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Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE)

Updated: Oct 26, 2022

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 immediately.

The cause of HGE is idiopathic. However, it is thought to be brought on by any of the following:

  • Bacteria

  • Hypersensitivity to food

  • Toxins

  • Pancreatitis

  • Intestinal parasites

  • Stress and anxiety

  • Cancer

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, being aware of the symptoms can help you help your dog.

What are the symptoms:

  • Sudden onset

  • Frequent vomiting, which could include stomach bile, mucous, and foam

  • Bright red, bloody diarrhea

  • Abdominal pain and discomfort

  • Decreased appetite

  • Lethargy (fatigue)

  • Elevated pulse

  • Labored breathing.

  • Possibly a fever.


The symptoms of HGE are similar to other diseases and illnesses, such as parvovirus and coronavirus, so the process of elimination diagnoses HGE. Your vet will look for a sudden sickness onset and the trademark bright red diarrhea. She 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. Suppose your dog is dehydrated, which can happen quickly. In that case, possible hospitalization may occur, 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 vet 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.

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