Black, tarry stools containing digested blood are called melena. This is not fresh blood. Melena can indicate a life threatening illness. This is especially true if it persists or if it gets worse.
Melena begins when the bleeding is in the small intestine or the stomach. It is high in the digestive tract which allows it to be digested and become black. This is different from Hematochezia, which occurs in the lower part of the large intestine.
The main cause of melena is disease such as Dog Cancer. It is important to determine the cause in order to treat it successfully.
• Intestinal parasites, viral, fungal or bacterial infections need to be ruled out
• Foreign bodies in the intestine
• There are a variety of intestinal disorders that can cause melena such as twisting of the stomach
• Dog Heatstroke, other infections, some cancers, excess stomach acid
• Inflammatory bowel disease
• If your dog licks a bleeding wound or has bleeding in the mouth, that blood can turn dark and be considered melena
• Blood clotting disorders
• Irritable bowel syndrome
• If your dog has abdominal surgery in the area of the upper gastrointestinal tract, there can be melena that is brief.
• Lack of blood supply that is secondary to shock, intussusceptions or blockage of circulation to the intestine can cause death of the tissue and consequently melena.
Signs and Symptoms
Your veterinarian will perform several diagnostic tests to establish a cause.
• The standard lab studies will be done. These will include complete blood count, chemical profile and urinalysis.
• Serology will determine infectious diseases.
• Coagulation profile will determine if it is a clotting disorder
• Examination of a stool sample will determine if it is blood
• X-rays of the chest and abdomen
• Ultrasound examination of the abdomen
• Upper GI barium series
• Endoscopic examination
If your dog has eaten something they shouldn’t have, treatment may consist of removing the foreign object and keeping an eye on your dog for improvement. If the signs are minimal, your dog may be able to go home with you. There will be dietary restrictions that you should follow. These will include a bland diet that contains food that is easily digested.
Any medications that can irritate the stomach need to be avoided. This includes aspirin, corticosteroids and any NSAID’s.
It is possible that your vet will prescribe medication to decrease the amount of stomach acid that is produced and coat the stomach as well.
If hospitalization is necessary, your dog will receive intravenous fluids, blood and support. Once the bleeding has stopped your dog will be able to go home.
Adhere to the dietary restrictions that your vet has placed on your dog. Be sure to administer all of the medication that has been prescribed. Keep any potential irritants away from your dog.
Additional Dog Cancer Pages
Dog Cancer | Dog Skin Cancer | Dog Bladder Cancer | Dog Pancreatic Cancer | Dog Bone Cancer | Dog Cancer Prevention | Dog Cancer Diagnosis | Dog Lymphoma Cancer | Dog Gastric Cancer | Dog Mast Cell Tumors