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A Guide to Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis in Older German Shepherds

Updated: May 6

Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE) is a sudden and severe illness that can affect dogs of all ages and breeds, although it is more common in small, young dogs. The main symptoms of HGE include frequent vomiting and bright red, bloody diarrhea. While HGE is not considered contagious, dogs in the same household may be at risk of developing it concurrently. Prompt treatment is crucial as HGE can be fatal if left untreated. Keep an eye out for these symptoms and seek immediate veterinary care if you suspect your dog may have HGE.

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, experienced 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 Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE) in dogs should be initiated promptly to prevent rapid deterioration, as the condition can lead to severe dehydration within 24 hours. If your dog shows signs of dehydration, hospitalization may be necessary. Intravenous fluid therapy with potassium and electrolyte supplementation is commonly administered to counteract dehydration and prevent the development of Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation (DIC), a life-threatening clotting disorder that can result from thickening and slowing of the blood. It is crucial for pet owners to seek immediate veterinary care upon noticing symptoms of HGE in their dog to ensure timely treatment and a better prognosis.

If your dog is at risk of dehydration, a veterinarian may administer subcutaneous fluids to help prevent this condition. They may also prescribe anti-nausea medication like Cerenia to manage symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. Additionally, medications such as metronidazole, ampicillin, or enrofloxacin might be recommended to treat any intestinal infections that could be present.

Resting is crucial for recovery, so it's important to ensure your dog gets plenty of rest and withholds food for at least 24 hours. Once the resting period is over, a bland diet is typically introduced gradually back into their meals to aid in digestion and minimize gastrointestinal upset. Following these steps can help your furry friend recover from digestive issues and regain their strength and health.

In conclusion, understanding the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment options for hemorrhagic gastroenteritis in older German Shepherds is essential for dog owners and veterinarians alike. Early recognition and prompt intervention can significantly improve the prognosis for affected dogs. Regular veterinary check-ups, a balanced diet, and stress management strategies are important preventive measures to reduce the risk of this serious condition. By staying informed and proactive in caring for their older German Shepherds, dog owners can help ensure a longer, healthier life for their beloved companions. Stay vigilant and prioritize your dog's health to safeguard against the potential risks associated with hemorrhagic gastroenteritis.


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