The prob­lem: Rec­tal bleed­ing Vet’s ad­vice

My three-year-old Labrador seems as happy as Larry but oc­ca­sion­ally there is a spot of blood on his poo. Does this mean can­cer?

Sporting Gun - - Gundogs Dog Health - Neil Mcin­tosh SG’S gundog health ex­pert DE­CEM­BER 2018 Will AR­MOUR, Dum­fries www.shootin­

In short, no. Tu­mours of the bowel can cer­tainly cause bleed­ing but given his age, breed and oth­er­wise good health, it is un­likely that can­cer is the cause of this rel­a­tively com­mon prob­lem. In my opin­ion, there are two con­di­tions that should be con­sid­ered ini­tially but, of course, you should take spe­cific vet­eri­nary ad­vice fol­low­ing ex­am­i­na­tion.


Col­i­tis (or in­flam­ma­tion of the lower bowel or colon) is also known as In­flam­ma­tory Bowel Dis­ease (IBD) and Ir­ri­ta­ble Bowel Syn­drome (IBS). Call it what you will, it is a com­mon cause of di­ar­rhoea in dogs, though it may just be as­so­ci­ated with blood and/or mu­cus in fae­ces. Af­fected dogs will di­gest and ab­sorb nu­tri­ents prop­erly (so gen­er­ally look fine) but there is mal­func­tion of the colon, whose job it is to cre­ate a nor­mal stool. The re­sult is fairly sim­ple: • Dam­age to the lin­ing of the colon re­sults

in in­flam­ma­tion •Hyper­motil­ity oc­curs, so fae­ces are passed more fre­quently • Fail­ure to ab­sorb wa­ter and elec­trolytes • Stim­u­la­tion of gob­let cells means more

mu­cus pro­duc­tion • The in­flamed colon bleeds • Soft, shiny bloody fae­ces with ‘fae­cal ur­gency’ oc­cur In very mild cases (per­haps your dog) an owner might sim­ply no­tice a spot of blood but in oth­ers, vom­it­ing (as­so­ci­ated with the colon and not the stom­ach) and chronic di­ar­rhoea with fre­quent strain­ing can oc­cur. It is in­ter­est­ing to note that on many oc­ca­sions own­ers ac­tu­ally re­port to us that they think their dog is con­sti­pated, as it pushes so much. Causes of col­i­tis in dogs are myr­iad but the com­mon ones are: • Food allergy • Bac­te­rial in­fec­tions – campy­lobac­ter,

sal­mo­nella, clostridia • Par­a­sites – whip­worm, gi­a­r­dia • Stress – board­ing, change of en­vi­ron­ment • Sud­den al­ter­ations of diet – in­tro­duc­tion of

meat, of­fal, etc • In­ap­pro­pri­ate con­sump­tion of de­cayed

dead stuff • Rub­bish and for­eign body con­sump­tion • Com­pli­cated im­mune me­di­ated con­di­tions Of course, there is a di­ag­nos­tic path­way that can be fol­lowed but most dogs will re­spond to 24 hours of star­va­tion fol­lowed by care­ful iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the un­der­ly­ing cause. This may re­quire su­per­vi­sion when walk­ing, a change of diet, worm­ing, an­tibi­otic use (es­pe­cially af­ter bac­te­rial cul­ture of fae­ces) or per­haps an al­ter­ation of di­etary fi­bre lev­els. Given your dog’s ap­par­ently mild symp­toms, it may be worth adding fi­bre (try Pro-fi­bre) to each meal.

Chronic col­i­tis that proves un­re­spon­sive to sim­ple treat­ment can be very frus­trat­ing as re­lapses (as seen in hu­mans with IBD and IBS) are com­mon. We have many pa­tients who just can­not tol­er­ate any change what­so­ever in their diet or cir­cum­stances with­out de­te­ri­o­rat­ing.

Rec­tal polyps

Al­though less com­mon, the symp­toms you de­scribe could be caused by a rec­tal polyp. These are usu­ally be­nign (es­pe­cially if they are small) and are sim­ple flap-like ex­ten­sions of the rec­tal wall. Some­times, they will ap­pear through the anus at the end of the dog pass­ing a stool then dis­ap­pear again, so it is well worth look­ing closely around this time. (Please ex­plain to your neigh­bours what you are do­ing!) Your friendly vet should be able to feel polyps with a well-oiled and gloved fin­ger.

Re­moval of rec­tal polyps is gen­er­ally quite sim­ple – if you can reach them. Un­der gen­eral anaes­the­sia, the polyp is pulled out through the anus and the neck lig­ated. I do hope that you find the source of your dog’s prob­lem.

“Many pa­tients can’t tol­er­ate a change in diet”

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