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Why Is My Dog Vomiting Blood? Causes, Prevention, & Treatments

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Why Is My Dog Vomiting Blood? Causes, Prevention, & Treatments

Posted by David Louvet on
Updated at: September 09, 2020

Vomiting is a natural reaction when the body needs to rid itself of something unfavorable. Whether it's expired food or something that simply isn't sitting well in the stomach, there are various reasons as to why a dog might be throwing up. Usually, dog vomiting is not a sign of anything concerning, but this isn't to say that vomiting can't become a significant concern. 

If your dog throws up once or twice, there's likely nothing to be worried about, but when vomiting becomes a habit, it's time to pay closer attention to the issue. Additionally, it's especially concerning when dogs throw up blood. 

Have you noticed blood in your dog's vomit? If so, you must seek professional guidance from a trusted veterinarian. The sooner you reach out for medical help, the sooner you can get to the root of the problem. Let's explore many of the reasons that cause dogs to have blood in their vomit. 

What Causes Dogs to Vomit Blood? 

Dog Vomiting Blood Causes | Innovet Pet

Not all cases of vomiting blood are related to an internal concern or issue. In some instances, dogs make a poor judgment call and end up eating something that they shouldn't be consuming. This is most common amongst puppies as they are very prone to eating a foreign object that they find on the ground and swallowing partially digested items. 

Have you ever taken a puppy out for an afternoon stroll and had to actively prevent them from picking up random items in their mouth? This is just one of many opportunities for younger dogs to eat something that results in them throwing up blood. However, in most cases, bloody vomit is caused by something more severe than consuming something disfavorable.  

Tears in the Lining of the Dog's Esophagus

Medically known as hematemesis, red blood in the vomit of dogs is a symptom of more than one different underlying cause. There are many reasons as to why your dog might be throwing up blood, one of which is an issue stemming from your dog's esophagus. 

Sometimes, the esophageal lining tears and starts bleeding. The blood from the lining of the esophagus ends up in the dog's stomach, and sooner rather than later, it gets regurgitated in the form of bloody vomit. 

Undiagnosed Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis

Sometimes, the underlying cause of a dog vomiting blood is a disease quite literally categorized by the fact that dogs throw up blood. Known as hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, dogs diagnosed with the illness naturally throw up blood as well as excreting bloody diarrhea. Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis is a type of internal bleeding that originates in the gastrointestinal tract. 

Internal bleeding of the gastro tract is rooted in the digestive system. Digested blood typically causes dogs to vomit the blood, and the cycle is perpetuated. Usually, dogs that are young and very small in size are at a higher risk of developing hemorrhagic gastroenteritis than bigger and older dogs. 

Unfortunately, not a whole lot is known about the underlying cause behind hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. The main thought behind HGE is that a bacterial infection causes it. Another possibility is repeated exposure to a food that the dog is allergic to. It has the potential to result in hypersensitivity and yields symptoms of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis over time. 

Aside from the obvious two signs of bloody diarrhea and the consistent vomiting of blood, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis also causes a decrease in a dog's mood as well as an unavoidable odorous smell after the dog uses the bathroom. This disease is so unfortunate and devastating because it makes dogs habitually expel a concentrated amount of blood. Such heightened levels of blood loss time and time again is never good for any dog, big or small. 

Canine Stomach Ulcers 

Stomach ulcers are a common cause of bloody vomit in dogs and are the result of lesions made within the lining of your canine companion's stomach. 

When they form, they affect the hunger levels, appetite cues, and muscle strength of dogs. Abdominal pain is nearly always tied into situations where a dog vomiting blood is the result of a stomach ulcer. 

Dog Stomach Ulcers | Innovet Pet

Canine stomach ulcers are preventable and, even better, they are also treatable. The only time ulcers in the stomach are not capable of being treated is in cases where the stomach ulcer has been neglected for a long time. If they go untreated for long enough, they can cause major secondary problems for dogs, ranging from sepsis and anemia to actual holes in the stomach of your dog, which often lead to immediate death.

Liver Failure 

Another reason that might be the leading cause of a dog vomiting blood is liver failure. With the liver failure in dogs, blood is not always noticeable in vomit, and vomiting might be more sporadic than it is in other instances. However, liver failure starts as liver disease, so it's essential to get your dog tested even if it doesn't appear to be vomiting often. 

Something to keep in the forefront of your mind is that the effects of liver failure are irreversible. Acute liver failure is easier to treat than the late stages of liver disease, so act as soon as you notice the slightest hint that your dog's liver might be failing. This isn't intended to scare you, but rather to inform you of the seriousness of liver failure in dogs. 

It all starts with the slow death of liver cells, and then scar tissue takes the place of the dead liver cells. The liver begins failing once an estimated eighty percent of your dog's liver cells have already failed, so there is some time between the initial cell death and the onset of liver failure. But even so, the sooner the symptoms are recognized and acted upon, the better! 

Bacterial Infections 

Bacterial infections are another root cause behind a dog vomiting blood. Bacterial infections pose a threat to dogs of all ages, sizes, and breeds. While it's far more likely that an outdoor dog will develop a bacterial infection than indoor canine companions, all dogs run the risk of getting a bacterial infection, even if some are at a higher risk. 

Bacterial infections arise from a bacterial cell that is allowed to reproduce and rapidly grow in multiple cells. Given the right circumstances, bacteria can grow rather quickly. Most dogs that come in contact with bacteria do not develop a full-on infection. This makes a lot of sense, considering how frequently dogs encounter bacteria of many kinds on a daily basis. 

Dog Vomiting Blood Symptoms | Innovet Pet

If dogs weren't naturally capable of fending off bacterial infections, they would contract them almost every day. So, how is it possible for a dog to have a bacterial infection if they are so well-equipped to defend their bodies against the bacteria they come across? Well, their immune systems do all the work! So, if a dog has a bacterial infection, then it means they are immunocompromised. 

Internal Bleeding 

If your dog is throwing up blood, it could be an indication of internal bleeding at play. Internal bleeding warrants an emergency because the issue needs to be resolved as soon as possible. Internal bleeding is a cause for blood in the vomit, but if you backtrack in the other direction, internal bleeding can be caused by cancer. This isn't always the reason behind internal bleeding in dogs, but no matter the exact cause, your dog needs to be evaluated immediately upon you learning that they are bleeding internally.

What to Look For When Dogs Vomit Blood 

Is your dog throwing up blood? If so, you might be wondering how you're supposed to know if your dog's vomiting is something to be concerned about. Well, the general rule of thumb is to always seek immediate attention if your dog has vomited blood, no matter how many times it has happened.

Additionally, if your dog has been throwing up for multiple days in a row, medical intervention is necessary. Even if your dog vomits once per day for two or three days in a row, you should take your dog to the local emergency hospital for pets. That being said, a dog's upchuck is not the only indication that your canine companion's condition is serious. 

In addition to the obvious sign of bloody vomit, other symptoms that you should keep an eye on include... 

  • Loss of appetite   
  • Major loss in appetite 
  • Disinterest in eating 
  • Increased urination frequency 
  • Passing stools more often 
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Diarrhea in general 
  • Concerning levels of tiredness 
  • Low energy and frequent naps 
  • Loss of redness in the gums 
  • Significant weight loss 
  • Pain in the lower abdomen 
  • Sensitivity to belly rubs 

More specifically, bloody diarrhea that has bright red spots in it or stools that look like coffee grounds are each cause for major concern.

How Dogs Vomiting Blood Are Diagnosed

So, we've mentioned a handful of potential causes behind your dog's bloody vomit, but how do you narrow it down and figure out which potential cause is the reason for your canine’s vomit? Well, you'll need to ask the professionals! From there, they will conduct a variety of tests to understand what's going on behind the scenes. 

One way of determining what the legitimate cause of your dog's bloody vomit is by performing a fecal analysis. Also called a stool analysis, this is a test conducted for the sake of determining whether or not the vomit is caused by infections in a dog's digestive tract. 

The fact that your dog is throwing up blood is not a one-size-fits-all factor. Hematemesis is a side effect of a variety of health concerns, so the vet will need to perform a bunch of exams to narrow down the exact underlying cause of your dog's persistent vomiting. Once your dog's vet has time to analyze your dog's medical history, they will take past and present health issues into consideration when diagnosing your dog. 

Certain medications could be causing your dog's bloody vomit, especially non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroid prescriptions. Everything is important, even if it feels like an insignificant detail to you. Nearly every dog that has been throwing up blood will undergo blood tests which are a perfect way of ruling out a plethora of issues. The blood tests will give the vet a glimpse into your dog's white blood cell count as well which is very indicative of cancerous cells and other major health concerns. 

A urine analysis can provide a lot of insight into your dog's underlying condition as well, especially when the vomit is paired with irregular stools or diarrhea. From there, the vet might order an ultrasound as well as X-rays depending on the conclusions drawn from the aforementioned blood tests and urine exams. 

Treatments for Dogs Vomiting Blood

As we have touched on, the treatment options for dogs vomiting red blood has everything to do with the specific details of each individual situation. The variety of treatment options for dogs vomiting blood ranges from a prescription for anti-nausea medications to a consistent supply of intravenous fluids. Also, some veterinarians prescribe gastric protectants which work to literally protect your dog's gastro tract and lower the rates of vomiting. 

What to Do When Your Dog is Vomiting Blood

The obvious answer here is to schedule a vet appointment with your dog's veterinarian as soon as possible. But that's not the only step you should take when you notice that your dog is throwing up bloody throw up. 

If possible, try your best to gather some of your dog's bloody vomit, as odd as it sounds. If you can bring in a small sample of the vomit, it will allow the vet to have a much better understanding of the situation at hand. Present the sample to the vet upon arriving for your dog's appointment. 

Make a list of all the symptoms you've noticed your dog exhibiting as well. Even if you have spotted an odd behavior but you're not sure that it relates to the vomit, write it down anyway. It might seem insignificant or like a detail that isn't worth mentioning, but that's not true at all. 

Every piece of information helps, so make sure you inform your dog's vet of everything you've picked up on. Consider jotting down a few descriptive words regarding your dog's bloody vomit as well. This is especially helpful if you're not able to bring in a sample on the day of your dog's vet appointment. 

When scheduling the appointment, make it a point to ask if your dog should be seen without food or water in his or her system. As you can assume, food and water give your dog something to throw up, so in an effort to minimize the number of times your dog vomits, the vet might advise you to keep food and water away from your dog the day leading up to your dog's appointment. 

All in all, seeing the vet is the most important step because it is the next step to understanding what's going on with your dog. Once you have a diagnosis, you will be able to seek proper treatment for your dog's bloody throw-up and get them back to a healthy state as soon as possible.