Understanding Bruising in Dogs

Bruising can occur in dogs when blood vessels rupture, resulting in discoloration of the skin due to underlying hemorrhage. While most bruises are caused by trauma and will resolve on their own, spontaneous bruising without any known injury can indicate a more serious problem with the clotting system in the body. In this article, we will explore the different types of bruising in dogs, potential causes, what to do if your dog has a bruise, and how veterinarians diagnose and treat this condition.

What Does a Bruise on a Dog Look Like?

Bruises in dogs can vary in appearance depending on their location and underlying cause. There are two main types of bruises:

  • Petechia: These are pinpoint, stippled, red-to-purplish bruises that can be found on the skin or other mucous membranes, such as the gums.
  • Ecchymoses: These bruises are larger and blotchy, usually appearing dark red or purple.

Both petechia and ecchymoses can occur anywhere on the dog’s body, especially when they result from trauma. Common areas for spontaneous bleeding include the gums, belly, armpit or inguinal regions, whites of the eyes, and ears.

What To Do if Your Dog Has a Bruise

If you notice a bruise on your dog and are unsure of the cause, it is essential to have them evaluated by a veterinarian. This is particularly important if you observe any additional symptoms along with the bruising, such as weakness, trouble breathing, pale gums, collapse, severe lethargy, or neurologic signs like a wobbly gait or seizures. Spontaneous bruising or bleeding should be treated as a medical emergency, and prompt veterinary attention is necessary. If your primary care veterinarian is unavailable, consider visiting an emergency veterinary hospital.

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What Causes a Bruise on a Dog?

There are various potential causes of bruising in dogs, including:

  1. Trauma: Injury or accidents can lead to bruising in dogs.
  2. Post-operative redness or bruising: Mild bruising after surgery is usually normal, but if the bruise worsens or persists for more than 72 hours, it may indicate a more serious issue.
  3. Immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (ITP): An overreactive immune system can cause the destruction of platelets, resulting in bruising. ITP may be idiopathic or secondary to other conditions.
  4. Bone marrow suppression: Certain cancers or drugs, especially chemotherapy, can suppress bone marrow function and lead to low platelet counts.
  5. Rodenticide (rat poison): Some rat poisons can interfere with platelet function, leading to systemic bleeding.
  6. Congenital disorders: Certain congenital conditions can cause platelet malfunctions or coagulation disorders/deficiencies.

How Vets Diagnose Bruises in Dogs

Diagnosing the underlying cause of bruising in dogs starts with a complete medical history and physical examination. Veterinarians will inquire about any trauma, toxin ingestion, medications, and other systemic diseases that could contribute to bruising or bleeding. They will also examine the dog for bruising on the skin or mucous membranes and check for internal bleeding or other abnormal findings.

Diagnostic testing may include:

  • Full blood work and urine testing
  • Blood smear to count platelets
  • Blood clotting testing
  • Buccal mucosal bleeding time (BMBT) test
  • Chest and abdomen X-rays
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Infectious disease testing
  • Von Willebrand factor testing
  • Bone marrow aspirates/biopsies

These tests help evaluate platelet function, assess for signs of cancer or systemic diseases, and determine the cause of the bruising.

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Treatment for Dog Bruises

There is no specific treatment for bruising in dogs. The appropriate treatment depends on the underlying cause. Mild to moderate bruising due to trauma may not require any intervention. However, bruising caused by clotting deficiencies may necessitate hospitalization, whole blood or plasma transfusions, steroid therapy, and more intensive treatments. Bruises resulting from infections, such as tick-borne diseases, are treated with appropriate antibiotic therapy.

If your dog’s bruise spreads locally or to other parts of the body and shows no improvement after 72 hours, or if it is accompanied by other systemic signs, such as pale gums, weakness, vomiting, or trouble breathing, it is crucial to seek veterinary assessment as soon as possible, even if it means visiting an emergency clinic.

For more information about dog bruising and other pet care topics, visit Katten TrimSalon.

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