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Bruising in Dogs: Ecchymosis

Reviewed by Peter Kintzer DVM, DACVIM on Thursday, June 5, 2014
Posted February 18, 2014 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

Why don't dogs bruise like people do?

While trauma (e.g., being hit by a car) can often cause bruising in dogs, just playing or rough housing should not typically result in bruising. That’s because dogs have a thicker epidermis (skin) and coat that protects them from bruising more than it does for humans. As a result, when we see dog bruising, we worry about an underlying platelet problem or clotting problem.

Where might I notice bruising on my dog?

Bruising in dogs is never normal, and signs of pinpoint bruises (called petechiae) or larger bruises (ecchymosis) warrant an immediate trip to your veterinarian. Of course, your veterinarian will rule out more benign causes (such as hives or an allergic reaction that can look similar to a bruise).

Bruising is easiest to see on the gums of your dog, inside thigh, or on the belly (where there is less fur).

What other symptoms might appear with bruising on my dog?

If you notice any signs of bruising, you and your veterinarian will also need to make sure and rule out other clinical signs of a bleeding problem:

  • Blood in the back of the eye, giving a red hue to the globe
  • Bleeding from the nose
  • Small pin-point bruising of the skin (called petechiae)
  • Larger bruises (called ecchymosis)
  • Increased heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Abnormal bleeding from any orifice

Normally, the body’s ability to clot is complex and involves multiple stages and key components such as tissue factor, platelets, clotting factors, fibrin, and components that break down fibrin. In certain diseases, the body loses the ability to clot normally and uncontrollable, life-threatening bleeding (i.e., hypocoagulability) or abnormal clotting (e.g., hypercoagulability) may be seen.

What might cause bruising and what could it mean?

If your dog does have bruising, your veterinarian will ask important questions to rule out the following:

  • Any possible toxicity or poisoning that could have caused this (NSAIDs, aspirin, mouse or rat poison, etc.)
  • Any exposure to ticks
  • Any trauma
  • Any previous blood transfusions
  • Any previous surgeries or bleeding tendencies
  • Any history of bleeding in the parents or other pedigree

Answering these questions carefully and truthfully is important, as it will help determine if the bruising is from a congenital source (i.e., something your dog was born with or inherited) versus something that developed all of a sudden as an adult due to disease (acquired).

Congenital causes

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Justine has more than 18 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a board-certified emergency critical care veterinary specialist and toxicologist as well as the CEO and founder of Vetgirl. She is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.