Blood in puppy stools but acting normal?

Updated 20 June 2024
Read time: 11 mins
article author
Written by Dr Alex Crow
Team Vet
article author
Reviewed by Elle Padgham

Finding a bit of blood in your puppy's stool can be alarming, but if they're bouncing around with their usual puppy energy, you might be wondering if it's a cause for concern. You're not alone – many pet parents face this puzzling situation. Your instinct to keep a close eye on their behaviour is spot on. After all, puppies can be a whirlwind of mischief and may swallow things they shouldn’t, leading to digestive upset. But when we talk about bloody stools, what's actually going on?

If you've spotted some crimson in your furry friend’s loo break, don’t panic just yet. It might look scary, but it's not always a signal of a serious health issue. In fact, sometimes puppies can have a little blood in their stool from simple things like a change in diet or mild stomach irritation. 

However, blood in a puppy’s stool should never be ignored, it should be monitored closely; knowing when your puppy needs veterinary attention is essential in getting them the help they need. 

In this article, we'll explore the potential causes of blood in a puppy's stool, how to assess the situation, and the steps you should take to ensure the health and well-being of your young canine companion.

Understanding bloody stools in puppies

Have you spotted a bit of a red scare in your puppy's poo? First things first, don't panic! Blood in your puppy's stool can have a whole range of causes, some more concerning than others. When you see blood, taking a moment to observe your furry friend’s overall behaviour is key. Is your pup full of beans as usual, or are they a little off their food?

Remember, your puppy pooping blood doesn’t always mean disaster. Still, if you're feeling worried, it's never a bad idea to get a professional opinion. 

Quick tips:

  1. Assess your pup: Are they wagging their tail and playing just like any other day?
  2. Monitor the situation: Keep an eye on both their poos and mood.
  3. Consult your vet: If you're uneasy or if the symptoms persist, best get it checked out.

Common causes of blood in puppy stools

When you notice blood in your puppy's stool, it can be alarming, even if they're still full of energy and acting normally. Let's take a closer look to understand the potential reasons behind bloody stools in a puppy:

Bacterial infections

Bacterial infections in your puppy's stomach or intestines can lead to blood in their stool. This is known as gastroenteritis, and is caused by invaders such as Salmonella or E. coli. Treatment usually involves medication such as antibiotics to clear up the infection.

Parasitic infections

Parasites like hookworms, whipworms, or tapeworms can wreak havoc in your puppy's gut, causing bloody stools. These tiny critters attach to the intestinal wall and can cause significant damage, resulting in blood in the stool. Detection through stool sample analysis is key for proper treatment.

Food allergies or intolerances

Just like humans, puppies can have food allergies or intolerances that irritate their stomach and intestines, leading to bloody stools. It could be something as simple as a new diet not agreeing with their system, or a reaction to certain proteins.

Dietary indiscretions or spoiled foods

Puppies are curious and sometimes eat things they shouldn't, from garbage to toxic substances. This can lead to an upset stomach or even a nasty infection within the gut, resulting in blood in their stool.

Intestinal blockages

If your puppy swallows something they can't digest, it could block their intestines. It's more than just uncomfortable; it's serious and can lead to bloody stools. Watch out for signs such as a bloated stomach and painful abdomen - and if you suspect a blockage, seek veterinary help immediately!

Signs and symptoms of blood in puppy stools

When you spot blood in your puppy's stool, it's understandable to feel a bit panicked. But, stay calm – let's take a look at what could be happening. The appearance, pattern and any other symptoms associated with the bloody stool can give us clues as to what might be the cause. 

Appearance of blood in stools

Blood in your puppy's poo can appear in a few different ways. You might see bright red blood, which is fresh and has likely come from the lower intestinal tract, a condition known as hematochezia. Alternatively, black poo suggests digested blood from higher up in the bowel, referred to as meleana. It’s important to be able to tell the difference as this information can help your vet determine what the underlying cause might be.

Frequency and consistency of stool

Is your puppy having bloody diarrhoea more often? Or are there just occasional drops of blood in their stool? Bloody diarrhoea, especially when it's recurrent, is more serious and can lead to dehydration, so monitor not just the appearance but also the frequency and consistency of your puppy's stools.

Changes in appetite or weight loss

Even with blood in their stool, some pups may seem perfectly chipper. However, a decrease in appetite, vomiting or unexplained weight loss can be subtle hints that something isn't right internally. It's important to pay attention to these signs, as they can indicate a more serious underlying cause.

When to seek veterinary attention

If you've noticed a bit of blood in your puppy's stool but they're still wagging their tail and chasing their favourite toys, it can be quite confusing. You're doing the right thing by keeping an eye on it (and by reading this article) but some situations do call for a trip to the vet. Let's talk about when you should get professional help:

Severe or persistent bleeding

Should you spot a one-off streak of blood, that's less concerning than persistent bleeding over multiple bowel movements or a severe amount at any one time. No one wants their pup to lose too much blood, as it could lead to dehydration and other complications. If blood is regularly making an appearance, ring your local vet for advice or schedule a visit.

Presence of additional symptoms

It's not just about what’s in the poop. Other tell-tale signs of a more serious underlying cause include vomiting, lethargy, or diarrhoea. These, coupled with blood, could hint at something more serious. A call to your vet can clarify whether they believe these symptoms are part of a bigger issue that needs attention.

Lack of appetite or lethargy

If your normally ravenous pup is turning up their nose at dinnertime or seems less interested in their usual playtime shenanigans, it's a cause for concern. A lack of appetite or noticeable lethargy alongside blood in the stool calls for a professional opinion. After all, it's better to be safe, particularly as these symptoms could be indicative of underlying conditions that might be life-threatening if left unchecked.

Remember, these guidelines are here to help you judge when a vet visit is non-negotiable, but if you have any doubts at all then take your puppy to the vet. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Diagnostic tests for blood in puppy stools

When your puppy is pooping blood but acting normally, it's essential to get to the root of the issue. A vet will likely recommend a range of diagnostic tests to understand what's happening inside.

Stool sample analysis

The first step might be a stool sample analysis. By examining your puppy's stool, the vet can look for certain telltale signs:

  • Parasites such as worms or Giardia
  • Bacteria which could indicate gastro
  • Consistency and colour changes which can show digestive issues

Blood tests and clotting disorders

Next, your vet may run specific blood tests to check for:

  • Clotting disorders, which could cause bleeding in stools
  • Blood counts, to see if your puppy is anaemic from the blood loss
  • Electrolyte levels, to ensure your puppy isn't dehydrated

Physical examination and medical history review

In addition to the above tests, a physical examination and a review of the medical history are paramount. This helps the vet to:

  • Check for physical signs of distress or pain in your puppy
  • Understand if this is a recurring problem or if there's a history of similar issues in your family's dogs
  • Rule out or suspect issues based on your puppy's breed propensity

Treatment options for blood in puppy stools

The good news is that for most causes of blood in a puppy’s stool, treatment is available. Treatment varies depending on the underlying cause, but might include:

Antibiotics or anti-parasite treatments

If your vet diagnoses your puppy with a bacterial infection or a parasitic infestation, they'll likely prescribe antibiotics or an anti-parasite treatment. This is crucial as prompt treatment can prevent conditions like dehydration from kicking in and reduce further gastrointestinal inflammation.

Dietary changes and elimination diets

An upset tummy could be down to dietary indiscretion or food allergies. Your vet might suggest an elimination diet to pinpoint the ingredients that don’t agree with your pup. Begin by providing a bland diet such as boiled chicken and rice - and gradually reintroduce other foods to see how your puppy reacts.

Anti-inflammatory medications for gastrointestinal inflammation

Sometimes, the issue is inflammation in the gut. Your vet may administer anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling and soothe your puppy's digestive system. 

Surgical intervention for intestinal blockages

In some cases, surgery might be needed, especially if there’s a suspected intestinal blockage. This is a more serious scenario which could cause bloody stools and acting fast is essential. Your vet will guide you through the process and help you understand the risks and benefits.

Post-surgery complications and aftercare

Intestinal blockages are more common than you might think in puppies, especially if you consider everything that they put in their mouth. Generally, if caught early enough, surgery can be successful and your puppy can make a full recovery with the right aftercare.

After your puppy’s had surgery, it's vital to understand what can go awry and how you can actively prevent issues. So here’s how you can be the best carer you can be during this crucial recovery period.

Potential complications after surgery

Even when your puppy seems to be acting normally, post-surgery complications can arise. While it's not common, it's possible to see signs of internal bleeding which might manifest as blood in your puppy's stool. A small amount of blood in your puppy’s stool can be normal for up to a few days after surgery, but prolonged bleeding is a more serious concern - go back to see your vet if this is the case.

Other things to monitor include lethargy, vomiting and wound infections. If you suspect any of these then a repeated vet visit is warranted.

Steps to prevent post-surgery complications

To keep your furry friend as comfortable as possible and minimise the risk of complications, here's a quick checklist of things to do for you:

  • Rest: Ensure they have a quiet and comfy resting area.
  • Medication management: Only administer medicines prescribed by your vet and always follow their guidelines on dosage and timing.
  • Diet: Feed bland diets or probiotics as recommended by your vet to aid digestion and healing.
  • Stress reduction: Keep their environment calm to avoid unnecessary stress or anxiety.
  • Keep any wounds clean: Gently bathe any wounds with cool boiled water to prevent infections.

Monitoring and follow-up care after surgery

How's your puppy doing today compared to yesterday? Regular monitoring is your best tool to catch complications early. Keep track of:

  • Stool consistency: Changes in stools can indicate internal issues - slightly soft stools can be expected following surgery but prolonged diarrhoea or excessive blood in the stool are reasons to go back to your vet.
  • Behaviour: Is your puppy more lethargic? This is to be expected in the first 24-48 hours as the anaesthetic drugs wear off, but if it persists for more than a few days then see your vet.
  • Wound healing: Watch for any redness, swelling, or discharge.
  • Pain levels: Monitor your dog’s pain levels. If they seem very uncomfortable then your vet might be able to prescribe extra pain relief. 

And remember, when in doubt, your vet is just a call away. Don't shy away from scheduling follow-up visits or calling for advice if you have any concerns. Your attentive care and the vet's expertise will have your pup on the mend in no time.

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