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Is Dog Vomiting Blood an Emergency? Possible Causes & Treatment

Kit Copson

By Kit Copson

veterinarian examining a sick Rhodesian ridgeback dog

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Amanda Charles

Veterinarian, BVSc GPCert (Derm) MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Vomiting alone can be very concerning for loving dog parents, but when you spot blood in your dog’s vomit, it can be especially frightening. Vomiting blood (hematemesis) can be caused by a variety of factors and conditions including (but not limited to) infections, parasites, and foreign body ingestion, and it should always be treated as an emergency.

If you see blood in your dog’s vomit, even if it’s just a little bit, contact your vet right away to make sure your dog gets a prompt diagnosis and treatment. In this post, we’ll explore the potential reasons why your dog is vomiting blood.


Why Is My Dog Vomiting Blood?

Without a vet’s diagnosis, it’s impossible to know what could be causing your dog to vomit blood, which is why it’s so important to seek veterinary attention immediately, even if your dog acts normally after vomiting.

The appearance of blood in vomit can vary from a mild pink tinge to the vomit to obvious bright red or dark red blood. When it’s a bright red color it may indicate a problem with the esophagus. Dark red blood that can look like coffee grounds, indicates it has been partly digested in the stomach, suggesting it originated from there or the upper part of the intestinal tract.

It’s advisable to take a photo of the bloody vomit to show your vet, as this can help them narrow down potential causes. Dogs sometimes display other signs along with vomiting blood, including black, tarry stools, blood in diarrhea, weakness, lethargy, and pale gums. Possible causes of vomiting blood include:

1. Persistent Vomiting

Persistent or severe vomiting, whatever the cause, can cause irritation of the esophagus due to its exposure to the stomach acids that are coming up. This might cause esophageal bleeding, which is then expelled with vomit.

vet examining a border collie dog
Image Credit: antoniodiaz, Shutterstock

2. Infections

Infections can be viral or bacterial in nature and include parvovirus, a serious and very contagious viral disease. It most commonly affects puppies up to 4 months of age and dogs that haven’t received their vaccinations, but it can happen to any dog of any age. Signs of parvo include vomiting, diarrhea, bloody vomiting and/or diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain and fever or a low body temperature.

Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis is a syndrome which causes sudden onset bloody diarrhea and vomiting in dogs of any age. The cause is unknown for certain, but it is thought to be due to toxins produced by Clostridium perfringens bacteria.

3. Parasites

It’s very important to keep up with a deworming schedule for your dog to protect against worms such as hookworms and roundworms that can cause vomiting. Other parasites such as the protozoa giardia, can also lead to bloody vomiting and diarrhea.

4. Stomach Ulcers

Fortunately, stomach ulcers aren’t very common in dogs, but they can result in bloody vomit among other symptoms like diarrhea, appetite loss, dark stools, weight loss, lethargy, fever, dehydration, and pale gums. Stomach ulcers are caused by the erosion of the stomach or small intestine’s lining.

Foreign Body Ingestion

When a dog’s stomach becomes obstructed by an object they weren’t supposed to eat, like a toy, ball, or a piece of string, it may lead to them vomiting blood. This can also happen if the dog swallows a sharp object like a piece of bone due to damage to the intestinal tract.

a veterinarian checking a sick dog using a stethoscope
Image Credit: Tima Miroshnichenko, Pexels

5. Toxicosis

A wide variety of common plants, foods, and household products like chemicals and cleaning products are toxic to dogs. Dogs that have been poisoned may vomit blood, and other signs (these can vary depending on the type of toxic that was ingested) include diarrhea, gut bleeding, convulsions, abnormal heartbeat, stomach ulceration, high temperature, high blood pressure, dehydration, hyperactivity, and kidney failure.

6. Bowel Conditions

Certain conditions affecting the gastrointestinal system, including inflammatory bowel disease can cause diarrhea and vomiting, potentially with blood.

7. Cancer

If a dog is affected by tumors in the stomach or esophagus, it’s possible for them to vomit blood, feel nauseous and lethargic, and lose weight. Black, tarry stools are also a sign of stomach tumors.

French Bulldog sick at vet
Image Credit: 135pixels, Shutterstock

8. Internal Injuries

Internal injuries can be caused by trauma like being involved in an accident. In some cases, internal injuries can cause bleeding into the gut, which becomes apparent when the dog starts vomiting up blood. The blood sometimes takes on a coffee ground-like appearance.

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What Happens at the Vet Clinic?

Depending on the suspected cause, your vet may conduct certain tests to diagnose the issue and figure out the best course of treatment.

Possible tests include:
  • X-ray
  • Ultrasound
  • Fecal test
  • Blood test
  • Urine analysis
  • Biopsy
  • Blood clotting test
  • Gastrointestinal endoscopy
  • Testing for infectious diseases

Once your vet has found out what’s behind your dog’s bloody vomit, they will decide on an action plan for treating and/or managing the condition. This could be something as simple as offering parasite medication or something more complex or lengthy. Potential treatments (these vary depending on the cause) and/or management techniques may include:

  • Supportive, in-hospital care with fluid therapy
  • Parasite treatment
  • Surgery
  • Antacids
  • Anti-nausea medication
  • Stomach lining protectants
  • Dietary changes (like a bland diet)
  • Gastrointestinal decontamination

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Final Thoughts

Blood in the vomit is something that requires prompt medical attention, even if your dog seems perfectly normal post-vomiting. Dogs that seem fine can still have hidden causes behind their vomiting, which can result in the dog deteriorating over the next hours or days if treatment isn’t sought. The moral of the story—if your dog vomits blood, call your vet or an emergency vet if it’s after hours.

Featured Image Credit: Zontica, Shutterstock

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