Blood in vomit

It is not their most pleasant characteristic, but dogs and cats vomit much more often than people do. It is nature's way of coping with their free-wheeling appetites. They often eat things that don't agree with them, and as soon as they empty their stomachs, they feel better.

But when blood is coming up along with the vomit, you need to call your vet. Bloody vomit doesn't always indicate a serious problem, but sometimes it does -- and moving quickly can make all the difference, says A. David Scheele, D.V.M., a veterinarian in private practice in Midland, Texas.

Stomach ulcers are often to blame, says Dan M. Jordan, D.V.M., a veterinarian in private practice in Houston. Pets with ulcers are typically being treated for arthritis or other long-term problems, and the medications they are taking, such as aspirin, are irritating their stomachs and causing bleeding. "We see more ulcers in older pets because they are the ones most likely to be taking the medications," he says. Blood that is vomited from the stomach usually resembles used coffee grounds, although in some cases it will be bright red, he adds.

Bleeding can also be caused by eating the wrong foods. Pets that raid the trash or root around in the compost pile may suffer from food poisoning and get miserably nauseated. Their retching can break blood vessels in the esophagus, the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. This isn't a serious problem, but it will cause the vomit to look a little bloody.

One of the most serious -- and all-too-common -- causes of bloody vomit is getting into rodent poison. "These poisons can interfere with the blood-clotting process, which can cause bleeding," says Dr. Jordan. Pets that have eaten poison will often bleed from the mouth, nose, or anus as well.

Sometimes what appears to be bloody vomit is really bloody saliva caused by periodontal disease, for example, or a cut from a sharp bone or stick. "Pets are incredibly stoic and will often continue to eat with very sore teeth and gums," says Dr. Scheele. "You may not realize they have trouble until you see blood."

See Your Vet If...

  • Bloody vomit is accompanied by bleeding from her mouth, nose, or anus
  • Your pet is being treated for arthritis
  • The vomit resembles used coffee grounds
  • Pushing on your pet's belly causes her pain
  • Your dog or cat hasn't eaten for 24 hours or more
  • Her abdomen appears bloated
  • She has eaten rodent poison, antifreeze, houseplants, or other harmful substances
  • Your pet has been vomiting for more than a day or is vomiting blood
  • There are worms or other parasites in the stool
  • She has had diarrhea for 24 hours or more
  • There is blood in the stool or it looks dark and tarry
  • She is scooting across the floor, or the anal area looks swollen
  • Your pet has gained or lost substantial amounts of weight
  • She is having side effects from medication, like appetite loss or vomiting
  • There are growths in the anal area
  • There is a bulge in her throat
  • She is drooling much more than usual
  • Your pet vomits shortly after eating

Next Steps:

Back to Digestive System Main Page
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