove these masses and/or chemotherapy can be very expensive. Some surgeries can cost 3,000+. Chemotherapy often reached $7,000 to 10,000 in some cases.

3. Severe respiratory infection


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Some dogs can develop severe respiratory infection such as pneumonia. This can cause your dog to cough and hack. After a while, it can cause damage and inflammation to your dog’s lungs. This can cause your dog to cough up blood. This blood is usually bright red since the blood has not been digested. If you catch this infection early in the course of the disease it can easily be treated with some antibiotics. For mild respiratory issues things like steam from the shower and anti-histamines can help. As the infection persist, they will need to see your vet. This disease can have a large cost range depending on when you catch the respiratory issue. A good range is $200 to $1500+.

4. Gastro-intestinal (GI) ulceration

If your dog is coughing up brownish coffee ground appearing blood, this can be because your dog has a GI ulcer. If your dog has a GI infection or they have been vomiting, they can develop an ulcer.

This is when the lining of the stomach or intestines has become very thin causing an ulcer that is bleeding. This blood can come up when your dog coughs or vomits. GI ulcers can improve with medications from your vet.

In some dogs, these ulcers can cause a perforation in your dog’s stomach where food contents can leak into their abdomen causing an infection. If your dog’s stomach has perforated, they will need surgery to repair this defect in the stomach. The cost for surgery can be upwards of $4 to $5,000. If you catch the GI ulcers before it ruptures medical treatment may only be a $300 to $500+

3 Steps You Can Take at Home to Help Your Dog

Many times if your dog is coughing up blood or vomiting up blood it is best for your dog to see a vet right away. Sometimes there are some things that can be done at home such as:

  • Feeding a bland diet such as chicken and rice. This can help your dog if they are coughing up blood because for a GI issue.
  • Giving antacids such as Pepcid. Antacids are commonly used for dogs with upset stomachs.
  • Give your dog antihistamines such as Benadryl. This can be used for mild respiratory issues. The typical dosage of Benadryl is 1mg/pound twice a day.

Many of these should only be given after you talk with your vet. It is best to also monitor your dog for any other health issues and if you notice that your dog is not acting normal or coughing up blood more than once you should see your vet.

When Should I Call the Vet?

If your dog is coughing or vomiting blood, they really should see an ER vet right away. Many times, this indicates a very severe issue that really should be investigated.

These are some other signs that you may notice that would indicate you do not need to try any at-home treatment and really need to go to the vet right away.

  • Your dog is continuing to cough or vomit blood
  • Your dog’s gums are pale or blue
  • Your dog is having issues breathing
  • Your dog is not eating or drinking
  • Your dog is extremely lethargic.

All of these are severe issues and should be seen by a vet right away. If you postpone vet care when you are noticing these other health issues can be life-threatening for your dog.

Vet Diagnosis

Your vet will run bloodwork and take x-rays or ultrasounds to see what is causing them to cough up blood. They may also want to test your dog for heartworms especially if they are not taking heartworm prevention and in an area that is known for heartworm disease.

After they figure out what is causing your dog to continue to cough up blood, they will be able to treat your dog. This may be heartworm treatment, surgery, or medication to help treat any infection that your dog may be experiencing.

Prognosis

Many of these issues causing your dog to cough up blood can be life-threatening. Respiratory issues can usually be treated and do not always carry a poor prognosis.

What you Should Know Before the Vet Visit

When you are preparing for your vet visit, taking pictures of the blood that your dog has coughed or vomited will help your vet determine what is causing these issues. It is also great to keep your dog calm and not allow them to continue to exhaust themselves by playing.

Disclaimer: This website's content is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your local veterinarian for health decisions. Learn more.

FAQ with the Vet

Are certain breeds more likely to be affected?

Small dogs are more prone to developing heart disease. All dogs can develop heartworms, respiratory issues and GI ulcers.

Is it ok to give my dog Benadryl?

Yes, it is perfectly fine to give a dog Benadryl. The dosage is 1mg/pound twice a day. This can help treat many allergy issues and mild upper respiratory issues.

Final Thoughts

Coughing up blood is not something that should be taken lightly. This can mean that your dog has a severe medical issue that needs to be seen and treated by a vet right away. It is never a bad idea to take your dog immediately to a vet if you see a cough or vomit blood. Your vet will be able to quickly assess your dog and help treat your dog’s condition so that they can quickly improve.

Author

  • Dr. Ochoa earned her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from St. George University and completed her program with excellent scores. She has been working as a veterinarian since 2015 for Whitehouse Veterinary Hospital in Whitehouse, TX.

Disclaimer: This website's content is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with your veterinarian to determine the best course of action. Read More.

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