Dog vomiting blood can be scary for any owner, as well as unpleasant for the poor pup. Vomiting in dogs can have many different causes, which can indicate a wide variety of conditions.
In most cases, vomiting blood is a warning indicating the need for urgent veterinary attention. Keep reading to learn more about this scary and unpleasant symptom and what to do when your dog vomits blood.
What Does It Mean If a Dog Throws Up Blood?
Dog vomiting is not a disease but rather a symptom that can indicate other conditions or can occur as an isolated incident. Dog vomiting, though common, can sometimes develop into a serious condition, so it should be taken seriously.
To simplify things, we should explain the difference between vomiting, regurgitation, and retching. Dog vomiting, or throwing up, is an active process, often accompanied by retching or coughing sounds and the contraction of the abdominal muscles.
Regurgitation, in contrast, is a passive process, often associated with a change in position (such as lowering the head), where food just appears to fall out of the dog’s mouth. Retching is where the dog coughs or makes retching noises but doesn’t bring up any food or bile.
Dog vomiting is also known as throwing up, emesis, barfing, puking, and more! Dog vomiting refers to the act of forcefully and involuntarily expelling the stomach’s contents through the nose or mouth.
If the vomit contains blood, the condition is named hematemesis and is much more serious than vomiting non-digested food or bile.
However, before you panic because of the bloody vomit, think back if your dog ate any red foods (such as beetroot) to ensure you are not incorrectly identifying it.
If you do identify blood in your dog’s vomitus, you should also keep an eye on its stools to see if they show signs of bloody diarrhea.
Dog Vomiting Blood? Here’s What You Need to Do
Dog vomiting is not an easy thing to diagnose. So, it’s important to remember that you probably cannot manage the condition on your own and your dog will need veterinary attention.
However, before calling the veterinarian, you can ask yourself the necessary questions to figure out possible causes of dog vomiting.
- To the best of your knowledge, has your dog eaten or drunk anything that it shouldn’t have? Look around for spills, open packets, vermin traps, garbage, or anything else your pet could have gotten into.
- Have you recently changed dog food or started giving your dog different treats? Has anyone been feeding the dog “people food” from the table? These could be signs of a food allergy.
- What does the vomitus look like? Does it contain bile, mucus, or chunks of food? Is there blood in it?
- How many times has your dog thrown up, and with what regularity? Did it eat or drink anything in between throwing up?
- Can you notice any other symptoms, such as lethargy, diarrhea, a temperature, pain, or anything else out of the ordinary?
The appearance of the vomit can say a lot about why your pet is vomiting. Examining your dog’s vomit may sound gross, but it is necessary:
- Dog Throwing Up Yellow Stuff. Yellow, orange or greenish vomitus indicates the presence of bile, a digestive fluid. It has a strong, sour smell, which is the smell that most of us associate with vomitus. Bile is common in vomitus, especially when mixed with chunks of food. This means that the food has been sitting in the stomach for some time and is partially digested. If the vomitus is entirely liquid, this can indicate a more serious condition, and you should contact your veterinarian.
- Dog Throwing Up White Foam. If your dog is passing globs of white foam from the mouth, this may not actually be vomitus, but rather expectorus, like when we cough up phlegm. White foamy expectorus can indicate kennel cough.
- Dog Throwing Up Undigested Food. If your dog vomits undigested food, this indicates that the food has not been in the stomach very long. Your dog might be eating too fast or exercising too soon after eating. If this happens often, try using a slow feeding bowl.
- Dog Throwing up Blood. Blood in dog vomit can look a few different ways, depending on where the blood came from. Fresh blood will be bright red and easily identifiable. Small amounts of fresh red blood in the vomitus, in the form of streaks of small blood clots, is usually indicative of a cut or irritation to the mouth, throat, or esophagus, especially if the dog has repeatedly been vomiting. Blood that has been digested will look grainy and dark brown or black, like coffee grounds. If you see blood like this in your dog’s vomitus, you should contact your veterinarian immediately, as it could be a sign of a stomach ulcer or internal bleeding or related to a serious condition.
Dog Vomiting Blood: Causes
Dog vomiting can be caused by various reasons, some of which are relatively harmless and others that require immediate medical attention from a veterinarian.
Some of the common causes of vomiting in dogs include the following:
- Motion sickness (in cars, airplanes, trains, etc.)
- Dietary indiscretion (including a change in diet, a food intolerance, eating something bad)
- The non-digestible material in the gastrointestinal tract (bones, toys, plastic, etc.)
- Bloat/Gastric dilation (due to overeating or eating too quickly)
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Parasites in the gastrointestinal tract
- Addison’s Disease
- Poisoning from ingesting a toxin (pesticides, antifreeze, rat poison)
- Parasites in the gastrointestinal tract
- Acute liver failure (hepatitis) or kidney failure
- Gallbladder inflammation, infected uterus (pyometra), or pancreatitis
- Reaction to medication (such as anesthetic, sedatives, or pain relievers)
- Bilious vomiting syndrome
- Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE)
- Inflammation of the stomach and intestines
- Intestinal obstruction or other GI disorders
- Foreign objects in the digestive system
- Bacterial infections and viruses (parvovirus, corona)
- Peritonitis (infection of the peritoneum)
- Acute urethral obstruction
- Colitis (inflammation of the colon)
Each of these causes for dog vomiting may cause other additional symptoms, such as lethargy, fever, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and more.
When is a Dog Vomiting Blood an Emergency?
If a dog throws up once, this needn’t necessarily be cause for concern. Monitor the dog carefully, and watch out for any other symptoms, or if it throws up again, or the following complications:
- Dehydration. A dehydrated dog can become seriously ill quickly. The signs of dehydration in dogs include lethargy, sunken eyes, a loss of skin elasticity, panting, and a dry nose or gums.
- Electrolytes/Acid-Base Imbalance. If your dog becomes severely dehydrated due to acute vomiting with or without diarrhea, its acid-base balance or electrolyte levels may become disturbed.
- Severe Blood Loss. Intense blood vomiting, especially if accompanied by body diarrhea, can quickly lead to significant blood loss. This will make the dog anemic, lethargic, and cause breathing difficulties.
If your dog has acute vomiting or is throwing up in addition to any other symptoms, you should take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible. The veterinarian will likely then ask you a series of questions regarding how and when your dog got sick.
Try to arrive prepared with as much information as you have, including when your dog first got sick, how long it has been vomiting for, any changes in diet, any substances it may have ingested, any medication it is on, what the vomitus looks like, and so on. The more information you can give your vet, the easier it will be for them to make a diagnosis.
How is a Dog Throwing Up Blood Treated?
The veterinarian will start by giving your dog a physical examination. They will take the dog’s temperature, examine and palpitate its abdomen for signs of swelling or pain and check for signs of dehydration.
The vet may also need to run tests on your dog, including a fecal analysis, bloodwork to check for organ function, and ultrasound or x-ray if they believe it may have an intestinal blockage.
Because vomiting is a symptom rather than a condition, the treatment your veterinarian suggests may depend on what is causing the vomiting, as treating the cause can be more effective than just treating the vomiting.
The most common remedy for vomiting in dogs is feeding a bland diet (a good bland food for dogs is rice, potatoes, and well-cooked, skinless chicken) with plenty of fluids. If this doesn’t work, your veterinarian may recommend the following:
- Fluid Therapy. A vomiting dog can become dehydrated or experience acid-base imbalance or electrolyte abnormalities. Fluid therapy through an oral rehydration solution or intravenous fluids helps correct these imbalances.
- Antiemetics. Antiemetics (Reglan, Cerenia) are drugs that can block the signals from the dog’s brain that tell it to vomit. These drugs are usually only prescribed once the underlying cause of vomiting has been identified.
- Histamine Blocking Drugs. Antihistamines will be prescribed if your dog is vomiting due to an allergic reaction or food intolerance. These drugs work by stopping the body’s immune system from overreacting to perceived threats.
- Antacids. Your vet will recommend antacids (Famotidine) if your dog suffers from a stomach ulcer, acid reflux, or gastritis. Antacids are also sometimes given in combination with drugs that can damage the stomach lining.
- Oral Protectants. Due to its high acid content, vomit can cause damage, and your vet may recommend an oral protectant (a mouth spray or special toothpaste).
- Antibiotics. Dog vomiting can often be a symptom of an underlying infection. To stop the vomiting, your vet will treat the dog’s infection with appropriate antibiotics (Enrofloxacin – Baytril, Metronidazole – Flagyl, Clindamycin – Antirobe, and Amoxicillin/Clavulanic acid – Clavamox).
- Surgery. if the blood vomiting episodes are triggered by a condition entailing surgical correction, the vet will evaluate the dog’s overall status and recommend surgery if it qualifies as an anesthesia candidate.
How to Prevent Dog Vomiting Blood
Sadly, some blood vomiting events cannot be prevented. However, others are simpler to predict and are preventable. For example, to decrease your dog’s risk of vomiting blood:
- Provide a healthy diet and avoid feeding bones and table scraps.
- Make sure your dog is up to date on vaccines and parasite preventives.
- Limit access to toxins (rat poison, antifreeze, pesticides, plants, and flowers).
Final Thoughts on Dog Vomiting Blood
If your dog throws up just once, this may be an isolated issue. However, if your pet throws up more than once in a 24-hour period, has blood in the vomit, or shows any other symptoms in addition to vomiting, you should seek medical attention from your vet.
Vomiting in dogs is common but can be a symptom of many conditions, some of which are serious or even life-threatening. When in doubt, take your dog to the vet!