The options depend on the location of the blood. Sometimes, for instance in a ruptured spleen, it makes sense to surgically find the cause of the bleed and remove it. Other times, for example bleeding into the brain, opening the brain cavity may do more harm than good.
The cause of bleeding is also important. For example, if bleeding is happening because the pet doesn’t have the required clotting factors, then bleeding will be generalized (in different locations). Giving a blood transfusion, with appropriate clotting factors, will often be more useful than surgery.
Meanwhile, fluids are sometimes given to keep any remaining red blood cells circulating. Transfusions of Oxygen-carrying red blood cells may also be given to save lives.
So what do we see on the outside when internal bleeding happens?
There are some common signs seen with any bleed:
Ongoing or large bleeds can result in the pet running out of red blood cells and looking ‘pale.’ Vets are good at spotting this.
However, in the early stages after a bleed and before an animal looks pale, the spleen will often contract, releasing more red blood-cells into the circulation. Therefore not all animals with internal bleeding appear pale or even have low numbers of red blood cells; sometimes, they actually have a better colour! Luckily, a simple blood test can distinguish this kind of bleed.
If blood is lost from the circulation, the heart will have to beat extra fast to try to deliver what is left around the body. This can result in a weak, rapid pulse.
If the circulation is compromised to the point where blood can no longer be delivered around the body, for example to the brain. The lack of blood to the brain or lungs may result in collapse.
What if my vet suspects internal bleeding?
They can do some simple tests on the blood (the haematocrit and total solids) which will help to confirm the suspicion. Because the signs of internal bleeding are so varied, they can easily be confused with signs of other disease. So this test has saved many lives.
Vets can also take pictures, such as radiography of the chest or ultrasonography of the abdomen (looking for free fluid sloshing around in there), to find out more information. Or place a needle into the abdominal cavity or chest to detect a build-up of free blood.
Pet Connection Extra – Internal Bleeding
An open wound or scab are often easier to deal with because they’re visible and your vet can determine the right solution in a relatively straightforward manner. However, internal injuries can be difficult to address. Whether the internal bleeding is due to a car accident, fighting with other pets, sickness, or fall from a height, internal injuries can cause severe trauma to your dog and cause them to go into shock. So, what are the symptoms of internal bleeding in dogs?
Read on to learn more and how to administer first aid to a dog with internal bleeding.