Canine First Aid for Rectal Bleeding in Dogs

By Elizabeth Tumbarello

Just as a doctor takes vital signs before treating a problem, taking the vital signs of an animal will help you assess whether the situation is an emergency. Rectal bleeding is often not as harmful as it is frightening. Assessing the overall condition, as well as checking out the rectum and anus, will give you a general idea of whether aid can be administered at home or whether you need to seek emergency veterinary treatment.

Approaching an Injured Animal

An animal that is sick may strike out from fear or aggression. Even you know the dog, it may still react negatively when approached. If the dog gives off any warning signals, don't approach him. Speak softly and avoid direct eye contact, which may be perceived as a threat. Approach and allow the dog to sniff the back of your hand. If possible, have someone assist you in holding the dog on its side so that you can get vital signs on the animal, as well as examine the rectal area.

Getting Respiratory and Pulse Signals

Assess the heart rate and pulse of the dog. A dog's heartbeat can be felt where the left front leg meets the chest. Bend the leg slightly until you can feel her heartbeat. Use your index or forefinger to feel for a pulse. The normal heart rate for a small dog is 100 to 160 beats per minute. Medium dogs are generally 60 to 100 beats per minute. Large dogs and puppies are variable. While taking the pulse, check her respiratory rate. A dog takes 10 to 30 breaths per minute, but can pant up to 200 times per minute.

Mucous Membrane Color and Capillary Refill Time

Check the mucous membranes of the dog to make sure he's getting enough oxygen. Lift the dog's upper lips and check to make sure the gums are the proper pink color. Any other colors indicate a serious emergency. If the dog's gums are pink, press a finger lightly and see how long it takes for the color to return. The time this should take is one to two seconds. This is called the capillary refill time and signals whether blood circulation is normal. Less than one second or more than three seconds indicates an emergency situation and should be handled accordingly.

Rectal Bleeding

If the blood is dark red, it's coming from inside the dog's rectum or digestive system. If it is bright red, the bleeding is closer to the surface, on the anus. If blood is only observed in stool samples, note where it occurs. If the blood is in the fecal matter, it's coming from the rectum or digestive system. If the blood is on the outside of the sample, it's from the anus.


After vital signs are taken, assess the anal area. The most common reason a dog's rectum may bleed is due to constipation. Check for obstructions and if there is a foreign object, do not attempt to remove it. The object could penetrate deeper into the intestines and attempting to remove it could cause irreparable damage. Look for signs of parasites, polyps and tumors, all of which can cause rectal bleeding. Observe the anal sacs of the animal, which are located on each side of the anus. If they appear swollen, the sacs may need to be emptied.


If the dog is spurting blood, emergency veterinarian attention should be sought immediately. If the blood is occasional, minimal or only observed in stools, try changing the dog's diet. If the intermittent bleeding does not clear up within two days, see your vet. She can perform tests to determine the exact cause of the bleeding.