Bleeding Disorders in Dogs

Overview of Canine Bleeding Disorders

Bleeding disorders are diseases in which the blood does not clot normally, causing a tendency to bleed abnormally or excessively after minor bumps or cuts. There are a variety of causes of bleeding disorders in dogs. They include:

The effects of bleeding disorders on your pet are related to how much blood is lost and where the bleeding occurs. If the pet loses a lot of blood, he will become anemic, which means he has decreased numbers of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Anemia makes the gums look pale instead of pink, and makes the animal easily exhausted.

Many signs are related to the site of the bleeding, which can occur almost anywhere in the body. Sometimes the site of bleeding is obvious, as when there are nosebleeds (epistaxis), bruising related to bleeding under the skin, or bleeding into the urinary tract resulting in discolored urine.

Sometimes the bleeding can be evident to a professional but to an owner, as in instances when bleeding occurs in the back of the eye or into the gastrointestinal tract resulting in tarry black or bloody stools.

Sometimes the bleeding is not obvious, as when bleeding occurs into a body cavity like the abdomen or chest, resulting in abdominal distention or difficulty breathing, respectively. Bleeding into the brain or the spinal cord may result in seizures, loss of consciousness, or paralysis.

What to Watch For

Symptoms of Bleeding Disorders in Dogs may include:

Diagnosis of Bleeding Disorders in Dogs

A variety of diagnostic tests may be indicated in any individual situation. These include:

Treatment of Bleeding Disorders in Dogs

Whenever possible, treatment is aimed at the underlying disorder causing the bleeding, with supportive care administered to maintain the animal while specific therapy is given time to work.

Home Care

If you notice that your pet is bleeding profusely, attempt to staunch the flow of blood and seek veterinary care immediately.

If you notice even small amounts of bleeding when there has been no trauma or injury to provoke bleeding, or bruising in the absence of injury, seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

Bleeding disorders can be either relatively minor problems or rapidly life threatening. The severity of the problem depends on both the amount of bleeding, and on the site of bleeding.

Bleeding may be obvious, as is the case with open cuts or nose bleeds, or it may be harder to detect. Bleeding into the stomach or intestines, for example, may be visible as dark, tarry stool that an owner may not notice. Likewise, bleeding under the skin, or into body cavities including the joints, abdomen (belly), or chest may be difficult or impossible for the owner to identify.

Any time an animal exhibits bleeding either with no known provoking injury, or excessive or prolonged bleeding after a known injury, a diagnostic investigation is warranted.


Bleeding disorders can result from a variety of different processes, and each process can result from several different diseases. Coagulation is the sum of all the events that allow blood to clot and thereby stop bleeding. Normal coagulation first requires that the blood vessel lining, or endothelium, provide signals that it has been torn. Next, adequate numbers of platelets must fill in the hole in the torn blood vessel and must stick to both the vessel lining and to each other. Finally, soluble factors in the liquid part of the blood must be activated to form a solid, sticky substance known as fibrin in the area where the platelets have covered the hole. Problems in any of these processes, be it the proper functioning of the vessel wall, inadequate numbers or function of platelets, or insufficient soluble coagulation factors, can result in excessive bleeding. Some of the more common causes of disorders in these processes include:

Diagnosis In-depth

A variety of diagnostic tests may be indicated in any individual situation. The following are each considered essential for the diagnosis of the cause of abnormal bleeding:

Other test will likely be indicated as well. Which of these tests is appropriate for an individual animal will be determined after the veterinarian has completed the initial examination, and perhaps after results of the CBC become available.

Therapy In-depth

One or more of the diagnostic tests described above may be recommended by your veterinarian. In the meantime, treatment of the symptoms might be needed, especially if the problem is severe. The following nonspecific (symptomatic) treatments may be applicable to some pets with bleeding disorders. These treatments may reduce severity of symptoms or provide relief for your pet. However, nonspecific therapy is not a substitute for definite treatment of the underlying disease responsible for your pet’s condition.

Optimal treatment for your pet requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. Follow-up can be critical. Administer prescribed medication as directed, and be certain to alert your veterinarian if you are experiencing problems treating your pet. Optimal follow up veterinary care for bleeding disorders often involves the following: