Understanding Bloody Diarrhea in Dogs: Causes and Treatments

Blood in dog stool

As dog owners, we often overlook the importance of monitoring our dogs’ stools, which can be key indicators of their health. A particularly alarming sign is the presence of blood in your dog’s stool. Find out when bloody diarrhea in dogs can be managed at home and when it needs a vet visit. 

Understanding Bloody Diarrhea in Dogs

Bloody diarrhea can manifest in various forms, ranging from black, tarry stools to bright red, blood-streaked feces. These symptoms point to different issues within your dog’s digestive tract and can provide key clues to the cause of diarrhea in dogs. Along with blood, you might also notice mucus, a jelly-like consistency, or changes in stool color.

Recognizing Bloody Diarrhea

If you see blood in your dog’s poop, it isn’t necessarily a serious issue. Here are some common types of bloody diarrhea in dogs and their potential causes.

Types Of Bloody Diarrhea

Red Bloody Diarrhea
When your dog’s poop is streaked with red blood, it’s called hematochezia. This is fresh blood from the colon or rectum. Your dog may feel fine, and you may not need to worry unless your dog has more than one or two bloody stools, or he isn’t feeling well.

Black Tarry Diarrhea
When you see very dark or black, tarry-looking stools, it’s called melana. Melana contains digested blood from the esophagus, upper small intestine or stomach. This can be more serious, especially if your dog feels off-color or acts lethargic. Call your vet if that’s the case.

“Strawberry Milkshake” Diarrhea
Strawberry milkshake stools happen when blood gets mixed into the partially digested bowel contents. Poop with red or pink swirls in it means there’s bleeding in your dog’s small intestine. You may also see red flecks mixed in with the stool. If the small intestine is bleeding and inflamed, your dog can’t absorb nutrients. It also means food is passing through his large intestine too quickly. This type of stool can be serious, so call your vet.

Dark Jelly-Like Diarrhea
If your dog’s stool looks dark and jelly-like, more like strawberry jam, this could be Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE). Your dog may be vomiting as well. HGE can be very serious and you should get to your vet right away.

Common Causes Of Bloody Diarrhea

There can be many reasons for your dog’s bloody stool, ranging from bacterial infections to parasites to gastroenteritis. 

Bright Red Blood In The Stools

Fresh red blood can be caused by parvovirus, parasites, stress, rectal injuries, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, or your dog eating something he shouldn’t have. If your dog is acting normally but you see one or two stools with blood, it’s probably nothing serious. But if your dog repeatedly has bright red blood in his stool, here are some possible causes … 

Parvovirus, most common in puppies, can be deadly. If you notice blood in your dog’s stool and your dog is lethargic, not hungry, or vomiting as well, contact your veterinarian right away. Puppies can dehydrate extremely fast and that’s one reason parvo is so dangerous. You can manage parvo at home but don’t try to do it without help … you must work with your vet. 

Intestinal parasites like worms are a common cause of blood in your dog’s poop. You can take a fecal sample to your vet to confirm the diagnosis … but try to avoid harsh deworming drugs. There are many natural ways to help your dog eliminate intestinal parasites. Read about these at the link below. 

Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE)
HGE is a serious problem that causes jelly-like, dark and bloody diarrhea. It can look a bit like strawberry jam. Often there’s bloody vomiting as well. If your dog seems to feel unwell, don’t hesitate to go to the vet. 

HGE can come on very suddenly and it can be serious … even deadly. So if your dog is weak or lethargic, not eating, or has abdominal pain, contact your vet immediately. Dogs with HGE can quickly get dehydrated so he may need extra fluids. If you catch HGE early, your vet may give you subcutaneous fluids to give at home. But in severe cases, your dog might need to stay at the clinic to get IV fluids. 

HGE may also sometimes be associated with pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis also needs immediate vet treatment and can be a true emergency. 

HGE is more common in small and toy breeds, often around 5 years old. The cause seems to be random and often unidentified. In some cases it can be caused by a bacterial infection like Clostridium perfringens. It can also happen if your dog eats something indigestible … like garbage or your shoes. 

Rectal Injuries
Rectal injuries can happen if your dog eats something sharp that causes damage. This could be a stick, needle, bone shard or other sharp object.

If your dog’s feeling normal with his usual energy, you can try home remedies to help expel the object. Try giving slippery elm powder mixed with warm water to make a gel. It soothes the digestive tract, and it can coat the object and help it pass. 

If you suspect a bad tear, your dog will need a trip to the vet. He could require stitches or even surgery to remove the object. 

Stressful situations like a new dog, a new home, boarding or competition can cause your dog to have bloody stool. You’ll see soft stool with mucus and some blood. Stress-related problems should resolve in a day or so. You can give flower essences like Rescue Remedy to help your dog feel more confident. 

Dark Tarry Or Strawberry Milkshake Dog Stool

Note: Strawberry milkshake stool can have similar causes to black tarry stool because it means the blood is partially digested, and comes from the small intestine. 

Black tarry stools or strawberry milkshake stools can stem from some serious problems like tumors, cancers, blood clotting disorders, post-surgery complications … and medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). 

Tumors and cancers are all too common, with 50% of dogs getting cancer. If your dog is pooping dark, blackish or strawberry milkshake stools, see your vet. 

Rat Poison
Has your dog’s skin turned purplish? If it’s a small area, it could be just a bruise … but it also could mean internal bleeding. Add in black, tarry poop, or sometimes blue poop, and it’s possible your dog ate some rat poison. You may see lethargy, pale or bleeding gums, breathing difficulties, a bloody nose or coughing blood. If you suspect he got into rat poison, or ate a poisoned rat, get him to your vet urgently.

Surgical Complications
If you see black tarry or strawberry milkshake stools within 2-3 days after your dog’s had surgery, this could also mean internal bleeding. Call your vet immediately if you notice dark bloody poop post-surgery.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are often prescribed long term for chronic pain like arthritis. But one of the side effects can be gastrointestinal bleeding, ulcers and perforations. The FDA warns of these serious side effects. So if your dog’s taking NSAIDs and you notice black or pink stools, discontinue the drugs and contact your vet right away. 

Ironically, Pepto-Bismol can also cause black stool, so if you ever give your dog Pepto for digestive upset, that could be the cause. 

When to Seek Veterinary Care

Some cases of blood in dog stool need a vet visit. If you suspect some of the more serious problems described above, check with your vet right away. Examples include parvovirus, internal bleeding, HGE, poison, tumors, possible blockage.

We mentioned above some specific times when blood in your dog’s stool means it’s time to talk to your vet. But if you don’t really know what’s causing your dog’s bloody stool, use these guidelines …

Take your dog to the vet immediately if you see any kind of bloody poop, in addition to …

  • Lethargy
  • Simultaneous bloody vomiting
  • Other bleeding (gums, nose, coughing blood)
  • Lack of appetite
  • You suspect poisoning, “dietary indiscretion” or blockage

You should also check with your vet if you see more than 24-48 hours of …

  • Black stool or black “coffee grounds” in the stool
  • Strawberry milkshake stool
  • Continued large amounts of fresh red blood and diarrhea

Be sure to take a stool sample and bring it to your vet appointment: this will help your vet make a proper diagnosis. You might need to use a plastic container to scoop it up if there is liquid diarrhea.


If you see a bit of blood in the stool once or twice and your dog’s feeling fine, it may be nothing to worry about. Then you can likely manage it at home like you would other cases of diarrhea. 

It’s always important to pay attention to anything unusual in your dog’s stool. The appearance and color can tell you a lot about what could be behind it. Then you’ll know if it’s an emergency that needs the vet. 

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