Updated: Jan 2, 2020
Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE) is an acute, sudden illness in dogs of all ages, gender, and breeds, but it is most commonly seen in small (toy breed), young dogs. The characteristic symptoms are severe, frequent vomiting, and bright red, bloody diarrhea. HGE is not thought to be contagious, but dogs who reside in the same household may come down with it at or around the same time. When it comes to HGE, there is no time for guesswork because it can be fatal if not treated right away.
The cause of HGE is idiopathic. However, it is thought to be brought on by any of the following:
Hypersensitivity to food
Stress and anxiety
Oddly enough, certain areas of the country like the northeastern part of the United States, have at times, experience outbreaks of HGE. For instance, in the springtime, as the snow is melting Veterinarians will see an uptick of HGE in their practice. Regardless of the cause, dogs who have experienced HGE are prone to it again in the future. Therefore, even though there are no real preventative measures to take, being aware of the symptoms can help you help your dog.
What are the symptoms:
Frequent vomiting which could include stomach bile, mucous and/or foam
Bright red, bloody diarrhea
Abdominal pain and discomfort
Possibly a fever.
The symptoms of HGE are similar to other diseases and illnesses, such as parvovirus and coronavirus, so HGE is diagnosed by process of elimination. What your Vet will be looking for is a sudden onset of sickness and the trademark bright red diarrhea. Your veterinarian should also perform a simple blood test called a PCV, or packed cell volume, or hematocrit. Typical PCV values for a dog range from 37% to 55%, so if a PCV is higher than 55% with a low to normal protein count, that is generally considered HGE.
Treatment for HGE must begin ASAP because your dog could decline significantly within 24 hours. If your dog is dehydrated, which can happen quickly, then possible hospitalization may take place, so intravenous fluid therapy with potassium and electrolyte supplementation can be given to prevent Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation (DIC). DIC is a potentially fatal clotting disorder that takes place when the blood thickens and slows.
At the very least, if your dog is susceptible to dehydration, your Veterinary doctor may administer subcutaneous fluids right between their shoulder blades to help the dog stave off dehydration. He will also prescribe anti-nausea medication such as Cerenia to reduce and eliminate vomiting and diarrhea, as well as medications such as metronidazole, ampicillin, or enrofloxacin, to address other potential intestinal infections.
Finally, your dog will need lots of rest and withholding of food for a minimum of 24 hours, and then reintroducing your dog to a bland diet is usually prescribed.