What Is Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE) in Dogs?

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen Claussen, DVM on December 05, 2021
3 min read

If your dog has bloody diarrhea with a jelly-like consistency, they may have hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. Other signs of the condition include lethargy and vomiting.

Diarrhea is one of the most common reasons pet parents take their furry friends to the vet. But not every case of diarrhea requires a visit to the vet. If your dog is doing regular physical activity, is eating fine, and appears bright, you don't necessarily have to take them to a vet. 

But if the symptoms become severe or last beyond 24 hours, you should schedule a visit to the vet. 

Because hemorrhagic gastroenteritis dehydrates your dog rapidly, it's essential to seek medical attention right away. Pets with HGE may become extremely sick in just 12 hours. If proper treatment is not provided, they may go into shock, or even die. 

HGE is diarrhea in dogs characterized by a jelly-like consistency and a large amount of black or red blood. The condition affects dogs more than cats. 

All dogs are prone to developing HGE, regardless of their age, size, and breed. But small dogs are at a higher risk. Dogs who have a medical history of stomach sensitivity are also more likely to experience HGE frequently. 

HGE is an idiopathic disease, which means its exact cause is not known.

Most veterinary clinics report higher instances of HGE during the holiday season. It's probably due to the easy availability of human treats during that time of the year, because your friends and family are more likely to feed your pet something from the table. 

If your dog has a habit of raiding leftovers in the kitchen or getting into the trash can, they are at a high risk of developing the condition. 

HGE may also be a result of toxins or immune-mediated diseases, which are illnesses caused due to disturbances in the immune system. In some cases, hyperactivity, anxiety, and stress may contribute to your pet's condition. 

Some other causes of HGE may be: 

  • Trauma 
  • Foreign bodies 
  • Intestinal parasites and bacteria
  • Coagulation disorder, a condition in which the blood does not clot properly 
  • Ulcers in the stomach or intestine 

Although it's hard to point to a specific cause of HGE in dogs, it's essential to know that dogs who are affected once may be more likely to experience the condition in the future. 

Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis in dogs progresses rapidly, so you'll start seeing the symptoms in your dog quickly, including:

  • Diarrhea containing gut lining and blood 
  • Vomiting (may also contain blood)
  • Pale gums 
  • Reduced appetite
  • Low energy levels or lethargy 

The health of dogs with HGE deteriorates quickly. You should take your dog to a vet right away if they are exhibiting the symptoms of HGE.

Your vet will diagnose your dog with HGE by conducting a packed cell volume (PCV) blood test. If the test results show a level higher than 55%, it's a sign of concern. The normal level of the PCV/HCT is 37% to 55%. 

The vet may also perform other diagnostic tests, such as fecal testing and X-rays, to rule out other conditions that cause similar symptoms. These include pancreatitis and the parvovirus.

Dogs with HGE often have to spend a day at the hospital. The vet will administer large amounts of fluids to your dog through an intravenous catheter. Your canine friend will also be given antibiotics and medications to prevent nausea. 

After performing fluid therapy, which is the transfer of fluids to your dog's body, the vet will monitor your dog's PCV and electrolyte levels. 

Intravenous fluid therapy is essential in the treatment of dogs with HGE. If your dog is not given aggressive fluid therapy, they will become more dehydrated, which can lead to an increasing PCV and eventually a thickening of the blood. Over time, the blood could become so thick that its flow slows down in the blood vessels. 

If the disease progresses to this stage, your dog may develop disseminated intravascular coagulation. This is a clotting disorder that could potentially be fatal because it's often impossible to reverse. If your dog is showing symptoms of HGE, you should take them to a vet right away.