Heavy Bleeding in Cats and Dogs: What It Is and What to Do

For any emergency involving a pet, they should be taken to a veterinarian immediately. In particular situations, such as when your cat or dog is bleeding heavily, you might need to provide first aid to your pet before you arrive at the vet's office. Today, our Austell vets explain more.

A cat or dog can experience bleeding either internally or externally. 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 diagnostic skills of a professional 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 large amount of blood lost quickly has severe repercussions, such as causing 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 be breathing rapidly and displaying pale, white gums. If left untreated, organ systems shut down and the dog or cat may suffer permanent damage or even experience fatal consequences.

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.

Direct Pressure

To help slow or stop external bleeding, place a compress of clean cloth or gauze directly over your pet's wound. Apply firm but gentle pressure, and allow the blood 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 clean compress materials available, a disinfected bare hand or finger will suffice.


If a severely bleeding wound is located on the animal's 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. Doing this in addition to applying direct pressure 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. If, for example, there is heavy bleeding from the wound 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 know if my cat or dog is bleeding internally?

Internal bleeding occurs out of sight inside the body and is less obvious than external bleeding caused by a wound. There are, however, some external signs of internal bleeding, which can include any of the following:

  • Pale to white gums (very pale pink to to white in appearance)
  • Legs, ears, or tails that are cool to the touch
  • Coughing up blood or having difficulty breathing
  • Unusually subdued; progressive weakness and sudden collapse 
  • Reacting with pain if belly is touched

If your pet is bleeding externally or you suspect any internal bleeding, contact our Austell Veterinarians and come to our clinic right away.