Canine Hemorrhagic GastroEnteritis sounds scary, and is scary. If the signs and symptoms are not recognized and aggressive treatment are not taken immediately, its severe and sudden onset can be fatal.
The good news is, most dogs never get it. The bad news is, you don’t have much time should your dog get it. That is why it is important to know what to watch for, and what crucial actions you must take to save your dog’s life.
What is HGE?
Hemorrhagic GastroEnteritis occurs when the lining of the intestines leaks. What is happening is fluid, red blood cells, and protein seep out of the blood vessels and into the bowels, causing nausea, bloody vomit, and profuse and explosive bleeding from the rectum. Your dog may never get it. They may get it once in their life, or it may become a chronic condition.
It is not contagious.
Who Gets HGE?
Dogs of any age, breed or either gender can get it. Toy and smaller breeds, for example, Dachshunds, Yorkshire Terriers, Miniature Poodles and Miniature Schnauzers between 2 and 4 years of age seem to be the preponderance of animals treated.
What makes this disease so insidious is the cause is unknown and there is no warning. There are numerous theories including, diet, bacterial toxin, intestinal parasites, normal or lower blood protein levels, and possibly even stress. Studies are also showing it seems to occur more in the spring.
Signs and Symptoms
This disease is fierce and progresses rapidly! The symptoms create a horrific mess! A perfectly healthy dog today, can be barely conscious in a puddle of blood by morning, then in shock in a matter of hours, and dead within 24 hours. It is vital for you to know what to watch for.
Symptoms include bloody, often explosive diarrhea, bloody vomit, both with an exceptionally foul odor. Most people who have dealt with HGE will agree, comparing it to “raspberry jam” is the best way to describe it.
Other signs and symptoms include rank smelling flatulence, lethargy, drooling, lack of appetite, dehydration, listlessness, depression, shock, and possibly death.
Your veterinarian will begin by eliminating the most obvious. They include parvovirus, blockage, intestinal intussusceptions (telescoping one part of the bowel into another) intestinal volvulus (twisting of the intestines), gastrointestinal ulcers, corona virus, colitis, poison, hook worms, whip worms, leptospirosis, giardiasis, low platelets, coccidiosis, malabsorbtion, and cancer.
They will also note the absence of fever and no decrease in white blood cells, as well as normal or lower blood protein levels. Dogs with HGE commonly have high Pack Cell Volume (PCV), usually 60% or more, (normal is 35-55%). PCV is the measure of blood thickness caused by dehydration.
Your veterinarian will ask you if you would prefer conservative or aggressive treatment. Do not waste time with conservative treatment. Insist on aggressive treatment. Your dog will remain in the hospital, with no food or water by mouth for 1-4 days. It also includes IV treatments with potassium, an anti-inflammatory and antibiotics to re-hydrate, help avoid shock, and prevent sepsis.
Your veterinarian may also change the protein in their diet. That means if they were on a predominately beef diet, it may be changed to chicken and/or lamb and possibly cottage cheese.
Your dog’s chance of survival is very good, if identified early and treated aggressively. Keep in mind, approximately 10-15% do have the risk for more than one episode.
Bottom line – Canine Hemorrhagic GastroEnteritis can be fatal. Know the signs and symptoms, and take immediate and aggressive action. It could be the difference between life and death.