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Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE)

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE) is a disease syndrome seen in dogs, characterized by the acute (sudden) onset of bloody diarrhea, usually explosive, accompanied by high packed cell volumes (red blood cells).

Causes

The true cause of HGE is unknown but there are some suspected causes.

  • Endotoxic shock, or poisons produced from bacteria causing shock
  • Immune mediated destruction of the intestinal lining
  • Infectious agents, possibly Clostridium

    Predisposing Factors

    This is a syndrome seen in dogs only. All breeds can be affected, although the incidence is greater in small breed dogs. Schnauzers, Dachshund, Yorkshire terriers, and miniature poodles are the most commonly affected.

    HGE usually occurs in adult dogs, with the mean age of 5 years, and there is no sex predilection. HGE is most often seen in city dogs, or dogs housed in urban areas.

    What to Watch For

  • Acute vomiting
  • Anorexia
  • Depression
  • Bloody diarrhea

    Clinical signs are variable in both the course and severity of the disease. The onset of HGE is usually very quick/immediate, with no previous warning signs or health problems reported in the affected individuals. Signs progress rapidly and become severe within a few hours. Signs of shock, collapse, and sudden death have been reported.

    Diagnosis

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Biochemical profile
  • Urinalysis
  • Fecal examination
  • Elisa for parvovirus
  • Bacteria cultures and cytology of the stool
  • Coagulogram, or clotting profile
  • Abdominal radiographs (X-rays) should be obtained to eliminate a foreign body or other disease process

    Treatment

    Patients suspected of having HGE should be hospitalized and treated aggressively because clinical deterioration is often rapid and can be fatal. Treatment includes:

  • Aggressive fluid therapy is the mainstay of therapy.
  • Antibiotics are recommended in most cases.
  • The patient should be kept off food and water until signs are clearly resolving, and the PCV is within normal range. A bland, easy to digest diet should be given for several days, and then your pet can be weaned back to a regular diet if his condition has improved.

    Home Care and Prevention

    The prognosis for patients with HGE is excellent if it is caught early and treated aggressively. If you suspect your pet may have HGE, seek veterinary attention immediately. Administer all medication and recommended diet as directed by your veterinarian.

    Because there is no known cause of the syndrome, there are no preventative measures that can be recommended in these patients.

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