Diagnosing Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE) in Dogs

Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE) is a common syndrome seen in dogs of all ages, breeds and genders. Because of its sudden onset and severity, prompt and aggressive treatment is essential to avoid fatalities.

Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis

HGE is brought on by the leaking of blood and proteins into a dog's intestinal track. HGE's underlying cause is unknown, although there are many theories on the matter such as bacterial infections, stress, and hypersensitivity to certain foods. It's seen more commonly in smaller breeds, such as Toy Poodles or Miniature Schnauzers, and in dogs between the ages of two and five.

Symptoms of Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis

HGE symptoms to keep an eye out for include:

  •  Vomiting
  •  Low blood volume (hypovolemia)
  •  High hematocrit (hemoconcentration)
  •  Shock

Because HGE shows up so rapidly in otherwise healthy dogs, it's imperative to take your dog to the vet if you notice any of the above symptoms. Left untreated, your pet can go into shock and die within twenty-four hours.

Common Misdiagnoses

Symptoms of HGE are alarmingly similar to those seen in dogs with Parvovirus. Unlike Parvo, however, HGE lacks a fever or low white blood cell count.

Other conditions or disorders with similar symptoms can include, but are not limited to, Pancreatitis, toxins due to consumption of poisonous household products, kidney failure, or intestinal blockages.

To determine whether your dog suffers from HGE, Parvo or another causes of intestinal bleeding, your vet will need to perform some tests.

Treatment of Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis

The best thing any owner can do for their dog suffering from the above symptoms is to take them immediately to the vet. Diarrhea will cause severe dehydration; if your dog does not receive prompt fluids intravenously, other problems can crop up in addition to HGE that are much more likely to be irreversible.

Aside from tests to rule out the possibility of other ailments, treatment will depend on your pet's condition. Dogs are not given food or water until the vomiting and diarrhea have ceased; instead fluids will be administered intravenously, at very high doses if your dog has gone into shock. If too much blood has been lost, a blood transfusion might also be in order. Oftentimes, antibiotics will be administered to help battle any bacteria in the intestinal track. If properly treated, HGE symptoms should start to clear up after about twenty-four hours. Symptoms extending beyond forty-eight hours should be looked at closer to determine if there is another cause.

After returning home, your dog will likely need a very bland, easy diet so as not to stress out his or her digestive track. All medication sent home with you by your veterinarian should be administered as instructed.

If treatment is received quickly and administered appropriately, fatalities for HGE are very low. About ten percent of dogs who survive HGE have one or more re-occurrences.