It is scary when your dog is bleeding! How to stop dog bleeding depends on where and how bad it is.
Sometimes bleeding is a minor thing that can be handled at home, but other times it requires immediate veterinary care.
Let’s break down some different scenarios.
My Dog is Bleeding: Is it an Emergency?
Dog bleeding is an emergency if:
- There is a lot of blood and an artery may have been cut
- The bleeding doesn’t stop within ten minutes
- There is a large wound
- It is a result of trauma (such as being hit by car)
- The dog is lethargic
More minor injuries, such as a toenail that got ripped off, a cut ear, or a bleeding sore, can usually be dealt with at home or at least wait for normal business hours.
If you are unsure, call your vet! They can talk you through your dog’s exact symptoms and will likely have you send them a picture so they can better gauge the urgency.
Tools to Stop Dog Bleeding
How you stop dog bleeding depends on where the injury is and how bad it is. Some of these methods are probably already in your house, and others are good ones to put in your first aid kit.
If the wound is on your dog’s leg or paw, elevate it! Raising the injured area above your dog’s heart will help to slow the bleeding.
Styptic powder, also frequently referred to by the brand name Kwik Stop, is a handy powder that works great for bleeding dog nails and other small wounds.
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To use it, dab a little of the powder on the bleeding area and apply gentle but firm pressure. It usually works very quickly!
This is a great product to keep on hand for “oops” moments when trimming your dog’s nails.
Silver Nitrate Sticks
The tip of each stick is coated with silver nitrate and potassium nitrate, which chemically cauterize the area.
To use a silver nitrate stick, apply the coated tip directly to the bleeding nail and hold it in place for a few seconds until the bleeding stops. Rotate the stick for increased coverage with heavily bleeding nails.
These do sting! Because of that, the styptic powder is usually the preferred tool for many dog lovers.
The sticks will also stain your skin black if it comes in contact with the tip. This stain will fade over a couple weeks.
This product is great at stopping bleeding, and can cover wounds up to 30 square centimeters in size.
While it’s use is probably overkill for a bleeding toenail, HemaBlock is a great addition to your first aid kit if you like to take your dog hiking or he has a talent for getting into trouble.
HemaBlock can even be used inside the body, and your vet might use it during surgeries.
It is usually available in powder form but can come in syringes for easier application. Apply the powder directly to the wound and apply gentle pressure until the bleeding stops.
HemaBlock can be purchased through veterinary pharmacies.
Flour, Corn Starch, and Ivory Soap
These three common household items will also do in a pinch for minor bleeding.
Use flour and corn starch just like you would styptic powder, covering the bleeding area and applying firm gentle pressure.
With ivory soap, you can hold the bar right against the tip of your dog’s bleeding toenail.
Yunnan baiyao is an herbal blend from the Yunnan province in China. The exact formula is a closely guarded secret, but this remedy can be helpful for internal bleeding.
We don’t understand exactly how it works, but it appears to activate platelets.
It can also be applied topically to a bleeding area.
Stopping or slowing internal bleeding is especially useful for the cancer hemangiosarcoma.
Yunnan baiyao can elevate liver values over time, so it is important to consult with your veterinarian before starting this supplement and to keep up with monitoring bloodwork.
Bandages for Dog Bleeding
Just like in human first aid, applying pressure is a cornerstone of stopping bleeding.
A bandage is often necessary for a wound that is bleeding either heavily or persistently.
Nonstick pads and gauze are the ideal supplies for bandaging a wound, but a clean cloth will do in a pinch.
Cover the wound and apply direct pressure.
If your dog bleeds through a bandage, don’t remove it! Add another layer and keep applying pressure.
Dr. Nancy Reese, DVM, PhD, warns that applying too much pressure can damage the tissues. If the skin around where you are pressing is turning white, you are probably pressing too hard.
Do not lift the bandage to check if the wound has stopped bleeding.
This can disrupt the clot that has started to form, especially if it has clung to the bandage. Even if it had stopped bleeding, it might start bleeding again after you lift the bandage and rip away the fledgling scab.
If your dog bleeds through the bandage, apply another layer – do not remove the original bandage.
Once again, taking away the first layer can disrupt clot formation and cause the healing to start over again.
If you’ve taken first aid, you may know how to make a tourniquet, but tourniquets should be used with caution.
It is easy to tie them too tight, and cutting off circulation completely can do more harm than good in the long run.
Instead, there are pressure points in your dog’s armpits and groin. By applying pressure in these areas with your hand, you can often slow bleeding in the legs safely.
Surgery and Blood Transfusions for Dogs
If your dog has a tumor on her skin that is prone to bleeding, surgery is often the only way to resolve the issue long term. Get that unhealthy tissue out of there!
Surgery is also a common strategy for hemangiosarcoma, especially if the tumor has been found before your dog has a major bleed.
If the tumor is on the spleen, the entire spleen will usually be removed.
Blood transfusions are sometimes necessary if your dog has lost a lot of blood or is anemic and not producing her own blood cells.
Dogs have blood types just like us, but they have their own system with over 12 different blood groups!
The good news is that only one canine blood group is really important: Dog Erythrocyte Antigen 1.1 (DEA 1.1). This is what is usually tested for when your dog is blood typed.
The other good news is that while knowing your dog’s blood type before a transfusion is ideal, you can usually get away with a single transfusion no matter what.
Problems start if your dog is given a second transfusion and she has developed antibodies in response to the first transfusion.
If your dog is likely to need multiple transfusions, your veterinarian will recommend blood typing both your dog and any potential blood donors to make sure that they match as closely as possible.
Types of Bleeding in Dogs
Bleeding Dog Nail
Bleeding dog toenails are usually not an emergency. Use styptic powder, flour, corn starch, or ivory soap to staunch the bleeding, and keep your dog still.
Moving around can disturb the clot and make the bleeding start again.
If your dog broke his nail completely, call your vet to schedule an appointment. Dangling pieces will need to be yanked off and your dog might need antibiotics to prevent infection.
Bleeding Dog Paw
A shallow cut on your dog’s paw may heal on its own, but deeper cuts should be examined by your veterinarian.
Cuts on paws are not an emergency unless they are bleeding profusely.
Paw pads take a while to heal, so it is important to keep your dog quiet and to protect her paw with either a light bandage or a bootie.
Bleeding Dog Ear
There are a lot of blood vessels in the ear, so they bleed a lot, but these wounds are usually not an emergency.
Applying pressure and keeping your dog still (no head shaking!) will encourage the blood to clot.
In many cases, once you get your dog cleaned up you may find a teeny tiny cut, often at the tip of the ear. It’s amazing how such a tiny cut can bleed so much.
Bleeding Dog Tail
Like ears, tails love to bleed, and getting them to stop can be challenging.
If your dog hurts his tail, it will need to be bandaged. Shorthaired dogs in particular are prone to “happy tail,” where every time they wag their tail they whack it against something and start it bleeding again.
Depending on the severity, a bleeding tail might be an emergency. It is definitely a good idea to get your veterinarian involved, as getting tail injuries to heal is difficult because of how much dogs move their tails and how little protection they have in that area.
In severe cases, amputation may be the only way to resolve chronic bleeding on the tip of your dog’s tail.
Nosebleeds are not particularly common in dogs and are always a cause for concern.
If your dog’s nose is bleeding, definitely call your veterinarian and find out what the problem is.
Causes include a foreign body (something lodged in the nasal passages) and nasal tumors.
Nosebleeds are always a cause for concern.
Nasal tumors are often fragile, and are particularly prone to bleeding if your dog sneezes.
The best treatment is to remove the source of irritation. This might mean surgery to remove a foreign body or radiation to obliterate a tumor.
Dogs can think of all kinds of creative ways to hurt themselves. If the cut is small and only bleeding a little, you can probably treat it at home with a light bandage and time.
For large or heavily bleeding wounds, your dog should be seen by your vet. She may require sutures to close the wound, and antibiotics might be in order too.
Clotting disorders are when your dog’s blood isn’t functioning properly and she can’t form clots.
Some of these conditions are inherited, while others can be acquired autoimmune problems.
The telltale sign of a clotting disorder is frequent and severe bruising. These dogs will also bleed longer from minor wounds than normal dogs.
There are blood tests that can be done to evaluate your dog’s clotting ability, and your vet can prescribe medications to control the problem.
Tumors on the surface of your dog’s skin can be prone to bleeding.
Abnormal protrusions are easy to catch on things and damage, and cancerous tissue is not healthy, so it is often fragile.
The best way to stop bleeding from a superficial tumor is to have the tumor surgically removed.
If that is not an option, you can use a protective bandage to cover the tumor so that your dog is less likely to knock against it and make it bleed.
Internal bleeding usually occurs due to trauma from being hit by a car or attacked by a larger dog.
Even if your dog doesn’t have any visible injuries, always go to the vet if your dog is hit by a car.
Damage to internal organs can be life-threatening if it is not caught quickly.
Symptoms include weakness, lethargy, and pale gums. All of these symptoms warrant veterinary attention.
Hemangiosarcoma is cancer of the blood vessels.
These tumors frequently cause the affected vessel(s) to rupture and bleed.
Hemangiosarcoma can affect the skin, in which case you might see severe bruising or active bleeding during a bleed, but most commonly affects internal organs.
The spleen, liver, and heart are the most common sites for hemangiosarcoma inside the body.
When a tumor inside the body causes a bleed, you probably won’t see the blood. Instead, you will notice that your dog is weak and lethargic, and may have pale gum color.
Prevention is the Best Medicine
The best way to stop dog bleeding is to prevent it in the first place!
Avoid trauma by keeping your dog on a leash when outside. This will protect him from roads and getting into trouble roaming the countryside.
If hiking over rough terrain, consider booties to protect your dog’s paws.
For shorthaired dogs with long, whippy tails (we’re looking at you, Great Danes), be extra careful when closing doors so that you don’t catch their delicate tails.
And if your dog has a protruding lump or bump, protect it with a bandage while you pursue surgical removal.
We interviewed Dr. Reese on this topic. The video version of the podcast is here:
You can also read the full transcript on the episode page of the Dog Cancer Answers website.
Paws and wags,
PS: Feel free to share this article or the podcast itself with your veterinarian and their staff.
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Kate Basedow grew up training and showing dogs, and her passion for canines has affected all parts of her life. She earned a BA in English from Cornell University and an AAS in Veterinary Science from SUNY Delhi, and is a licensed veterinary technician in the state of New York. Her writing on dog-related topics has earned numerous awards from the Dog Writers’ Association of America and the Alliance of Purebred Dog Writers. Kate currently serves and adores two Belgian Tervuren and a Pembroke Welsh Corgi.