Q: My dog Chloe vomited and then the next morning she started having huge amounts of diarrhea. I let her out early in the backyard when it was still dark outside, so it wasn’t until it got light that I noticed she was pooping pure blood.
I rushed her to her vet’s office. They put her on intravenous fluids, did X-rays, and blood tests, and gave her lots of medication. She was hospitalized for three days and so weak. They told me it was HGE. I feed her a special diet now called i/d Low Fat. What is this? Will she get it again? She almost died.
A: I am so sorry to hear about Chloe’s sickness. I hope she is doing better.
HGE stands for hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. It is a condition that comes on suddenly and starts with vomiting in 50 percent of patients. The diarrhea is generally severe and most dogs will have accidents in the house. The diarrhea becomes bloody and may even look like pure blood. The dog gets extremely dehydrated and may go into shock or even die if this is not treated quickly.
Your veterinarian will need to do blood testing to diagnose this condition. The test most commonly used to sort this out is a PCV (packed cell volume) and TP (total protein). When the PCV is high and the TP is low, it is likely to be hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. An X-ray is done to make sure that a foreign body or blockage is not causing the issue.
Most cases of HGE are thought to be caused by a bacteria called Clostridium perfringens Type A. It produces two toxins: NET E and NET F. These toxins damage the lining of the intestine and cause massive fluid loss and dehydration. This is a different Clostridium than the usual one that can cause a milder diarrhea.
Most dogs are hospitalized for one to three days on IV fluids and medications for nausea and pain.
Antibiotics are controversial and may or may not be needed depending on each case. Acid reducers and stomach protectants are started to help heal the ulcers. A special diet low in fat is started once the dog is hydrated and can tolerate food.
The good news is that your dog can bounce back and lead a very healthy life. There are seldom long-term effects from this illness.
Dr. Susan M. Baker received her degree at the University of Florida in 1985 and practices veterinary medicine in Palm Beach County, Florida.