HGE in Dogs | Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

HGE in Dogs | Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

Author WDF Staff | Last updated: Jun 09 2023


Worrying about your dog’s health is simply a part of being a dog owner. The first few weeks with a puppy are constantly watching them and wondering if everything is alright. Most health problems will develop slowly and cause specific symptoms as the problem progresses.

However, conditions like HGE in dogs come abruptly and without any prior symptoms. All of us who face this issue in our dogs will undoubtedly be extremely worried. You should take your dog immediately to the vet. In the meantime, here are a few most important things you’d want to know about HGE in dogs.

What is HGE in dogs?

HGE in dogs, or hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, is an acute dog disorder characterized by vomiting and bloody diarrhea. Most cases are abrupt and happen to dogs that seem completely fine. It is very disturbing for dog owners to see blood in their dog’s stools, so they should make sure to contact their vet as soon as possible.

dog on ground

How can I know if my dog has HGE?

The clearest sign a dog has HGE is a disturbingly large volume of bloody diarrhea. The second clear sign will be bloody vomit, which may or may not occur. This is a disease that mainly affects small and toy breeds. Some of the most commonly affected breeds are;

  • Dachshund
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Poodle
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Pekingese

VET TIP: The breeds mentioned above are most commonly affected. However, that doesn’t mean other breeds are safe from HGE. This condition can affect dogs of all ages, breeds, or sizes.

Symptoms of HGE in dogs

As we already mentioned, this condition usually comes abruptly and without any symptoms. However, different issues can cause bloody stool or bloody vomit. HGE can be accompanied by other symptoms. Vets will analyze those symptoms to diagnose this disorder, so you should try to remember all symptoms your dog is exhibiting. The most common symptoms of HGE in dogs are;

  • Decreased or complete loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Large volume of bloody diarrhea
  • Vomit with or without blood

Keep in mind that even if your dog doesn’t exhibit all of these symptoms doesn’t mean they might not have HGE. This disorder can only include bloody diarrhea.

dog profile

What causes HGE in dogs?

This is one of the worst things about HGE in dogs - the exact cause is still a mystery. Even with all the available veterinary medicine advancements, studies, and technology, we are still unsure of what exactly causes this disorder.

There are a few things vets believe will contribute to the development of the disorder, like pancreatitis, dietary indiscretions, anxiety, stress, toxins, immune-mediated disease, or even hyperactivity. There are recent studies that even suggest HGE might be an allergic reaction. Other causes vets and researchers believe might cause or contribute to this disorder are;

Keep in mind that we are still unsure of the exact cause.

How dangerous is HGE?

Unfortunately, HGE in dogs is very dangerous. It is considered a medical emergency and if left untreated, can quickly become fatal. HGE can kill dogs in two ways. It can quickly lead to low blood sugar or hypoglycemia, which can lead to seizures so violent they can kill a dog.

The second possibility is a hypovolemic shock. The fluid levels in the dog’s cardiovascular system drop, and the blood becomes very thick. That makes it impossible to flow as it should, which is fatal. If hypovolemic shock happens, it is often irreversible, and the dog cannot be saved.

bernese dog in woods

How do vets diagnose HGE?

Diagnosing it can be problematic since we do not know what causes this disorder. To reach the correct conclusion and diagnose HGE, vets mostly have to eliminate other possible causes of bloody diarrhea or vomiting. They can order biochemical analysis of the blood, X-rays, complete blood count, coagulation tests, endoscopic examination of the gastrointestinal tract, and fecal evaluation. 

When vets notice a dog has a disproportion of red blood cells, usually more than 60%, it can signify HGE. The vet will also test the dog’s blood bicarbonate levels, serum chemistries, and blood pH levels. All of these things can point to HGE.

How can HGE be treated?

The main part of treating HGE in dogs is based on giving supportive care to the affected dog. If this disorder is left untreated, it will become fatal in many cases. The dog with HGE will appear incredibly sick, and vets will first give the dog an IV. The affected dog needs to have their fluids replaced since a lot of them leave their body through vomiting and diarrhea. The IV will include potassium and electrolyte supplementation.

World Dog Finder team

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