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Blood in the Chest in Dogs

Hemothorax in Dogs

Hemothorax in dogs can manifest suddenly (acute) or develop gradually (chronic) due to various causes. The term “hemothorax” refers to the accumulation of blood in the thoracic cavity, or chest cavity. There isn’t a specific age, gender, or breed of dog that shows a higher predisposition to this condition compared to others.

Symptoms and Types

Acute Onset:

  • Signs of reduced blood volume typically emerge before a significant amount of blood collects in the pleural space (the lining of the chest cavity).
  • Difficulty breathing or respiratory distress
  • Pale mucous membranes
  • Weakness leading to collapse
  • Weak, fast pulse
  • Dull breathing sounds

Associated with an underlying cause:

  • Trauma
  • Disorders related to blood clotting (coagulation)


    • Trauma
    • Bleeding originating from any artery or vein of the thoracic wall or spine, as well as from damaged heart, lungs, thymus (a small glandular organ situated behind the top of the breastbone), and diaphragm
    • Rodenticide Ingestion of rodenticides is a common cause
    • Herniated liver or spleen
    • Tumors
    • Coagulopathies (clotting disorders)
    • Clotting factor defects are more prevalent than platelet abnormalities
    • They may be congenital or acquired
  • Liver failure
  • Cholangiohepatitis (inflammation of the gallbladder and bile ducts) accompanied by concurrent small bowel disease
  • Lung lobe twisting
  • Acute thymic hemorrhage in young animals (i.e., thymus: gland at the base of the neck)


Your veterinarian will conduct a comprehensive physical examination of your dog, which includes a standard blood chemical profile, complete blood count, electrolyte panel, and urinalysis to rule out other potential causes of illness. Providing a detailed history of your dog’s health, symptom onset, and any possible preceding incidents is crucial. Clotting profiles will be conducted on a blood sample to confirm delayed clotting times.

The packed cell volume, hemoglobin, and platelet count will be lower than normal. The blood chemical profile might indicate signs of liver failure, leading to bleeding into bodily cavities due to the absence of produced clotting factors.

Fluid from the chest will be sampled and analyzed in a laboratory for comparison with peripheral blood. Platelets are often present in chest fluid samples.

X-rays are essential for visualizing the extent of fluid accumulation in the chest, lung lobe collapse, and any masses within the chest cavity. An ultrasound of the chest can reveal diseased conditions with even greater sensitivity than an x-ray image.


Patients afflicted with hemothorax should undergo inpatient treatment. Your dog needs fluid therapy to address blood loss into the chest cavity. Immediate correction is necessary if there is air outside the lungs in the chest cavity. If the lungs are bruised, ventilator support might be required. Oxygen therapy is often essential, and maintaining warmth is crucial to prevent shock. If your dog’s blood sample shows delayed clotting time, a plasma or blood transfusion may be necessary to restore clotting factors or provide red blood cells for oxygen transport. Severe or recurring thoracic hemorrhage may necessitate surgical exploration.

Living and Management

During your dog’s recovery from hemothorax, it’s advisable to refrain from administering aspirin or other over-the-counter medications that may reduce blood clotting. Your veterinarian will schedule follow-up appointments as needed to address your dog’s underlying condition. If your dog displays signs of hemothorax recurrence, promptly inform your veterinarian; surgery may be required to address recurring cases.

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