Dogs with Bloody Diarrhea: Understanding Hemorrhagic GastroEnteritis (HGE)

Have you ever seen your furry friend experience a bout of bloody diarrhea that looks like raspberry jelly? It’s a condition that can be quite alarming for dog owners. While it can range from mild to life-threatening, it’s essential to understand what’s happening. In this article, we’ll explore the syndrome known as Hemorrhagic GastroEnteritis (HGE) and shed light on its causes and treatment.

What is HGE?

HGE, short for Hemorrhagic GastroEnteritis, is a syndrome that results in inflammation of the stomach and intestines. The primary symptom is a diarrhea that resembles pure blood, often described as bright red and gelatinous, giving it the appearance of raspberry jelly. While it may ruin your appetite, it’s crucial to stay calm and understand what’s going on.

Unraveling the Mystery

As a concerned dog owner, it’s natural to worry if your dog is bleeding internally due to the bloody mess. However, HGE is caused by extremely distressed intestines and not internal bleeding. The condition can occur suddenly, and sometimes, it’s challenging to pinpoint the exact cause. Stressful situations like visitors, boarding, or moving can trigger HGE, while dietary indiscretion, such as eating something unsavory or getting into the trash, can also be a culprit.

Understanding the Paradox

Interestingly, despite the profuse bleeding, dogs with HGE are never anemic, which refers to having a low number of red blood cells. Although your veterinarian may want to perform blood tests, they are not expecting to find anemia. HGE causes severe dehydration, reducing the fluid available for red blood cells to float in. Consequently, the number of red blood cells remains the same, but the amount of fluid decreases, leading to a rise in the percentage of red blood cells in the bloodstream.

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Diagnosis and Treatment

When you bring your furry friend to the veterinary clinic, your veterinarian may collect a fresh stool sample for examination. Based on the appearance of the stool, veterinarians can identify HGE. To confirm the diagnosis, they may measure the hematocrit, which is the percentage of red blood cells in the blood. Typically, a hematocrit reading of over 55% indicates HGE, but even a reading of 52% can prompt the diagnosis if caught early.

Hydration is Key

Treating HGE primarily involves combating dehydration. For dogs with hematocrit readings in the low to mid-50% range and exhibiting normal activity levels, sub-cutaneous fluids administered under the skin can help rehydrate them. In more severe cases where dogs are lethargic, have hematocrit readings in the 60s, or experience vomiting, hospitalization with intravenous (IV) fluids becomes necessary. Antibiotics, either in oral form or via IV, are also prescribed to target the bacteria causing the diarrhea. Additionally, a prescription diet that is easily digestible is often recommended to give the stomach and intestines some respite.

Recovery and Contagion

With proper treatment, most dogs recover well from HGE. However, particularly severe cases with hematocrit readings well into the 60s require close attention. Hospitalization increases their chances of recovery and helps them feel better sooner. The good news is that HGE is typically not considered contagious, so there is usually no risk to other dogs. Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that there can be numerous potential causes for HGE, and sometimes the initial trigger remains unknown. If multiple dogs in your household consume the same questionable item, they could both develop HGE.

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So, if you ever notice your dog experiencing this unique type of diarrhea, it’s crucial to seek veterinary assistance right away. Knowing about HGE and discussing your dog’s hematocrit level with your veterinarian will undoubtedly make an impression. Remember, prompt attention and treatment are key to ensuring your furry friend’s well-being.

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