Hemorrhoids don’t sound like they should be a problem for dogs, but unfortunately, canines can also suffer from many of the same ailments as humans. While hemorrhoids aren’t common in dogs, they aren’t unheard of either. Here is a helpful guide to dog hemorrhoids, including what they are, what you should look for, and what can be done for a dog with hemorrhoids.
What Are Hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are a collection of veins found in the anus and lower rectum that become swollen and inflamed, usually due to an increase of blood flow and pressure in the area. This increased blood flow or pressure is created from stress, straining, or pressure in the rectum (think constipation). Hemorrhoids can protrude either internally or externally and can cause a significant amount of pain and discomfort for your furry companion. You might think of hemorrhoids as being similar to varicose veins, although they can be much more painful.
Can Dogs Get Hemorrhoids?
The short answer is that yes, a dog can get hemorrhoids just like a person does. However, the condition is quite rare. This is mostly because of a dog’s anatomy. A dog’s gastrointestinal system is very different from humans and instead of being a vertical system (because humans walk upright), it’s a horizontal system since dogs are four-legged creatures. This means there is less gravitational pressure placed on the delicate blood vessels in a dog’s anus and rectum, which helps prevent the undue stress and strain that can often cause hemorrhoids. Dogs also do not sit on a toilet for long periods of time trying to go. However, it doesn’t mean hemorrhoids in a dog are beyond the realms of possibility.
If you suspect your dog may have developed hemorrhoids, it is important that you see your vet to give him prompt medical attention. In most cases, problems that an owner thinks may be due to hemorrhoids is often due to some other health condition that can present with similar symptoms. With a true case of hemorrhoids (if the veins are protruding), they can sometimes rupture and cause a lot of pain and even create blood in the dog’s stool, which is why prompt medical care is important to help relieve discomfort.
Causes of Hemorrhoids in Dogs
Again, in many cases what a person thinks could be hemorrhoids often turns out to be some other health condition with similar symptoms. However, if a dog does happen to get hemorrhoids, it may be due to poor diet and weak muscles. A poor diet (especially a diet too high in protein) can cause constipation and result in excessive straining when your dog tries to defecate. Combined with weak muscles, this can cause the blood vessels in your dog’s anal and rectal area to become swollen and uncomfortable.
Dogs can also get hemorrhoids if they sit a lot. This is more common in dogs that have a limb injury that forced them to be less mobile than normal. Some vets even think there could be a genetic factor to whether a dog develops hemorrhoids or not. Whatever the cause, hemorrhoids can be very painful, depending on their size and where they are located. They can also rupture and bleed, causing further pain and discomfort. Some dogs may develop hemorrhoids externally, just outside the rectal area beneath the skin. Other dogs may develop internal hemorrhoids, just beneath the lining of the anus inside the rectum. Both conditions and locations can be extremely aggravating for a dog, especially if left untreated.
Symptoms of Hemorrhoids in Dogs
One of the most noticeable symptoms of hemorrhoids in a dog is rectal itching. This may be evidenced by your dog scooting along the ground after they poop to itch and relieve his discomfort. Though this may be odd behavior, it’s an indicator that something in the dog’s rectal area is bothering them and should not be taken lightly. The other most common sign is bleeding. You may notice your dog appears to have blood in the stool or that he is bleeding when trying to pass a bowel movement. In cases of external hemorrhoids, you may see a visible protrusion of the swollen veins from your dog’s anus. Dogs can even get an infection from hemorrhoids, which only serves to compound the problem and make them even more painful, especially to touch.
Conditions that Can Mimic Symptoms of Hemorrhoids in Dogs
Sometimes dogs can suffer from other conditions that can mimic or resemble symptoms of hemorrhoids. That’s why it’s common for owners to think their dog has a hemorrhoid, but later find out their symptoms are related to some other health condition. Hemorrhoids are often mistaken for tumors of the anus, fissures, a prolapsed rectum, or (even more commonly) problems with their anal glands.
Problems with the Anal Glands
Every dog has scent glands located in their anus. There are two glands that fill with a liquid that used to help dogs in the wild mark their territory. Sometimes these glands and the fluid contained in them were secreted during moments of fear or anger.
For dogs today, these glands may not always empty themselves properly, which can cause them to become painful, inflamed, and in some cases rupture. A dog can suffer from secondary infections too related to their anal glands. Though the smell is never pleasant when the fluid in these sacs are released, you will know if your dog’s anal glands are the problem. This is because when the glands are infected or ruptured, the secretions and pus that ooze out of these glands will give off a noxious odor.
Problems with a Prolapsed Rectum
Dogs with a prolapsed rectum can resemble hemorrhoids because the inside of the dog’s rectum and anus protrude from the anal opening, which looks a lot like a hemorrhoid. You may notice your dog straining frequently when trying to have a bowel movement. It’s also common in dogs that suffer from frequent canine diarrhea, especially puppies. A complete rectal prolapse (as opposed to a partial prolapse) is considered an emergency and needs to be treated right away with surgery to avoid the tissue dying and causing permanent damage. If you see tissue protruding and it doesn’t retract, you can keep it moist by applying petroleum jelly until you get to the vet for treatment. A partial prolapse may only protrude during your dog’s bowel movement and then disappear. In that case, you can wait until morning to call the vet, but the problem should not be disregarded or left untreated. Otherwise, it could worsen and lead to a complete prolapse and require more invasive treatment.
Problems with Anal Tumors
Sometimes anal tumors are mistaken for hemorrhoids. Canine tumors can be related to dog cancer in the anal sac. It’s not common, but it is very serious and can be life-threatening. The mass may be visible around the anal or rectal area, and in some cases, masses may be found in the dog’s lymph nodes as well. Other symptoms of an anal tumor include constipation, lethargy, excessive thirst, and anorexia. Anal cancer is often malignant and aggressive, which makes the dog’s survival prognosis poor, although not impossible. Surgical intervention is usually required, with varying degrees of success.
Problems with an Anal Fissure
An anal fissure or perianal fistula is an opening in the tissue around a dog’s anus that can be extremely painful and cause bleeding as well as infection. Though any breed of dog can develop a fistula, it is seen most often in German Shepherds. A dog with an anal fissure may engage in behaviors like excessive licking, straining and constipation when attempting to poop, and he may secrete a discharge that smells unpleasant. It’s thought that factors like genetics, immune function, and allergic skin disease all play a role in contributing to anal fissures. A dog may require surgery if the problem persists and doesn’t heal with medication.
All of these conditions can be mistaken for a hemorrhoid, which is why it’s important to see a vet to get an accurate diagnosis of your dog’s symptoms before attempting any kind of treatment.
Treating for Hemorrhoids in Dogs
Because of the serious nature of other health conditions that can mimic symptoms of hemorrhoids, it’s very important that you get your dog checked by a vet before trying to treat hemorrhoids. Your vet can rule out the possibility of more serious problems and give you recommendations on treating your dog’s hemorrhoids successfully. Your vet should be able to discern if your dog has a hemorrhoid by visually seeing it or by a gentle probe of the dog’s anus and the inner lining of the rectum.
Treatments for dog hemorrhoids really depend on the severity of the situation and the type of hemorrhoids your dog is suffering from. In most cases, hemorrhoids can be treated successfully at home by modifying your dog’s diet to include more fiber and encouraging them to drink more water. Your vet should be able to recommend brands that are good for dogs with a hemorrhoid problem. Plenty of water is important to keep your dog’s bowels moving regularly, so if your dog doesn’t seem thirsty, try giving them more exercise and playtime outside. Not only will they drink more water, the extra movement will also keep your dog’s bowels moving and help him avoid painful constipation.
An easy way to create more bulk to your dog’s bowels is to add canned pumpkin to his current diet. It is rich in fiber and most dogs love it, and it doesn’t require you to change their food completely. Some pet owners may choose to add fresh veggies to their dog’s diet as well. It’s a good idea to stay away from feeding your dog anything dairy, as that can cause gas and constipation. Sometimes a vet will prescribe a stool softener too, in conjunction with a higher fiber diet. Your vet may also recommend other supplements to help support your dog’s health and address the problem of hemorrhoids at the root. You can also ask your vet for a dog nutrition checklist to ensure you are providing your furry friend with all the necessary vitamins and nutrients.
Other treatments for hemorrhoids may include using anti-steroidal creams for both internal and external hemorrhoids designed to help reduce swelling and inflammation and relieve irritation. If you prefer not to use topical creams, some pet owners go the natural route and use witch hazel to treat hemorrhoids, along with keeping the hemorrhoid coated in petroleum jelly before allowing the dog outside to go to the bathroom, as a way to help prevent infection. After your dog eliminates, you can clean the area again and use a commercial aloe vera gel to help soothe and promote healing. Avoid using natural aloe from the plant, as that can be toxic if your dog accidentally ingests it through licking.
If your vet suspects some underlying illness of the intestine could be causing the hemorrhoids, they may recommend medications for that as well. A big part of healing and treatment is keeping your dog from licking and biting the area, making the problem worse and contributing to infection. You can do this by making your dog wear the Elizabethan collar as a preventative measure until his hemorrhoid is fully healed.
Remember that it’s never beyond the realm of possibility for a dog to develop hemorrhoids. However, it’s not nearly as common as you might think. With the tips in this helpful guide, you should be able to more easily determine what’s going on with your dog so that you are equipped to make the best decision for his health and treatment.
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