Thursday, April 27, 2017

Dog Medical Emergencies Survey: Is Black, Tarry Stool an Emergency?

60.41% survey participants checked black tarry stools as an emergency.


That is less than the percentage of people who consider fresh blood in stool an emergency. I would agree that finding fresh blood looks much scarier. The visual effect isn't there. But do you know what you're looking at?

When blood doesn't look like blood.


Blood isn't always the nice bright red color we expect to see. In the poop, blood looks like blood only when the bleeding is in the large intestine or rectum. When the bleeding happens higher up in the digestive tract, or blood from the mouth or respiratory tract is swallowed, the digestive processes change what it looks like.

It is still blood.


While finding a bit of fresh blood in the feces may or may not represent an emergency, I'd always consider black, tarry stool to be one unless proven otherwise. It can, sometimes, have a benign reason behind it but how would one know?

Black, tarry stool would scare me way more than a bloody one.


You might be looking at a severe, life-threatening illness. If your dog is pooping black tar, the reason behind it can be a bleeding ulcer, tumors in the stomach or esophagus, severe infection, damage from a foreign body, abnormal blood clotting, poisoning, pneumonia, kidney failure ...

A speck of red blood can easily get your attention.

It takes a substantial amount of blood to change the appearance of stool to look black and tarry. You're not looking at a few drops.


Think about it. Black, tarry stool isn't just about where the bleeding occurs. If a few drops of blood got digested, you would not notice them in the stool at all. The poop would just look like poop.

You won't see it unless there is lots of it.


If my dog passed black, tarry stool, I am on my way.


Related articles:
Dog Medical Emergencies Survey
Dog Medical Emergencies Survey Results
Is Unproductive Retching an Emergency?
Is Difficulty Breathing an Emergency?
Is Panting an Emergency?
Is Severe Pain an Emergency?
Is Limping an Emergency?
Is Vomiting Bile in the Morning an Emergency?
Is Profuse Vomiting an Emergency?
Are Convulsions or Seizures an Emergency?
Is Loss of Appetite an Emergency?
Is Reduced Activity an Emergency?
Is Severe Lethargy an Emergency?
Is Inability to Stand an Emergency?
Is Inability to Urinate an Emergency?
Are Cuts and Abrasions an Emergency?
Is Bleeding an Emergency?
Is Blood in Vomit an Emergency?
Is Fresh Blood in Stool an Emergency?



Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog now available in paperback and Kindle. Each chapter includes notes on when it is an emergency.

26 comments

  1. Seeing black/bloody stools is serious in humans so I would think the same for our beloved pets too. Anything that's out of the ordinary, we would be going to the vet pronto! Thanks for this important post!

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    1. The tricky part with this one is that the blood doesn't really look like blood and isn't as apparent.

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  2. I always say ,f you are not happy, off to the vet we go. It has helped Dusty our cat because we got help for him pretty early.

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    Replies
    1. Getting help early makes a huge difference.

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  3. I would be calling my vet as soon as as I saw it! That isn't something you would want to mess around with at all!

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    1. Yes, not something one wants to mess around with.

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  4. Anytime stool looks different, watch closely and if it continues past one occurrence, it's off to the vet. I am be the overprotective pet mom, but I prefer to be safe vs. sorry!

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    1. It is always better to be safe than sorry. Some changes in stools can have benign causes but black, tarry stool is a major red flag.

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  5. I would definitely call my vet and take Kilo immediately if I saw black poop. Anything out of the ordinary like that scares me.

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    Replies
    1. Some things might be weird but not necessarily scary; black poop is scary.

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  6. We'd also definitely be on our way to the vet. Not a good sign!

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    1. It potentially can be harmless. But it can be very very serious. Definitely not a good sign.

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  7. I didn't know this about the black, tarry stool! Very scary. Thanks for the info!

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    1. It's one of the things that are not obvious unless one knows what they're looking at. Same with the "coffee grounds" vomit.

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  8. I call or email my vet whenever anything odd happens with Layla as I just panic, but am blessed that he understands where it is coming from with me so thanks for this post

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    Replies
    1. Some veterinarians are worth their weight on gold.

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  9. Tarry black stool would be a big red flag to me too! I would be on the phone with the veterinarian right away. Dried blood can signify a problem that has been going on for awhile with anyone knowing about it.

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    1. This one isn't exactly dried but rather digested. But a red flag nonetheless.

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  10. Wow! I never even thought about this in pets even though I know it to be true for humans. I would definitely rush the girls to the vet if I saw this.

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    1. I wouldn't have known about this in humans LOL

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  11. We feed raw so black, tarry stool would be completely the opposite. We would be on our way! Thank you for this incredibly valuable information.

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    1. Technically, if fed a lot of blood, would do the same thing. But even when Cookie eats a fresh kill, not drained of blood, it has never changed her stool appearance.

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  12. This would definitely make me take my dog to the vet ASAP!I'm sure this will help dog owners realize how serious this is.

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    1. I'm hoping it will. As it's something that seems like nothing if one doesn't know what it means.

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  13. I would definitely take my dog to the vet ASAP if I notice this. Thanks for sharing! I'm sure this will help others dog owners realize how serious this is.

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  14. Yeah black poop would be very alarming to me that is for sure!!

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