When I was in practice, seeing puppies with blood in their feces was a regular event. It is important to perform a thorough examination to discover the underlying cause since puppies have immature immune systems and can be more susceptible to infections and other factors that cause illness.
In this article, we’ll review the importance of monitoring your puppy’s poop, the major causes of blood in the stool for young puppies, and what you can do about it.
Why should I monitor my puppy’s poop?
After weaning, puppies face various challenges from the environment that can cause bloody poop. While some causes are minor, others can point to a serious condition. Any time you find blood in your puppy’s stool, you should contact your veterinarian and describe the symptoms.
The best way to help prevent a serious condition from becoming deadly is to catch it early and seed treatment as soon as possible. Therefore, you should monitor your puppy’s poop regularly so that you catch any changes in consistency or color as soon as possible.
What should I do if I notice blood in my puppy’s poop?
If you notice blood in your puppy’s poop, you should call your veterinarian and let him know
- The nature of the blood – is it bright red or dark and tarry; are there streaks of blood or is the stool mostly bood; is there mucus with the blood
- The stool consistency – is your dog’s poop firm and well-formed, soft, or watery
- How frequently your puppy needs to poop
- When you first noticed the blood
- Whether there have been recent changes in dog food or if your dog recently ate anything unusual
- Whether there have been changes in your dog’s environment or routine that may cause stress or potential exposure to disease
Collect a fresh stool sample for your vet and follow his instructions. Depending on your observations, the doctor may instruct you to monitor your pup for a few days or to bring him in for an examination.
Top reasons your puppy’s poop might have blood
The reasons you may see blood in your puppy’s poop can be divided into two categories based on the color of the blood in his stool.
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1. Bright red blood (Hematochezia)
When dogs have bright red blood in the stool, it’s known as hematochezia. The crimson color indicates that your dog has bleeding in the lower digestive tract. Major causes of Hematochezia in puppies include:
Food intolerance/dietary indiscretion
Puppies are particularly notorious for dietary indiscretions. Unfortunately, when they ingest something they can’t digest or eat food that’s too rich for their systems it can trigger inflammation in the large intestine, or colitis. This is the top cause of fresh blood in puppy poop. Symptoms include:
- Blood in stool with or without mucus
- Soft or watery stool
- Abdominal pain
- Straining to defecate
- More frequent bowel movements with urgency in needing to go
Colitis triggered by dietary issues is usually manageable. It often resolves in 24-48 hours once the irritating food clears the system. You can help your pooch by feeding a bland diet such as lean, cooked chicken and boiled rice. Additionally, you can supplement the diet with probiotics.
Make sure your dog has access to fresh water.
If you have a young puppy and the symptoms continue beyond a day, you should head to the vet. Prolonged bouts of bleeding, particularly if there’s also diarrhea and/or vomiting can quickly cause anemia or dehydration in young canines. Once your veterinarian examines your dog, he may treat her with:
- IV fluids
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Dietary modifications
Parasites are another common cause of fresh blood in puppy stools. Because young dogs explore their surroundings with their mouths, it’s easy for them to ingest parasite eggs. Roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms can damage the intestines and cause bleeding.
Signs of intestinal parasites may include:
- Bloody poop that can be formed, soft, or loose
- Presence of adult worms in the poop or in your puppy’s rear end
- Rubbing or scratching the rear
- Swollen abdomen
- Scratching or rubbing the rear
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
If left untreated, intestinal parasites may cause a severe infestation that can lead to intestinal blockage, anemia, or other serious conditions. However, puppies respond well to treatment once your veterinarian has a diagnosis. If you suspect parasites, bring a fecal sample to your vet. He will prescribe the appropriate anthelmintic medications to kill the worms.
Bacterial or viral infections such as Salmonella or parvovirus can cause bright red bloody diarrhea in puppies. When puppies are very young, any infection that causes diarrhea can be life-threatening because their immune systems are undeveloped.
When you see bloody diarrhea in a puppy, you should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible. In addition to examining your pooch, he will take a stool sample and run other diagnostic tests as needed to diagnose the cause.
Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.
Many causes of bacterial infection can be effectively treated with
- Supportive care such as IV fluids
- Antidiarrheal/antiemetic medications
Parvovirus is an extremely serious virus that can cause life-threatening symptoms in dogs. Puppies are particularly susceptible to infection because they are smaller and have higher metabolic needs. Symptoms of parvovirus include:
- Bloody diarrhea which may be severe
- Lethargy and weakness
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
When dogs have parvovirus, it’s an emergency condition. Your veterinarian will examine your pooch and take a fecal swab to test for the virus. Treatment for the virus requires hospitalization and includes:
- IV fluids with electrolytes
- Antiemetic medication
- Antidiarrheal medications
- IV nutrition if needed
- Antibiotics if your dog has symptoms of sepsis or a high fever
With early and aggressive treatment, about 75-80% of puppies can recover from parvovirus infection. The recovery period varies, but symptoms usually last about 5-10 days. Because this disease is so severe, you should vaccinate your puppy to prevent infection.
The cause of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis(HGE) is not known, but it leads to the sudden onset of bloody diarrhea. If the stomach is also involved, the stool may be dark and tarry. Symptoms of HGE include:
- Repetitive vomiting
- Lethargy and listlessness
- Loss of appetite
Puppies that contract HGE will act quite ill, and they can die without treatment. However, with appropriate supportive care, most dogs recover in a few days. If you suspect your pooch may have HGE, take your dog to the vet.
When you take your dog to the vet for symptoms of HGE, he will conduct an examination and run diagnostic tests including bloodwork, fecal, and imaging tests. Diagnosis is usually presumptive based on the symptoms and ruling out other conditions. Treatment often includes:
- IV fluids with electrolytes
- 24-hour fast followed by a bland diet
- Antibiotics if there’s a risk of secondary infection
- Antiemetic drugs
- Gastrointestinal protectants such as sucralfate
- Pain medications
2. Dark red/tarry stool (Melena)
With melena, the blood in the stool has undergone digestion, so the stool appears dark red or black and tarry. Major causes of melena in puppies include:
Dogs can develop ulcers when the stomach produces excess acid that damages the protective mucosal barrier. Common causes of stomach ulcers include NSAID medications, foreign bodies, and infections. Symptoms include:
- Vomit with blood
- Dark, tarry poop
- Abdominal pain
- Anorexia and weigh loss
If ulcers are caught and diagnosed early, the prognosis is good. When ulcers go untreated, they can progress to stomach perforations that can cause death. Take your dog to the vet if you suspect gastric ulcers in your dog.
At the vet, your doctor will examine your pooch and run diagnostic tests such as:
- Blood tests
- Fecal sample to check for occult blood
- Barium contrast study
Once your doctor has a diagnosis, he will begin treatment, which may include:
- Drugs like famotidine or cimetidine to block H2 histamine receptors
- Proton pump inhibitors
- Misoprostol or other prostaglandin analogs
Blood clotting abnormalities
Certain medical or congenital conditions can cause issues with blood clotting. When this happens, internal bleeding can occur and cause melena in the stool. Signs of clotting disorders include:
- Bleeding from other body cavities(e.g. nosebleeds)
- Spontaneous bleeding
- Excessive bruising
- Purple tinted skin
Dogs with bleeding disorders can live full lives, but congenital abnormalities usually require lifelong management. If you suspect a bleeding disorder, you should schedule a veterinary exam as soon as possible. The doctor will check your dog and run diagnostic tests including bloodwork, urinalysis, and clotting tests. Treatment varies depending on the underlying cause of the clotting disorder.
If your furbaby had surgery for eating a foreign body or another reason, he may develop melena if there’s internal bleeding. Possible signs in this case include:
- Vomiting with blood
- Abdominal pain that won’t resolve
- Lack of appetite
If your dog develops melena after surgery, you should contact your veterinarian. Internal bleeding that is left untreated can cause severe anemia or death.
The doctor will examine your pooch and run diagnostic tests including radiographs or ultrasound to confirm the issue. Treatment may include surgical intervention to stop the bleeding.
Accidental blood ingestion
Some dogs will lick wounds and may accidentally ingest some blood. In the stomach, the blood is digested and becomes dark red leading to melena. As long as your pup doesn’t develop a taste for blood, the melena will be short-lived and is not a cause for concern.
How do I know if bloody poop is an emergency or if it’s ok to wait and see?
Some causes of bloody poop, such as a recent change in diet, are minor and will resolve on their own in a day or two. If your puppy has small amounts of blood in the poop and is acting normally, you may be able to monitor him at home for a day and see if he improves.
However, you should contact your veterinarian and schedule an examination if the symptoms don’t improve or your dog is acting ill. Take your dog to the clinic immediately if you observe:
- Consistently bloody stools
- Loss of appetite
When should I seek veterinary care for my puppy?
Any time you see blood in the stool, you should contact your veterinarian and describe the stool and any other symptoms you observe. The doctor can advise you whether an immediate visit is warranted or you can monitor him from home for a day or two. If the symptoms continue beyond a day or so, take your puppy in for an examination.
You should seek veterinary care as soon as possible if your puppy has:
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Listlessness or weakness
- Copious amounts of blood
- Repeated bloody stools
Will a veterinarian be able to help me over a video call?
Telemedicine is a popular and economical way to get veterinary advice for non-emergency issues. However, there are drawbacks. Let’s look at the pros and cons of a video call with a vet as a first step.
- Economical option for a first opinion
- Allows you to describe symptoms and get professional feedback
- Can help you determine the severity of your dog’s condition
- The veterinarian will not be able to examine your dog and run diagnostic tests
- You may still need to visit a veterinarian in person
- There’s a risk that needed treatments will be delayed
Tips for your veterinarian visit
When you’re planning to visit the vet for your puppy’s bloody stool, it helps to be prepared. Jot down observations about
- Frequency and consistency of the stools
- Any changes in routine or diet
- Contact with other dogs or animals
- Other symptoms such as vomiting, straining to poop, or loss of appetite
Share your notes when the doctor takes a history.
Additionally, you should collect a fresh fecal sample for analysis. If you’re speaking with your veterinarian over the phone or on a video call, take a photograph of the feces and ask the doctor if you can text or email it to them.
Frequently asked questions
Is blood in my puppy’s poop an emergency?
Blood in your puppy’s poop indicates an underlying condition, but it’s not always serious or an emergency situation. If your puppy has continual bloody diarrhea and vomiting, and he appears dull and listless, it’s an emergency that requires immediate veterinary care.
Is blood in my puppy’s stool always serious?
Not always. There are times when your puppy will have a few streaks of blood on his poop as an isolated event. However, if bloody stools continue, you should have your pooch checked by your vet to determine whether there’s a serious underlying condition. Early diagnosis and treatment are always best.
Is there anything I can do to prevent my puppy from getting a bloody stool?
Unfortunately, you can’t always prevent your puppy from getting a bloody stool unless you keep him in a bubble. But there are some things you can do to reduce the chances that your furbaby will develop a condition that causes blood in the stool:
- Keep your puppy current on vaccinations
- Schedule a wellness visit with your veterinarian when you bring a new puppy home
- Deworm your puppy after weaning as directed by your veterinarian
- Avoid sudden changes in food – if you start a new diet or formula, gradually transition over the course of about a week
- Supplement your puppy’s diet with probiotics to support healthy digestion
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