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Health & Wellness

What's HGE in dogs?

The potential cause behind your dog’s bloody diarrhea and vomit.

When your dog has a tinge of blood in their diarrhea or vomit, it’s best to call your veterinarian to make sure they're OK. However, if you notice an extreme amount of blood in their stool or throw up and they're showing odd symptoms, like continually getting sick, they probably need to go to the pet emergency room

A surge of blood in dogs' vomit or diarrhea is sometimes caused by hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE), a severe and slightly misunderstood condition in the veterinary community. But, Fetch's on-staff veterinarian, Dr. Emily Singler, VMD, shares everything she knows about HGE, including the symptoms and treatment options. 

What is HGE in dogs? 

You might also hear HGE be called acute hemorrhagic diarrhea syndrome (AHDS). And according to Dr. Singler, it's a gastrointestinal (GI) condition that causes severe amounts of blood in dogs' vomit or stool. 

"HGE is more common in younger adult dogs, with around 5 years of age being the average," Dr. Singler adds. 

What causes HGE in dogs? 

Unfortunately, the exact cause of HGE in dogs isn't known. "One of the suspected causes is a bacteria called Clostridium perfringens type A," Dr. Singler says. It's suspected that the bacteria release a toxin that severely impacts the functions of the GI tract.

Other possible causes of HGE in dogs include food allergies, toxin exposure, intestinal parasites, immune-mediated diseases, stress, cancer and trauma. Unfortunately, the list of suspected culprits is long, so prevention of HGE in dogs isn't always possible.

While it won't prevent all cases of HGE, Dr. Singler recommends staying up to date on your dog's vaccinations and parasite preventatives, avoiding sudden diet changes and keeping table scraps, medications and other toxic substances out of reach of your dog.

RELATED: Why is my dog throwing up yellow?

Symptoms of HGE in dogs

Bloody diarrhea and vomit isn't the only telltale sign of HGE. If you spot blood in their excretions, look out for additional signs like a decreased appetite, lethargy and chronic diarrhea (which is watery or jelly-like) and vomiting episodes with fresh blood. 

And not all bloody diarrhea in dogs points to HGE, Dr. Singler says. Bloody diarrhea in dogs can also signify severe other GI conditions, like colitis (or when the colon is inflamed), parvovirus or anal gland disease.

"These conditions can be differentiated from HGE by your vet based on physical exam, bloodwork and other tests," Dr. Singler says.

Without the proper care, HGE in dogs (and other serious GI conditions) can result in dehydration, multiple organ failures and, in some cases, be fatal. So, it's important to see your vet immediately at the first sign of blood in your dog's stool or vomit. 

Is HGE in dogs contagious?

HGE isn't known to be contagious, but because the underlying causes aren't fully understood, and the symptoms can mimic other diseases (including parvovirus) it's recommended to keep symptomatic pets separated from healthy ones.

What are the treatment options for HGE in dogs?

Most cases of HGE require in-hospital care. Your vet might administer intravenous fluids, medication for nausea and vomiting, pain medication and provide a bland diet.

The good news is that most pups make a full recovery from HGE when treated promptly and appropriately. "If dogs are treated aggressively, they generally start to feel a lot better within 2 days," Dr. Singler shares. "Some dogs may take longer to recover and need to stay in the hospital longer."

Can I treat HGE in dogs at home?

Don't try to treat HGE, or any condition, at home without your veterinarian's approval. If your dog is repeatedly vomiting or has diarrhea, the best thing to do is call your vet or go to an emergency clinic immediately, Dr. Singler recommends. 

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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