HGE: Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis in Dogs Explained

HGE or Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis is a disease that hits quickly and can be fatal if not treated immediately. Veterinarians and pet owners remain frustrated by Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis because symptoms appear rapidly and often without explanation. A perfectly healthy dog will be fine one moment and then seriously ill the next.

The problem with Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis is that there is no known cause. Experts believe there might be a link between this disease and a loss of beneficial bacteria in the intestines. What is known is that fluids leak from blood vessels within the intestines and exit through the rectum.

Common Symptoms of HGE

Most cases of this acute gastroenteritis begin rapidly with explosive bloody diarrhea. The dog may also experience:

  • Dehydration
  • Depression
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea and vomiting

In many cases, the dehydration occurs later after diarrhea and vomiting drain the body of fluids. Urgent treatment is required to keep the dog from slipping into shock.

Other illnesses share these common symptoms, so it's important to seek veterinary advice. Dogs with Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis will survive if they receive immediate treatment.

Breeds Commonly Affected by Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis

Most cases of HGE occur in young dogs, ages two to five. It is prevalent in toy and miniature dog breeds, particularly:

  • Dachshunds
  • Miniature poodles
  • Schnauzers
  • Yorkshire terriers

These dogs are generally high strung and easily stressed and that may be another factor in the disease.

How Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis Is Diagnosed

A veterinarian will test an animal with bloody diarrhea and vomiting for HGE by completing a number of tests. The most important is a blood test. Animals with Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis will have unusual packed cell volume (PCV) levels. A healthy dog's PCV is 37 to 55 percent. In a dog with Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis, the PCV rises over 60 percent.

Treatments Your Veterinarian Will Use to End HGE

Once Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis is diagnosed, intravenous fluids are critical to saving a dog's life. It's important to get the dog properly hydrated to prevent shock. Your animal's veterinarian will hook up an intravenous fluid therapy program that lasts until your dog's diarrhea and vomiting end.

Food is restricted for at least 24 hours or until the diarrhea ends. Medications to stop the nausea may be offered. Antibiotics to kill off any bacteria irritating the intestinal lining will be offered.

A dog remains in a veterinary hospital for several days. During this time, bland foods are offered in small portions to rebuild the dog's appetite and provide important nutrients. Many vets find plain canned pumpkin is very effective in stopping diarrhea, so that is often offered to dogs.

Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis Prevention

There really is no way to prevent Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis because no one knows why it occurs. It is important to recognize the symptoms and seek immediate veterinary care if your dog is showing symptoms of Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis.

Some experts believe that it can be beneficial to switch your dog's food following a case of Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis. There is that chance that a food allergy caused Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis. If your dog eats beef foods, switch to lamb or chicken. There is no guarantee that this will prevent future cases, however.