Hemorrhagic GastroEnteritis. Even the name sounds scary. Indeed, the syndrome is a dangerous one.
HGE, as it is commonly called, is a condition most commonly seen in dogs. Its clinical signs include loss of appetite, vomiting, fever, and the hallmark of the condition, bloody diarrhea. Often the phone caller says, “My dog is passing pure blood.”
If we ask the pet owner to try to bring in a stool sample, the reply is likely to be, “There is no stool, there is only blood.”
HGE has no one specific cause. Stress is a common ingredient in most cases, however.
“Stress?” you say. “My dog does nothing but lie around all day, following me from place to place, sleep, chase the occasional squirrel, then go back to sleep again wherever I am. What stress does he have?”
“Wherever I am” may be the key.
Often the dogs most likely to suffer from HGE are attached like a fifth limb to their owners. Let there be any kind of separation and the reaction is likely to be HGE, secondary to the stress of that separation.
The classic trigger is the suitcase. Highly attached dogs see a suitcase come out of the closet and they know they are about to be alone.
These patients are not always typical separation anxiety pets. Those pets may react adversely, usually with destructive behavior, upon any departure of their loved ones: leaving for work, a short trip to the store, going to see the neighbors.
HGE is certainly not the only cause of bloody diarrhea in dogs. Parvovirus, Hookworms, dietary indiscretion and Clostridial overgrowth are some other common causes your veterinarian will consider.
Some pets die from Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis, but death is rare in cases treated early. IV fluids, antibiotics and corticosteroids are the mainstays of treatment. Some patients may require colloidal support to improve the osmolarity of the bloodstream, and blood transfusions may be needed in severe cases.
Some patients may require hospitalization, while milder cases may be treated as outpatients.
Prevention is far better than treatment. Acclimate your pet to departure. If you can identify a trigger, such as the appearance of suitcases, take the suitcases out of the closet when your dog is not around. If he routinely boards when you leave town, take him to the boarding facility before beginning your packing.
When you return from your trip, try leaving the suitcases out for a few days, then put them in and out of the closet several times a day. Once he sees that the suitcases (or other trigger) are not always associated with your departure, he may come to accept their appearance as a less traumatic event.
Bloody diarrhea is a medical emergency, and your pet’s doctor will always want to see your pet within a few hours, at most, of its arrival.