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Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE) also known as Acute hemorrhagic diarrhea syndrome (AHDS), is an acute (sudden) disorder of dogs characterized by vomiting and bloody diarrhea.

Most cases occur without warning in otherwise healthy dogs. HGE is most common in young dogs (2 to 4 years), and there is classically no known exposure to different foods, garbage, or other inciting causes

The main and most disturbing clinical sign is large amounts of bloody diarrhea, very often bright red. Some dogs may have a painful abdomen, decreased appetite, lethargy (fatigue), or fever.

HGE is a life-threatening condition. Untreated, it can quickly lead to hypoglycemia, which is low blood sugar, or hypovolemic shock, which occurs when a dog’s blood or fluid levels drop dramatically.

Thorough investigation to rule out other causes of hemorrhagic diarrhea such as parvovirus, bacterial infections, or GI parasites should be undertaken before arriving at a diagnosis of HGE.

You should contact your vet straight away if your dog or puppy is showing signs of the disease as it can be fatal.

Causes of Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis in Dogs

The exact cause of HGE is unknown, but bacterial toxins appear to be involved. Eating contaminated foods may contribute to the onset of the condition. There is a large loss of blood and fluid from the circulation into the gastrointestinal tract, resulting in rapid, severe dehydration and shock. Eventually, the blood may become so thick that it flows very slowly through the blood vessels. Left untreated, HGE may be fatal.

Symptoms of Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis in Dogs

Dogs with HGE often become poorly very quickly. They can look perfectly normal one day and extremely unwell the next.

Symptoms of HGE are very similar to symptoms of parvovirus and they include;

  • Vomiting
  • Sudden onset of diarrhoea
  • Lots of blood in dog stool
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • Collapse

Treatment of HGE in Dogs

The most important aspect of treatment of HGE is intravenous fluid therapy to replace lost fluid volume. The vomiting and diarrhea are treated symptomatically and will usually resolve after one to two days.

Antibiotics targeting C. perfringens are also used but recent studies have shown no difference in outcome or survival rate between patients given antibiotics and those not when no signs of sepsis were present. In other words, if there are no signs of sepsis, antibiotics will not hasten a recovery or improve outcome. With prompt, aggressive treatment, the prognosis is good.


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