It is not uncommon for dogs to have bloody stools when they have diarrhea. Generally, this is not a serious problem – dogs tend to recover on their own with little intervention. However, there is one exception – hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, or HGE.
Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis is a potentially life-threatening disease that causes profuse watery, bloody diarrhea. Typically, affected dogs seem perfectly healthy until they suddenly start having diarrhea. Nausea often accompanies the diarrhea, so vomiting and inappetence may also be present.
The exact cause of HGE is currently unknown. We do know that young, small breed dogs are the most commonly affected, but any dog can come down with HGE. Hyperactive dogs and those that are easily stressed may be more commonly affected as well. Luckily, cats are not affected by HGE.
What makes HGE so dangerous is its potential to cause extreme dehydration. Affected dogs will have such watery diarrhea that they quickly become dehydrated. Add in the fact that they may also be vomiting and refusing water, and the situation gets worse. Without treatment, dogs can easily go into shock and succumb.
There are no specific tests for HGE, but your veterinarian can run a few tests to help guide him or her toward a diagnosis. A packed cell volume (PCV or hematocrit) can usually be run in your clinic, and shows the percentage of red blood cells in your pet’s blood. Dogs with HGE will have a very high PCV due to dehydration, and their blood protein levels will be low.
A high PCV and low protein level in a dog with sudden onset bloody diarrhea points to a diagnosis of HGE. Generally, dogs will be hospitalized for a few days for treatment, which centers on fluid replacement through the use of IV fluids. Anti-nausea medications and antibiotics are also often given, as is other supportive care as needed. Typically, dogs will be held off of food until they’re feeling better.
Dogs with HGE feel terrible, but luckily with treatment they usually are back to normal in no time. Without treatment, HGE can be deadly. Because conditions like HGE can pop up out of nowhere – and hospitalization for several days quickly becomes expensive – pet health insurance is a good idea for any pet. It can help take the worry out of finances so you can focus on your pet’s recovery.
Has your furry family member experienced a bout of HGE? Share your experience in the comments below.