Treating Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE) in Dogs with Fluid Therapy

Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE) is a condition in dogs that produces explosive, bloody diarrhea. This disease is only seen in canines.

Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis Explained

The cause of HGE is unknown. Veterinarians suspect it may be caused by bacteria that shocks and poisons a dog's immune system by destroying the intestinal lining, or causes an infection.

HGE affects both male and female dogs that are about 2 to 4 years old and it cannot be prevented. Most dogs that develop HGE had been in good physical condition before the onset of the disease and may not have had any other known gastrointestinal diseases. It is more common to see this disease in dogs that live in the city or urban areas than dogs living in rural areas or in the country. Also, bigger dog breeds tend to not suffer from HGE. The smaller dog breeds known to get HGE the most include miniature poodles, Yorkshire terriers, schnauzers and dachshunds.

Symptoms of Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis

Typically there are no symptoms leading up to the sudden onset of HGE. A dog's explosive diarrhea may be accompanied by vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite and depression. These symptoms can become severe enough to cause dehydration and shock in a dog, and can even lead to death in extreme cases.

Diagnosing Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis

A veterinarian will conduct a complete physical exam on a dog he suspects to have HGE. A blood sample will be drawn for a complete blood count and to analyze its clotting properties, a urinalysis will be conducted, and a fecal examination will be performed to see if any bacteria are present. A vet will also test for the parvo virus and run a biochemical profile. It is also recommended that x-rays be taken of a dog's abdomen to make sure he did not ingest a foreign object.

Treating Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis with Fluid Therapy

When a dog is diagnosed with HGE, hospitalization and fluid therapy are almost always necessary as a hospital visit alone will not suffice to help stabilize a dog. A vet will administer subcutaneous fluids that have been supplemented with potassium chloride. A dog will need veterinary assistance in order to be well hydrated and regain an appropriate balance of electrolytes. A course of antibiotics will also be prescribed to the dog to help treat the bacteria or any infection that could become septic. A dog will continue to receive fluids through an IV until his vomiting has stopped and the stool no longer has blood in it. During the time of recovery, a dog is not to drink or eat anything so he does not continue to vomit or have diarrhea.

When a veterinarian discharges a dog after an HGE episode, the dog can have bland foods reintroduced to him. After a couple of weeks of eating bland foods, a dog can slowly begin to eat his regular dog food.

The prognosis for a dog with HGE is good with aggressive veterinary care. It usually takes a few days for a dog to recover from an episode relating to HGE, which can reoccur throughout a dog's life.