What are the Symptoms of HGE?
Haemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE) is a condition that affects dogs and is characterised by the rapid onset of bloody diarrhoea and vomiting. This is due to the damage and subsequent death of cells lining the intestinal wall. Other clinical signs include a painful abdomen, decreased appetite, lethargy and fever. The exact cause is unknown but studies have demonstrated that the pathogenic bacterium, Clostridium perfringens is involved.
How is HGE Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of HGE is via a process of elimination: ruling out gastrointestinal parasites via faecal float and giardia testing, intestinal obstruction via ultrasound, infectious causes such as canine parvovirus and other causes of haemorrhage such as rat bait poisoning and blood clot disorders by conducting clot time tests. Additional blood tests that measure the packed cell volume and total protein levels plus bicarbonate, and blood serum chemistries can give further indications that HGE is present.
The treatment involves hospitalisation and aggressive fluid management. These patients are often incredibly dehydrated and have reduced total protein due to the gastrointestinal tract acting like a huge leaking reservoir for fluid. Pain relief, anti-nausea medication and gastric protectants that protect the cells of the gastrointestinal tract are also required.
Some cases are treated with antibiotics, while others are not. Studies have demonstrated that the administration of antibiotics does not reduce hospitalisation in standard HGE cases. Initially, the thought process of antibiotics was to reduce the risk of bacteria migrating from the gastrointestinal tract into the bloodstream and to reduce the bacterial load in the intestines. It is now thought that the anti-inflammatory effects of the antibiotic Metronidazole pose the most benefit, however, it is still a debated topic amongst veterinarians.
HGE has no direct prevention, however maintaining a stable diet and preventing our pets from eating things they shouldn’t such as foreign objects which can irritate the gastrointestinal tract should be encouraged. Staying up to date on parasitic preventions such as flea and worming treatments is always a good idea and reducing stress at home is also thought to help.
If you are concerned that your pet might have HGE, please seek veterinary assistance. Rapid hospitalisation and treatment are vital for a faster recovery time!