What to Do When Your Dog is Coughing Up Blood

Watching your dog cough up blood is painful, and it can make you nervous. 

This article is a full guide for dog owners on what to do right away if they see their dog coughing up blood.

If you ever notice that your dog is coughing up blood, it is crucial to seek medical attention immediately. This symptom may not always be a reason to worry, but it could be a sign of a serious health problem that needs urgent care.

Therefore, you should take your dog to a veterinarian or an emergency veterinary hospital as soon as possible. When you take your pet to the vet right away, you can stop problems from getting serious and make sure that your pet has the best possible outcome. Don’t hesitate to get your dog veterinary care if your dog is coughing up blood.

It is a concerning symptom that pet owners should take seriously. Even though the cause may not always be serious, it is essential to seek prompt veterinary care when this happens. Coughing up blood can be a sign of many different health problems. These include an infection in the lungs, heart disease, lung cancer, or a foreign object stuck in the throat. The underlying condition can worsen if left untreated, potentially leading to severe complications.

Read More: Ten ways to help treat kennel cough

Table of Contents

Understanding the Appearance of Blood to Determine Underlying Causes

Understanding the Appearance of Blood to Determine Underlying Causes

Dogs coughing up blood is a concerning sight for pet owners. The appearance of the blood can vary, depending on the underlying cause of the cough. 

  • If your dog is coughing up bright red blood, it typically means that the blood is fresh and undigested. This could indicate a cut in their mouth or a bleed in the upper airways. 
  • If the blood is dark and coffee-colored, almost like coffee grounds, it may suggest that your dog has a gastric ulcer. 
  • Frothy blood, on the other hand, may indicate congestive heart failure or severe lung disease. 

Taking a picture of the blood your dog is coughing up and showing it to your veterinarian can help determine the underlying cause of the cough. While it may seem unpleasant, it can aid in making a quick and accurate diagnosis and treatment plan for your furry friend.

What’s Wrong With My Dog? Is It Serious?

It can be challenging to determine if your dog is suffering when they are coughing up blood, as they may not always show obvious signs of pain or discomfort. As a pet owner, you need to keep an eye out for any changes in your dog’s behavior. If your dog is coughing up blood, it is a sign of an underlying issue that requires urgent veterinary attention. Look for signs such as lethargy, loss of appetite, difficulty breathing, or restlessness. If you notice any of these symptoms, take your dog to the vet immediately. Remember that vomiting blood can be life-threatening, and getting your pet to the vet right away can be key to preventing further problems and making sure it has the best possible outcome.

Reasons For A Dog To Cough Up Blood

Dogs are susceptible to various health conditions that can cause them to cough up blood. Despite being a worrying sign for dog owners, it’s important to identify the underlying cause to get the right treatment. We’ll look at the common reasons dogs cough blood below.

Dog Coughing Blood

#1. Hematemesis

Hematemesis in dogs refers to the vomiting of blood, which can appear either as bright red blood or as coffee grounds-like material if the blood has been partially digested. This condition can be alarming for dog owners and is a symptom that can be caused by a variety of underlying health issues. The presence of blood in vomit indicates bleeding somewhere in the dog’s upper gastrointestinal tract, which includes the mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, or the beginning of the small intestine.

Several causes can lead to hematemesis in dogs, including:

  • Gastrointestinal ulcers: These can be caused by medications (like NSAIDs), stress, or diseases.
  • Foreign objects: Ingestion of sharp objects that can cause internal injuries.
  • Infections: Bacterial, viral, or parasitic infections that irritate the gastrointestinal lining.
  • Cancer: Tumors in the gastrointestinal tract can cause bleeding.
  • Coagulation disorders: Conditions that affect the dog’s ability to clot blood properly.
  • Toxins: Ingestion of poisons or toxic substances that cause internal bleeding.

Diagnosing the exact cause of hematemesis involves a thorough veterinary examination, which may include blood tests, urinalysis, X-rays, ultrasounds, and possibly endoscopy to visually inspect the gastrointestinal tract. Treatment will vary based on the underlying cause but may include medications to reduce stomach acid and protect the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, antibiotics for infections, surgery to remove foreign objects or tumors, and supportive care like fluid therapy and diet modification.

Hematemesis is a serious symptom that should not be ignored. If you notice your dog vomiting blood, it’s crucial to seek veterinary care immediately to address the underlying issue and prevent complications.

#2. Pulmonary Vascular Disease

Pulmonary vascular disease in dogs encompasses a range of conditions affecting the blood vessels within the lungs, leading to altered blood flow, increased pulmonary artery pressure (pulmonary hypertension), and, in some cases, reduced oxygenation of the blood. When a dog with pulmonary vascular disease coughs up blood, a condition known as hemoptysis, it signifies bleeding within the respiratory system, specifically from the lungs or bronchial tubes. This symptom is a critical indicator of severe pulmonary vascular damage or dysfunction.

Causes of Hemoptysis in Pulmonary Vascular Disease

Hemoptysis can result from various factors associated with pulmonary vascular disease, including:

  • Pulmonary Hypertension: High blood pressure in the lungs’ arteries can cause delicate blood vessels to rupture, leading to bleeding.
  • Heartworm Disease: This parasitic infection can damage pulmonary arteries and heart, causing bleeding into the airways.
  • Pulmonary Embolism: Blood clots in the pulmonary arteries can lead to localized damage and bleeding.
  • Infections: Certain infections can cause inflammation and damage to the lung tissue and blood vessels, resulting in bleeding.


In addition to coughing up blood, dogs with pulmonary vascular disease might exhibit:

  • Difficulty breathing or rapid breathing
  • Coughing (without blood in the early stages)
  • Fatigue and reduced exercise tolerance
  • Fainting or collapse
  • Cyanosis (bluish discoloration of the gums)

Diagnosis of Pulmonary Vascular Disease and Hemoptysis

To diagnose pulmonary vascular disease and associated hemoptysis in dogs, veterinarians use a combination of methods:

  • Physical Examination: Initial assessment of the dog’s heart, lungs, and overall condition.
  • Imaging (Chest X-rays or CT Scans): Helps visualize lung changes, heart size, and potential fluid accumulation.
  • Echocardiography: An ultrasound of the heart to evaluate its structure, function, and pulmonary artery pressure.
  • Blood Tests: Include heartworm tests to detect infections or inflammation.
  • Bronchoscopy: A direct look into the airways to find the bleeding source or other abnormalities.

Treatment of Pulmonary Vascular Disease and Hemoptysis

Treatment targets the underlying cause and symptom management:

  • Medications: For reducing pulmonary hypertension and managing heartworm disease.
  • Anticoagulants: To address pulmonary embolism by preventing or managing blood clots.
  • Antibiotics: For treating bacterial infections that could be contributing to the condition.
  • Supportive Care: Oxygen therapy for breathing difficulties and rest to minimize heart and lung workload.

The treatment plan is tailored to the dog’s specific diagnosis, with ongoing adjustments based on their response to treatment.

#3. Tuberculosis


Tuberculosis (TB) in dogs is relatively rare, especially in countries where TB in humans and cattle is controlled. However, dogs can contract tuberculosis, primarily through inhaling or ingesting Mycobacterium tuberculosis (from humans) or Mycobacterium bovis (from cattle). The disease can affect various organs, including the lungs, lymph nodes, and skin.

Symptoms of Tuberculosis in Dogs

When TB affects a dog’s lungs, symptoms may include:

  • Chronic cough
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Difficulty breathing

In severe cases, if the disease leads to significant lung damage, it can cause the dog to cough up blood, a condition known as hemoptysis. This symptom indicates advanced disease and requires immediate veterinary attention.

Transmission and Risk

Transmission to dogs usually occurs through close contact with infected humans, cattle, or contaminated environments. Dogs living in close quarters with humans or animals diagnosed with TB are at higher risk. Raw or undercooked meat from infected animals can also be a source.


Diagnosing TB in dogs involves:

  • A thorough physical examination
  • Chest X-rays or CT scans to detect lung changes
  • Blood tests
  • Tuberculin skin testing
  • Cultures from sputum or tissue samples to identify the bacteria


Treating TB in dogs is challenging and requires a long-term commitment. The treatment typically involves a combination of antibiotics over several months. Due to public health concerns, there are strict regulations regarding the treatment of TB in pets, and in some cases, euthanasia may be recommended to prevent the spread of the disease.


Preventing TB involves minimizing your dog’s exposure to known sources of the bacteria, including infected animals and environments. Proper cooking of meat and maintaining good hygiene practices are also crucial.

If your dog exhibits symptoms of TB or you suspect exposure to TB, consult a veterinarian promptly. Early detection and management are vital for the health of your dog and to minimize the risk of transmission to humans and other animals.

#4. Injury of the Mouth

As a veterinary professional, it’s important to recognize that injuries to the mouth are a common cause for a dog coughing up blood. These injuries can occur in various ways, from trauma such as biting on hard objects, playing too roughly, or more severe incidents like being hit by a car. Beyond physical trauma, infections like periodontal disease can also lead to bleeding gums, which may cause a dog to cough up blood if swallowed.

When blood is observed in your dog’s saliva or around their mouth, a thorough examination of their mouth is crucial. Look for any signs of injury, such as cuts, bruises, broken teeth, or swollen gums, which could indicate trauma or infection. The presence of any foreign objects lodged in the mouth or throat should also be checked.

Treatment for mouth injuries varies based on the cause and severity. Minor cuts or bruises may heal on their own or require minimal intervention. However, antibiotics may be necessary for infections to control the spread and prevent further complications. In cases of severe trauma or advanced periodontal disease, surgical intervention might be needed to repair damaged tissue, remove foreign objects, or address significant dental issues.

If you suspect your dog has a mouth injury or if you’re unable to determine the cause of bleeding, it’s imperative to seek veterinary care immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent further complications and ensure a quicker recovery for your pet. Always remember, preventing such injuries through safe play, regular dental care, and using appropriate toys can significantly reduce the risk of mouth injuries in dogs.

#5. Lung Infection

It’s important to know that lung infections are a common reason why dogs might cough up blood. These infections can stem from various pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, and fungi, leading to conditions like pneumonia, which is characterized by inflammation and fluid accumulation in the lungs. Moreover, lung tumors, although less common, can also lead to a dog coughing up blood.

Symptoms of a lung infection can vary but often include persistent coughing, difficulty breathing, lethargy, and in some cases, fever. The presence of blood in the cough suggests a severe infection or complication that warrants immediate veterinary attention.

The treatment approach for lung infections depends largely on the underlying cause:

  • Bacterial Infections: These are typically treated with antibiotics. The choice of antibiotic may depend on the specific bacteria involved and the results of sensitivity testing.
  • Viral Infections: While there are no direct treatments for many viral infections, supportive care can help manage symptoms. In some cases, antiviral medications may be used.
  • Fungal Infections: These require antifungal medications, often for an extended period, as fungal infections can be challenging to eradicate.
  • Lung Tumors: If a tumor is the cause of coughing up blood, the treatment may involve surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation, depending on the tumor’s type, size, and location.

If you notice your dog exhibiting symptoms of a lung infection or coughing up blood, it’s essential to seek veterinary care immediately. A thorough examination, possibly including chest X-rays, blood tests, and other diagnostic procedures, will be necessary to determine the cause and the best course of treatment.

Managing lung infections early is key to preventing complications and ensuring the best possible outcome for your pet. Additionally, keeping up with vaccinations and regular veterinary check-ups can help protect your dog from infectious diseases that could lead to lung infections.

#6. Dog Heartworm Disease

Dog heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms called Dirofilaria immitis. These worms are transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes and, once inside a dog’s body, they make their way to the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels. As the worms grow and multiply, they can cause significant harm to a dog’s cardiovascular system, leading to severe health issues, including heart failure, lung disease, and damage to other organs.

Symptoms of Heartworm Disease

In the early stages, heartworm disease may not show any symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, symptoms can become more apparent and may include:

  • Mild persistent cough
  • Reluctance to exercise
  • Fatigue after moderate activity
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss

In severe cases, dogs can develop a condition known as caval syndrome, a form of heartworm disease where a large mass of worms blocks blood flow into the heart. This condition is life-threatening and requires emergency surgery.

Connection to Coughing Up Blood

Coughing up blood can occur in advanced stages of heartworm disease. This symptom may arise due to the significant damage the worms cause to the lung’s blood vessels and tissues. As the disease progresses, it can lead to the rupture of these vessels, resulting in bleeding into the airways and, consequently, coughing up blood. This symptom indicates a severe infection and warrants immediate veterinary attention.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing heartworm disease involves a combination of a physical examination, blood tests to detect the presence of heartworm proteins (antigens), and imaging tests like X-rays or an ultrasound to assess heart and lung damage.

Treatment for heartworm disease can be complex and depends on the disease’s severity. It usually involves:

  • Administration of medications to kill adult heartworms and their larvae.
  • Strict rest to reduce the risk of complications from dead or dying worms.
  • Supportive care for heart and lung damage.
  • In severe cases, surgical removal of heartworms may be necessary.


Prevention is key to protecting dogs from heartworm disease. Monthly heartworm preventatives are highly effective and should be used year-round or as recommended by your veterinarian. These medications can come in the form of oral tablets, topical liquids, or injectable products. Additionally, controlling mosquitoes around your home and regular veterinary check-ups can help reduce your dog’s risk of infection.

If you notice any signs of heartworm disease in your dog, especially coughing up blood, it’s crucial to seek veterinary care immediately. Early detection and treatment are vital for the best possible outcome.

#7. Foreign objects in the stomach

Dogs are naturally curious animals, and they often get into trouble when they eat something they shouldn’t. If a dog swallows an object such as a piece of plastic, a toy, or any other item, it can cause them to start coughing up blood. The foreign object may become stuck in the esophagus, which can put pressure on the trachea and make breathing difficult for the dog. Additionally, the object can cause severe lesions along the mucosa of the esophagus.

If you suspect your dog has swallowed a foreign object, it is very crucial to take them to an emergency veterinarian right away. They can perform an x-ray to identify the location of the object, and provide oxygen supplementation if necessary. Depending on the size and location of the object, it may be able to pass through the digestive system on its own. However, endoscopy may be needed to remove the object in other situations.

#8. Canine Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure is a condition that affects many older dogs and is a common cause of coughing up blood. Dogs with congestive heart failure often experience coughing fits, particularly as the disease progresses. As the heart failure worsens, the coughing fits may include bloody foam or sputum.

If you notice that your dog is having difficulty breathing, has a fast respiratory rate when resting, or is coughing up blood, take them to the veterinarian immediately. They can do an x-ray to look at the heart and lungs, give extra oxygen, and start treatment if needed.

Even though there is no cure for congestive heart failure, it can be treated with medicine and a change in lifestyle. Talk to your vet about providing the most appropriate possible medical care for your dog to ensure that they live a comfortable life for the remainder of their lives.

#9. Ingestion Of Toxins Or Poison

Ingestion of toxins or poisons can cause dogs to cough up blood. If your dog has eaten a toxic substance, such as a cleaning chemical or rat poison, they may cough up blood. This is because their body tries to fight the symptoms of toxicity.

If you know or suspect that your dog has eaten something toxic or poisonous, take them to the emergency vet immediately. It is also suggested that you call the Pet Poison Helpline to find out what treatment is best for your pet. Veterinarians from the Pet Poison Helpline will work with your emergency vet to come up with a good plan for your dog’s decontamination and treatment.

#10. Coagulopathy or Clotting Disorders

Coagulopathy or clotting disorders can be another reason why your dog is coughing up blood. If your dog’s nose starts bleeding or they start sneezing blood, it could be a sign of a clotting disorder. As the clotting disorder worsens, this can cause your dog to start coughing up blood with continued bleeding.

Clotting and coagulation disorders can be due to autoimmune diseases, poisons or toxins, tick-borne diseases, liver failure, or cancer. It is always best to bring your pet to the emergency room right away so blood work and imaging diagnostics can be performed to determine the cause of the bleeding and proper treatment for your pet.

#11. Mass in the Lungs that Has Ruptured

Cancer and other masses in the lungs can cause a dog to cough up blood if they rupture. Treatment options for lung masses include surgical removal and chemotherapy, both of which can be costly. The cost of surgery can range from $3,000 upwards, while chemotherapy can cost up to $10,000 in some cases.

#12. Severe Respiratory Infection

Respiratory infections such as pneumonia can cause damage and inflammation to the lungs, leading to coughing up blood. Mild respiratory infections can be treated with antihistamines or the steam from a hot shower. More serious infections may need antibiotics or hospitalization. The cost of treating a respiratory infection can range from $200 to $1500 or more.

#13. Gastrointestinal (GI) Ulceration

Gastrointestinal ulcers can cause dogs to cough up blood that looks like brownish coffee grounds. Vomiting, GI infections, or other underlying conditions can be the cause of these ulcers. Treatment for GI ulcers may include medication and, in severe cases, surgery to repair perforation of the stomach. The cost of treatment for GI ulcers can range from $300 to $5,000, depending on the severity of the condition and the required interventions.

In conclusion, coughing up blood in dogs is a symptom that should never be ignored. It is very important to see a vet as soon as possible to find out what’s wrong and start the right treatment. The cost of treatment for hemoptysis can vary a lot depending on what caused it, how bad it is, and what kind of medical care is needed. Early diagnosis and treatment can help make sure that your pet has the best possible outcome.

How to Help Your Dog

If your dog is coughing up blood or vomiting blood, it is important to take action to help them. While a visit to the vet is usually necessary, there are some steps you can take at home to help your dog.

#1. The first step is to feed your dog a bland diet of chicken and rice. If a gastrointestinal problem is what’s causing the blood, this may be helpful. It is important to monitor your dog’s eating habits and make sure they are still drinking water.

#2. The second step is to allow your dog to rest in a warm area away from other pets. If a respiratory issue is the cause of the blood, this will allow your dog to relax and be comfortable.

It is important to note that any medications should only be given after consulting with your vet. You should also keep an eye on your dog for any other health problems and take it to the vet if it acts strangely or coughs up blood more than once.

What’s The Best Time To Call The Vet?

In some cases, it may be necessary to take your dog to the vet immediately. If your dog keeps coughing up blood or throwing up blood, has pale or blue gums, has trouble breathing, isn’t eating or drinking, or is very tired, these are all signs that he needs to see a vet right away.

When you take your dog to the vet, they will likely run blood tests and take x-rays or ultrasounds to determine the cause of the blood. They may also test for heartworms if your dog is not on heartworm prevention and lives in an area known for heartworm disease.

Once the cause of the blood is determined, your vet will be able to treat your dog. This may involve heartworm treatment, surgery, or medication to treat an infection.

It is important to understand that some of the issues causing your dog to cough up blood can be life-threatening. But most respiratory problems can be treated, and not all of them are bad news.

What Should You Do Before Visiting a Vet?

Make sure you take pictures of the blood your dog coughed up or vomited before you visit your vet. This can help your vet determine the cause of the blood. It is also important to keep your dog calm and not allow them to exhaust themselves by playing.

How to Prevent Your Dog from Coughing Up Blood

Once you have been able to identify the main reason your dog is coughing up blood with professional help, treatment and prevention become easier. However, if your dog has Hematemesis, prevention may not be possible if, for example, it is gastric cancer.

On the bright side, your veterinarian can arrange a healthy diet and exercise for your dog, which may significantly help with gastritis and ulcers. 

For Pulmonary Vascular disease, a healthy diet and exercise can work miracles in preventing build-ups in the arteries of your dog. At the same time, you can prevent heartworms through proper medication. 

On top of that, you can prevent your dog from getting infected by Tuberculosis by keeping it away from infected human or animal patients. Furthermore, to prevent the bacteria of TB from infecting your dog, don’t let your dog eat the carcass of dead animals that may be carrying the bacteria. 

For the most part, living in a clean and natural environment, eating a healthy diet, and regular exercising can keep most diseases at bay. 

To Sum Up

It is okay for your dog to cough sometimes, and a simple home remedy for colds can cure that. Even when your dog is coughing up blood and is already in treatment with the veterinarian, you can give them soothing, hot soups to drink. 

However, be very mindful of what you feed it because you don’t want to worsen its condition. Above all, you must take permission from your veterinarian before feeding your dog anything new. 

On the whole, never miss any health check-ups for your dog with the vet so that even if there is a disease infecting it, the doctor can figure it out sooner. In any case, we hope this article was helpful and informative. 

Brenda Thompson

Brenda Thompson is an expert in dog behavior with over a decade of experience, and she is also passionate about working with cats and birds. In addition to contributing pet content to petdogplanet.com, she is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant. Brenda received her Bachelor of Science in Biological and Biomedical Sciences & Philosophy from Colorado College in 2014. She has taken classes in writing and remote animal behavior consulting, as well as courses on how to manage aggressive dogs and litter box issues. In 2016, she obtained her dog behavior consulting certification and joined the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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One Comment

  1. Great article addressing what to do when such issues arise. No one wants to have to practice these, but whenever (if ever) it happens, we are well aware. Also, I’ll like to stress how in situations like this, asides from dealing with the matter as a first aid, the vet shouldn’t be left out of the recovery process.

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