While any pet emergency should have you headed to a local emergency animal hospital right away, some situations such as heavy bleeding in a dog or cat may require you to provide first aid until you arrive there. Our Las Vegas veterinarians explain in this post.
A cat or dog can bleed either internally or externally. While external bleeding is easy to see and often originates from a wound in the skin, internal bleeding is more difficult to detect and will require the services of a skilled veterinarian.
No matter which type of bleeding your pet is experiencing, we recommend knowing how to stop or manage bleeding, if only for long enough so you can get to your vet's office for emergency care.
What happens if my cat or dog loses blood?
If your dog or cat loses a vast amount of blood within a short period of time, they may go into shock. As little as two teaspoons of blood loss per pound of body weight is enough to send them into shock.
When a dog or cat goes into shock, their heart rate increases and blood pressure lowers. They may breathe rapidly and have pale, white gums. Left untreated, organ systems shut down and the dog or cat may suffer permanent damage or even die.
How to Stop Bleeding on a Dog or Cat
Many people call us before they arrive to ask, "My dog (or cat) is bleeding. How can I stop it? There are different steps to take depending on whether your pet is bleeding externally or internally. They are as follows:
With all first aid protocols designed to stop heavy bleeding, our goal is the same: to control blood loss. While you won't be able to do much on your own to stop internal bleeding, you can control external bleeding from a cut or wound until you arrive at your vet's office.
Help manage external bleeding by placing a clean cloth compress or gauze directly over your cat or dog's wound. Apply firm but gentle pressure and allow the blood to clot. If blood soaks through the first compress, replace the compress with a fresh one on top of the old one and continue applying firm but gentle pressure. A clean bare hand or finger will also work if no other compress materials are available.
If the leg or foot is severely wounded and bleeding but there is no evidence of a broken bone, gently elevate the leg so that the wound is above the level of the heart, while applying direct pressure. Elevating the limb will help to reduce blood pressure in the injured area and slow bleeding.
Pressure to the Supplying Artery
If external bleeding continues after you have used direct pressure and elevation, you can use a finger to place pressure over the main artery to the wound. For example, if there is severe bleeding on a rear leg, apply pressure to the femoral artery, located on the inside of the thigh. If there is severe bleeding on a front leg, apply pressure to the brachial artery, located on the inside of the upper front leg.
Internal bleeding occurs inside the body and is less obvious than external bleeding from a wound. There are, however, some external signs of internal bleeding, which can include any of the following:
- Pale to white gums
- Cool legs, ears or tail
- Coughing up blood or having difficulty breathing
- Unusually subdued; progressive weakness and sudden collapse
- Painful belly when it is touched
My female dog is bleeding - what should I do?
An unspayed female dog will have an average of two to three heat cycles per year. While being in heat is the most common reason for vaginal bleeding, there are other medical reasons your dog may be bleeding from her vagina. Try to determine if the bleeding originates from the vagina or is in your dog's urine. Another possibility is that your dog may be eliminating bloody diarrhea, which may appear to come from her vagina.
If your dog is bleeding from her vagina but she is not in heat, take your dog to the veterinarian immediately. A vet will perform a complete physical examination and ask when you first noticed the symptoms. They will also ask about the quantity and quality of her bleeding - if your dog has been spotting or hemorrhaging and if the blood is thin, thick or accompanied by other discharge. Additional testing to rule out other conditions may be necessary to help your vet make a diagnosis.
If your pet is bleeding, please contact our Las Vegas Animal Hospital or go to your nearest emergency veterinarian clinic immediately.