Kahler: Small amount of bleeding worries dog owner

02/03/2014 3:23 PM

02/03/2014 3:52 PM

Dana is worried about Copper, her 4-year-old German shepherd. It seems he is bleeding from somewhere, though she is at a loss as to precisely where the blood is coming from. It is not a lot of blood mind you, but almost every morning when Copper gets up from his bed, Dana finds a small spot of blood.

Through her diligent investigative work, Dana has narrowed down the source of the blood to two possible locations. The first is Copper’s mouth and the second is his rectal area. Dana did look at and into Copper’s mouth and found nothing and her most recent discovery of blood in and on one of Copper’s bowel movements strongly suggests the source is the rectal area.

Blood coming from the rectal area can be coming from farther inside the digestive tract, possibly the colon. This occurs as a result of bleeding from the colon wall due to inflammation. This inflammation is called colitis.

When the colon becomes inflamed, regardless of the cause, it can bleed from the lining and show up as blood from the rectum and also blood on a bowel movement. With colitis, there also can be mucus on the bowel movement that appears like a whitish gelatinous material. This was not described in Copper’s case.

There is also a distinct possibility that the blood Dana is seeing from Copper’s rear end is not from inside the rectal area, but instead may be emanating from the area around the anus.

Two possibilities come to mind: The first is a ruptured anal gland. Anal glands are paired glands located below and to the right and left of the anus. They produce a very pungent semi-liquid material that is expressed from the glands at various times. This expression can occur as a fear response or sometimes simply when defecating. If for any reason, one or both glands becomes plugged, the material within can continue to build up to the point of rupture of the involved gland. Bleeding along with infection can result. Treatment for anal gland rupture involves antibiotic therapy and likely eventual surgical removal of the anal glands as a permanent cure.

A second possibility that might produce bleeding from the perianal area is a disease process called perianal fistulas. The hallmark of this disease is the development of wound tracts or fistulas from the rectum to the outside of the body in the perianal area.

These lesions become secondarily infected and very often bleed. The disease is progressive and very uncomfortable as one might imagine. The underlying cause for this disease is not completely understood but the most likely scenario is that perianal fistulas result from an autoimmune problem.

This is born out by the fact that successful treatment usually involves some type of medical manipulation of the immune system. Incidentally, German shepherds are a high incidence breed for development of perianal fistulas.

Of course there are other possibilities for Copper’s rectal/perianal bleeding and ultimately, I can not definitively diagnose the cause here. Dana needs to have Copper thoroughly evaluated by his veterinarian, obtain the definitive cause and hopefully affect a successful treatment as a result.

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