Bleeding in a cat or dog can be either external or internal. External bleeding is easy to see and often comes from a wound in the skin. Internal bleeding, however, is difficult to detect and requires the services of a skilled veterinarian.
No matter the type of bleeding, every pet owner should know how to control or stop bleeding, even if it’s just long enough to get to your veterinarian.
What happens if my cat or dog loses blood?
A vast amount of blood lost over a short period of time may cause shock in your dog or cat. Blood loss of as little as two teaspoons per pound of body weight is enough to cause shock.
A dog or cat in shock has an increased heart rate and low blood pressure. They may have pale, white gums and breathe rapidly. If left untreated, organ systems shut down and the dog or cat may suffer permanent damage or even death.
How do I help my cat or dog if they are bleeding externally?
All first aid protocols for a bleeding cat or dog have the same goal: to control the blood loss. While you can’t do much to stop internal bleeding on your own, you can control external bleeding from a wound or cut until you reach your veterinarian.
To help control external bleeding, place a compress of clean cloth or gauze directly over your dog or cat's wound. Apply firm but gentle pressure, and allow it to clot. If blood soaks through the compress, place a fresh compress on top of the old one and continue to apply firm but gentle pressure. If there are no compress materials available, a bare hand or finger will work.
If a severely bleeding wound is on the foot or leg, and there is no evidence of a broken bone, gently elevate the leg so that the wound is above the level of the heart, in additional to applying direct pressure. Elevation helps to reduce blood pressure in the injured area and slow the bleeding.
Pressure to the Supplying Artery
If external bleeding continues after you have used direct pressure and elevation, you can use a finger to place pressure over the main artery to the wound. For example, if there is severe bleeding on a rear leg, apply pressure to the femoral artery, located on the inside of the thigh. If there is severe bleeding on a front leg, apply pressure to the brachial artery, located on the inside of the upper front leg.
How do I help my cat or dog if they are bleeding internally?
Internal bleeding occurs inside the body and is less obvious than external bleeding fro a wound. There are, however, some external signs of internal bleeding, which can include any of the following:
- Pale to white gums gums appear pale to white
- Cool legs, ears or tail
- Coughing up blood or having difficulty breathing
- Unusually subdued; progressive weakness and sudden collapse
- Painful belly when it is touched