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Dog Throwing Up Blood: Causes and What to Do

Sick dog being treated by vet
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Overview

Severity: i Critical
Life stage: All

Any time a dog throws up, it’s gross. We feel sorry for our pet because we know how bad they must feel, and sorry for ourselves because we have to clean up a mess. But when there’s blood in a dog’s vomit that sympathy and disgust quickly turns into fear. 

While vomiting is one of the most common reasons dogs are seen in emergency veterinary clinics, bloody vomit is rare. This is good because vomiting blood indicates there is something critically wrong with your dog.

Dog Vomiting Blood: Is It a Cause for Concern?

Yes – a dog vomiting blood is ALWAYS a cause for concern. The medical term for bloody vomit is hematemesis (hema = blood, emesis = vomit). 

A dog who is vomiting blood but otherwise acting normal may be in the early stage of serious disease. Waiting even 12 hours to see a veterinarian could allow the illness to progress.

Sometimes there are other symptoms along with hematemesis in dogs that can help veterinarians diagnose the cause of illness. Blood in stool and vomit indicates a serious gastrointestinal illness for which your dog will need to be treated by a veterinarian. The combination of vomiting and diarrhea (bloody stool is usually watery) quickly leads to severe dehydration which makes your dog feel very sick.

Vomiting blood is never normal, even if your dog is trying to hide how poorly he feels. It should always be treated as an emergency. 

Coughing Up Blood Vs. Vomiting Blood

Coughing up blood is distinct from vomiting up blood. Coughing up blood, known as hemoptysis, is due to irritation, infection, or other disease of the lungs. It can be caused by some of the same systemic diseases as hematemesis but may require different diagnostic tests or treatments. 

Types of Bloody Vomit in Dogs

Sick puppy

Blood in dog vomit can have several appearances, each relating to different sources of the blood.

Liquid red blood, known as frank blood, usually comes from the esophagus. 

Dark blood that is clotted or may look like coffee grounds indicates that the blood has interacted with stomach acid and therefore is more likely to come from a source within the stomach or upper intestines. 

Either of these types of blood in dog vomit should be taken very seriously and your dog should be seen by a veterinarian immediately regardless of whether he is acting normal or not.

Pink-tinted, foamy vomit or small specks of blood in dog vomit indicate irritation and are typically less urgent if your dog is otherwise behaving normally (eating and drinking, playing, etc). In these cases it may be appropriate to monitor your dog for up to 24 hours before having your pet seen by a vet. If the blood in the vomit worsens or your dog becomes lethargic or otherwise ill, the illness should be treated as an emergency.

Why is My Dog Throwing Up Blood?

There is a long list of causes that could contribute to a dog throwing up blood. However, they all require evaluation by a veterinarian. 

Briefly, causes of blood in dog vomit can include:

Something Your Dog Ate

  • Medications (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory NSAIDs, steroids, blood thinners, etc.)
  • Toxins (household cleaners, some plants, etc.)
  • Poisons (rat bait, etc.)
  • Foreign objects (toys, sticks, and other non-food items)

Diseases of the Blood

  • Immune mediated diseases
  • Coagulopathy (blood clotting disorders)

Systemic Disease

Other

  • Trauma
  • Parasites

Diagnosing the Cause of Your Dog Throwing Up Blood

Veterinarian examining dog

As previously mentioned – if your dog is throwing up blood, it’s important to visit your vet right away to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. 

Although it may seem gross, take a picture of the bloody vomit to show your veterinarian. This can be more helpful than you think in diagnosing your pet. 

In order to diagnose the cause of your dog’s bloody vomit tests such as bloodwork and X-rays (radiographs) may be recommended. Additional tests for specific diseases such as pancreatitis and Addison’s disease may be required based on initial diagnostic test results. 

Treatment for Bloody Dog Vomit 

Treatment for a dog throwing up blood is two-fold: it is directed at treating the underlying cause and managing symptoms. 

Treating your dog’s symptoms may include fluid therapy and strong anti-vomiting medication. Additional medications called gastroprotectants may be used to limit further damage to the tissue of the stomach and esophagus. 

Treatment for the underlying cause may be medical or surgical. If a foreign object is causing your dog to vomit blood, it will need to be surgically removed. Similarly, some types of cancer or masses may be treated or managed with surgery. 

Hospitalization may be required to treat your dog’s bloody vomit. Staying at the animal hospital or veterinary clinic allows your veterinarian to carefully monitor your pet through the initial stages of treatment. 

Additional treatment at home after hospitalization such as a special diet or administering medications may be required.

Are There Home Remedies?

There are no appropriate home remedies for a dog vomiting blood. This is because there are many different causes and some of them are life-threatening. 

Only if your dog has been evaluated recently by a veterinarian for his bloody vomit and the veterinarian has recommended over-the-counter medications should they be used.

How to Prevent Dogs from Throwing Up Blood 

Dog in kitchen near human medication

One important step in prevention is to always keep all medications, household cleaners, and toxins out of reach of your dog. If you use rat bait or other poisons around the house or barn keep the package somewhere safe so that you can show it to your veterinarian in case of an emergency. 

If you spray pesticides or herbicides keep your dog away from the area for at least 24 hours or until otherwise directed on the package label.

While it may not be possible to prevent your dog from throwing up, you can reduce the severity of your dog’s illness through close monitoring. Call your veterinarian at the first sign of illness. Don’t wait until your dog is critically ill and vomiting blood before calling the veterinarian. It is always easier (and less expensive) to treat a dog in the early stages of illness.

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