What is canine hemorrhagic gastroenteritis?
Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE) is an acute disorder of dogs characterized by vomiting and bloody diarrhea.
How is HGE diagnosed?
The diagnosis of HGE may be challenging and may ultimately require intestinal biopsies in persistent cases. Some possible causes of HGE include stomach or intestinal ulcers, trauma, gastrointestinal tumors or obstruction, foreign bodies, infectious diseases such as canine parvovirus infection and coagulation disorders. Evaluation usually requires a complete blood count (CBC), biochemical analysis of the blood, urinalysis, x-rays, coagulation or clotting tests, fecal evaluation, and ultrasound or endoscopic examination of the gastrointestinal tract.
HGE is most common in small breed dogs. Young Miniature French poodles, Miniature schnauzers, and Yorkshire terriers seem to be more commonly affected. The packed cell volume or hematocrit is often above 60% in dogs with HGE. Most normal dogs have a hematocrit of 37-55%. The elevated hematocrit provides an important clue that the patient may have HGE. Blood bicarbonate levels, blood pH levels and serum chemistries also give indicators that HGE may be present. Diagnosis is often a process of eliminating other causes of bloody stools and gastrointestinal distress.
What causes it?
The exact cause of HGE remains unknown (called idiopathic). It may be related to dietary indiscretion, immune-mediated disease, toxins or pancreatitis.
How is it treated?
"Dogs with HGE will appear severely ill and, if left untreated, may die."
Dogs with HGE will appear severely ill and, if left untreated, may die. In most cases, the disorder appears to run its course in a few days if the dog is given appropriate supportive care. Intravenous fluid therapy with potassium supplementation provides the foundation of HGE therapy. Subcutaneous fluids (given under the skin) are not usually considered adequate to meet the significant fluid requirements of most dogs with HGE.
If intravenous fluid therapy is not given, the dog's red blood count will continue to elevate due to dehydration. In this situation, the dog is at risk for a potentially fatal clotting disorder called disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC). Once DIC has begun, it is often irreversible and may result in death.
Additional therapy for HGE may include antibiotics, anti-ulcer medications and corticosteroids.