For any pet emergency, your pet needs to see a vet right away. In some emergency situations, like when your dog or cat is bleeding, you may need to provide first aid until you arrive. Here, our Raritan, Somerset County veterinarians explain.
Heavy Bleeding in Pets
The source of bleeding in a dog or cat can be internal or external. While external bleeding often originates from a wound on the skin and is easy to detect, internal bleeding will require your vet’s services as the cause can be difficult to find. It can also be challenging to detect the source of the blood.
What happens if my cat or dog loses blood?
If your dog or cat loses a vast amount of blood over a short period of time, this may cause shock. Losing as little as 2 teaspoons per pound of body weight is enough to cause shock to occur.
A cat or dog in shock will have an increased heart rate and low blood pressure. Their gums may become pale or white, and they may breathe rapidly. Left untreated, shock can cause organs to shut down and the brain can be damaged permanently. Blood loss and shock can even lead to death.
Basic First Aid for Cats & Dogs
If you notice heavy bleeding on your cat or dog, some basic first aid may help to control blood loss.
How to Stop External Bleeding on a Dog or Cat
While you won’t be able to do much to stop internal bleeding on your own, you can control external bleeding until you reach your veterinarian.
Even the most loving, good-natured dogs can become distressed and scared when they are in pain, and consequently may bite. Take appropriate precautions to keep you both safe while you try to help your injured dogs. You may need to use a muzzle or have a friend or family member restrain your dog while first aid is provided.
To help control external bleeding, apply a compress of clean gauze or cloth directly over your cat’s or dog’s wound. Use firm but gentle pressure, and allow the blood to clot.
If the compress becomes soaked through with blood, place a fresh compress atop the old one and continue to apply gentle, firm pressure (do not remove the towel as it may dislodge clots and worsen bleeding). If you don’t have any compress materials on hand, a finger or bare hand will work (ensure your hands are clean).
If a wound on your pet’s leg or foot is bleeding severely and you cannot find any evidence of a broken bone, try gently elevating the leg so that the wound is above the level of the heart, along with applying direct pressure. Elevation will help slow bleeding and decrease blood pressure in the injured area.
Elevation works best in larger dogs with long legs, as the distance between the injury and heart will be longer. For maximum effectiveness, this method should be used along with direct pressure and compresses.
Pressure to the Supplying Artery
If an external wound continues to bleed after you’ve applied direct pressure and elevated the bleeding limb, you can use a finger to place direct pressure over the main artery to the wound.
For example, if a rear leg is bleeding severely, you could apply pressure to the femoral artery (located on the inner thigh). If a front leg is bleeding severely, you can apply pressure to the brachial artery, located on the inside of the upper front leg.
The caudal artery at the base of the tail supplies blood to the tail. Apply pressure here if the tail is injured. Applying pressure above the wound can help control arterial blood loss, while pressure below the wound can help control bleeding from veins. Use this along with direct pressure.
Because internal bleeding occurs on the inside of the body, it is less apparent than external bleeding from a wound. However, some external signs of internal bleeding can help you know when it’s time to take your pet to an emergency veterinarian:
- Unusually subdued; progressive weakness or sudden collapse
- Cool ears, tail or legs
- White or pale gums
- Difficulty breathing
- Coughing up blood
- Belly is painful to the touch
If my cat or dog is bleeding, when should I bring them to the emergency vet?
If you are unable to stop bleeding within 10 to 15 minutes (depending on the injury), take your dog to the emergency vet clinic. Keep applying pressure to the wound as you transport the dog to the vet.
If your dog is bleeding externally, stabilize your pet for transportation using these methods:
Stabilizing & Transporting Dogs
Calmly, slowly approach your dog. Kneel down and try calling his name. If the dog displays aggression, back away and call for help. If, however, your dog appears passive, build a makeshift stretcher, then gently lift him onto it while supporting the back and neck areas.
Stabilizing & Transporting Cats
Cats may bite if they experience pain. To prevent this from happening as you stabilize, gently place a towel or blanket over the head. Lifting the cat slowly, place him or her in an open-top box or carrier, supporting the neck and head carefully.
Once you feel confident that you can safely transport your pet, bring him or her to an emergency care facility immediately. If you can, call ahead to the hospital so the staff knows to expect you and your pet.
Since internal bleeding occurs on the inside of your pet’s body and is not as easy to detect as external bleeding, if your pet shows the signs listed above, take them for professional help immediately.
At AnimERge, our veterinarians are specially trained in emergency medicine and triage. In any emergency situation, we are here to deliver critical medical attention to pets in need.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.