Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis or HGE: A Dangerous Canine Intestinal Disease

Puppy Girl before she got sick
Puppy Girl before she got sick | Source

The beginning of a long, miserable night

In mid-July, 2013, my eight-year-old miniature schnauzer suddenly became very ill and was diagnosed with Hemorrhagic Gastroentertis (HGE). This intestinal disease can be quickly fatal to dogs unless it is promptly and aggressively treated. Yet, most people with dogs have never heard of the disease. Its exact cause has not been proven, and there is no preventive. Recognizing the symptoms and getting fast emergency vet care in the event of HGE may save your dog's life. That is why I am sharing this story.


My dog, fondly called Puppy Girl, had recently lost her vision and was awaiting an appointment with a veterinary ophthalmologist. Meanwhile, I was studying the book, LIVING WITH A BLIND DOG, by Caroline D. Levin, RN so I could help her adjust to her sightless condition. She had the symptoms of canine depression, and my own state of mind was a bit shaky because of the situation.

On the evening of July 13, I tried to relax on the den sofa watching a movie. Puppy Girl lay in the nearby recliner. By the time the movie ended at 10:30 p.m., she’d moved off the chair, walked around, gotten back in the chair, jumped down and back up several times. I put her restlessness down to nervousness because she couldn’t see. At that point, I was blaming everything she did on her blindness.

By 11:00 p.m., the real reason for her unease became clear. She walked quickly toward the back door and barked twice, her “potty” signal. I grabbed a flashlight and a couple of baby wipes, attached her leash and took her outdoors. I made a mental note to have the patio motion light reset so it would remain on longer.

When she pooped it was looser than is normal for her. We’d barely negotiated the back steps—so daunting to her now that she couldn’t see them—when she turned around and practically threw herself headlong down them onto the patio. She rushed to the grass where she passed another loose stool. I was puzzled because I feed her high quality homemade food made with organic ingredients, including thoroughly washed vegetables. I also add powdered probiotics and enzymes to each serving. This was the first tummy upset she’d experienced in the two-plus years she'd been on this regimen, and there seemed no reason for it.

Time out while I explain that I’m a bit OCD about Puppy Girl’s care. I monitor every bite she puts in her mouth and always take her outdoors on leash. Since her loss of vision, she stayed near me more than ever and was rarely out of my sight for more than a few minutes inside the house. There simply was no way she’d eaten anything I hadn’t fed her or watched her eat. What could be affecting her digestion?

By 1:15 a.m., we were going outside every few minutes, and she’d had an “accident” inside the house when she couldn't find the back door. Her behavior was extremely restless and erratic. Was she in pain? The problem by then had changed to diarrhea with watery stools. I’d clean her up and take her indoors, then—a few minutes later—we were back outside. I was now worried that she would become dehydrated from losing fluids. Since her food is wet rather than dry, she doesn’t drink a lot of water and won't drink from her water bowl on command. For that reason, I thoroughly washed and rinsed my hands, dipped my finger in water over and over and put drops on her tongue. She swallowed a few times before turning her head away.

After five or six more trips outside between 1:30 and 3:00 a.m., she made a groaning noise as she evacuated and—fortunately the motion light was still on--I saw the bright red that gushed out and realized it was blood. My dog appeared to be pooping pure blood. I was horrified!

I found a half pack of large puppy pee pads on a shelf and cut some of them in half. Grabbing a roll of paper tape, I laid her on her back (she didn’t struggle, but just lay there) and taped a makeshift diaper on her. We couldn’t keep running back and forth from the house to the back yard. The next time she started to walk away from me, I told her, “Poop in the diaper.”

And she did just that.


Several years previously her anal glands had to be surgically removed due to chronic inflammation and impaction. After the surgery, the vet gave her a stool softener, so she wore diapers for a week. At that time, I used Huggies for human infants, not the overly expensive diapers made for dogs. Her tail is cropped very short, so the baby diapers fit her just fine. It had taken only a couple of times back then for her to respond to my command, "Just use the diaper. Poop in the diaper.”

Her memory of the previous stint in diapers now served her (and me) well. I tried to get her to lie down and rest, but she couldn’t stay still longer than a minute. I instinctively knew she was in pain, nauseated or both.

The animal ER hospital--a 15-minute drive away


A rush to get emergency care for a very sick dog

Looking back, I should have taken her straight to the Animal ER and ReferralCenter, only 15 minutes away, when I saw that blood. Instead, I waited until daylight—shortly before 6:00 a.m.—before leaving home. Just before I put her in the car, she vomited for the first time. It was pink and foamy. Her breed is predisposed to pancreatitis, and she'd had it before. That's the reason I feed her an organic and very low fat diet. The vet said she might get it again, no matter how careful I was with her food. When I saw the foam, I assumed she had a reoccurrence of pancreatitis.

Placing Puppy Girl on an old towel in the backseat of the car (wearing one of her DIY diapers), I quickly drove to the animal ER hospital, terrified she might die. Fortunately, there was almost no traffic so early on a Saturday morning, including cars equipped with blue lights. We arrived within fifteen minutes, but it seemed longer because I was so worried.

It wasn’t easy carrying her from the parking lot into the hospital while using a cane. I had trouble trying to open the non-automatic hospital door. Fortunately, someone rushed forward to open and hold it for me.

I hurried to the desk and told the receptionist it was an emergency—my dog needed to be seen by a vet immediately. I'm sure I looked as distraught as I felt. Fortunately, the on-duty vet appeared very soon. I described the previous night’s events and my dog’s history of pancreatitis. While we were talking, she threw up again, more pink foam. He would see evidence of the bloody diarrhea in her “diaper."

As a veterinary tech gathered up my dog and took her to an exam room, the vet told me they would take good care of her. I should try not to worry.

Don’t worry? He may as well have told me not to think. I am a natural-born worrier at the best of times, and emergencies make me frantic. During a crisis, my normal level of worry morphs into full-blown anxiety, shallow breathing and, at times, hyperventilation. Don’t bother telling a major worrier not to worry—just hand her or him a paper bag.


Within an hour, another vet (actually the hospital’s chief of staff and—I later learned—an adjunct professor at Mississippi State College of Veterinary Medicine, with which the hospital is affiliated) came out to the waiting room to tell me my dog had been examined and was already being given IV fluids, plus meds for nausea, pain, diarrhea and intestinal inflammation. Tests had ruled out pancreatitis and the contagious canine disease, parvo, leaving a tentative diagnosis of Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis, or HGE.

He asked me what I fed her, and when I told him, he laughed and remarked, “She eats better than I do.”

Then he asked, “Did she get into the garbage yesterday?”

The answer to that was an unqualified “no.” I have a tall, covered kitchen trash bin, and she’s never attempted to turn it over, not even as a puppy. After she pilfered a used tissue from an open bathroom wastebasket two years ago (the subject of another hub), I replaced all the bathroom bins with covered ones. She doesn't bother them, either.

He explained that it’s impossible to pinpoint what causes canine HGE. Although there are numerous theories—retail food or people food scraps (especially when scrounged from a trashcan), a bacterial infection, virus, reaction to an intestinal parasite, etc., none of these is proven. The vet told me stress may even play a role in HGE development, but, with no causal evidence, this is a “mystery disease.”

HGE is diagnosed primarily by ruling out other possible causes of the symptoms. When a previously healthy dog suddenly sickens with bloody diarrhea and a high packed cell volume (PCV), a vet usually suspects HGE.

Puppy Girl stayed in ICU for two days, where she was aggressively treated for HGE. Back home alone, I searched the Internet to learn what I could about this disease. The information I found was not encouraging. Smaller dogs (toys and miniatures, such as schnauzers and poodles) are more likely to contract HGE, but it can affect any breed or either gender. Deadly complications may develop quickly without prompt treatment, including dehydration, low blood pressure, an elevated red blood count, shock, kidney failure and disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC). DIC is a potentially fatal clotting disorder that occurs when the blood thickens or slows. Once it begins, it is often irreversible.

Fluids are administered intravenously with medications added to treat diarrhea, nausea, pain and intestinal ulcers. Sadly, even with treatment, some dogs don’t survive HGE. Among those that recover, the disorder reoccurs in 30%—a frightening statistic, especially since there is no method of prevention. (When scientists don't know what causes a disease, a vaccine can't be developed to immunize against it.) Although HGE is not contagious, there are records of widely-scattered geographical outbreaks. I later learned the animal ER hospital in my area had eight cases of HGE that weekend!

I tried not to phone the animal hospital too frequently to check on Puppy Girl, but I was undoubtedly a nuisance to the receptionist. However, she was always courteous, as were the vets and techs. My girl’s condition was stable and began to improve.

When she was released from the hospital, Puppy Girl still had a very slight amount of diarrhea, but it was expected to end very soon. The vet instructed me to reintroduce food slowly with small amounts of bland ingredients, such as boiled low-fat chicken and rice. Pumpkin, which is good for dogs with tummy problems, was also recommended. She could resume her regular diet a week after there were no further symptoms.

The post-hospitalization medication tray


There was a “take-home” bag containing three prescription meds—Metrodiazole, Sucralfate and Sulfasalazine. Over-the-counter children’s Imodium was advised until the diarrhea completely stopped. Only one dose of the latter was needed, but I’d bought a package of Huggies diapers to keep on hand “just in case”, so I put one on her when we got home. She didn’t seem to mind wearing a diaper, but I added a strip of tape to the front tabs for extra security.

Huggies work for dogs, too

A diaper decorated with Pooh Bear!
A diaper decorated with Pooh Bear! | Source

HGE is a dangerous canine disease

To say I was nervous about a relapse of the HGE is an understatement. (I'm still concerned about that possibility.) I watched Puppy Girl almost continuously, barely letting her out of my sight. She was lethargic for a couple of days before her appetite and strength returned, so she didn’t follow me every time I left the room. Giving her multiple medicines was a challenge, but I managed to get her to swallow every dose.

For a full week, her blindness took second place to a deadly disease that could have claimed her life. I’m so grateful to the vets and staff of Animal Emergency and Referral Hospital for their excellent care of her. I fervently hope she’s not among the 30% of dogs who suffers a reoccurrence of HGE, but one thing I know for certain. If it ever does strike her again, we’ll go straight to that hospital at the initial sign.

I caution all dog owners reading this to be aware of the urgency if your pet develops bloody diarrhea and/or vomiting. These symptoms could mean HGE, which requires fast emergency veterinary care. Don’t delay, or it might be too late to save your dog's life.

My sweet girl, recuperating from HGE


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Comments 38 comments

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 11 months ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thank you, Linda. Nice to meet you also. I wrote this hub to warn pet owners about a very dangerous illness that strikes suddenly and can be fatal if not treated right away. Knowing the symptoms is the key to saving a beloved pet. Regards, Jaye

Linda Robinson60 profile image

Linda Robinson60 12 months ago from Cicero, New York

What a terrific helpful hub for all pet lovers. Nice meeting you. Excellent writing and so much detail. I look forward to following you. Linda

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thank you, Peg. After learning how dangerous HGE is, I feared for my dog's life until I knew she was fully recovered. Then I worried about recurrences, but--so far (knock on wood!) there have been none. I felt it was my duty to spread the word about this dangerous disease which strikes suddenly and can be so quickly fatal if not treated.

I'm so glad your puppy survived and thrived. Aren't dogs wonderful?

Regards, Jaye

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

This was an incredible story. I was captivated by your every word and read straight through without interruption. Of course, I'm a dog lover and any type of animal trauma is incredibly disturbing so I had to be sure there was a happy ending to her illness. Wow.

We experienced a similar issue with our little lab mix puppy about 3 months after we adopted him from the SPCA. He had similar symptoms and ended up in the emergency care of the veterinarian with a case of intussusception. He had to have surgery but it fixed the issue and he is okay. He's four now and weighs 103 pounds.

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

ologsinquito - Thank you. I wrote this article because every dog owner should know about this very dangerous canine disease that can kill within hours. I'd never heard of it before my dog got so ill with it, and I am so grateful that she survived. Please pass it on to other dog lovers.

Regards, Jaye

ologsinquito profile image

ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

I'm happy to hear everything turned out alright and that your dog survived this ordeal. This is very good information.

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Nyssa - I've actually added links to four articles--two about my dog's eye disorder (KCS) that caused her blindness and two about realizing she was blind and her (and my) adjustment to the condition. It may help you to read these, at least the last two. Best wishes for your yorkie's recovery and for you.....Jaye

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Nyssa - I'm so glad you got your little Yorkie to the vet in time and she's recovering from HGE. It's such a dangerous and scary disease. I'm confused, though, about her blindness being connected to the HGE. Nothing I've been told by my dog's vet or that I've read mentions loss of vision as a complication of HGE.

You see, my dog was already blind when she contracted the HGE. She'd had complications of chronic KCS (failure of her lacrimal glands to make tears, causing constant dry eyes) and that is what caused her to go blind.

If you live where you have access to a pet ophthalmologist, you may want to take your Yorkie for an examination. There are many canine eye disorders that cause a dog to go blind, and most of them can be very painful. Dogs try not to show their pain, so you don't want your baby to suffer withour your being aware of it and able to treat her for it.

I hope she will recover completely. However, if her blindness is permanent, please know that dogs can adjust to loss of vision and lead fairly normal lives. It is the human who has to come to terms with the situation.

I have two articles about my dog's blindness on HubPages. I'm going to add the links to this page so you can read them.

Blessing to you and your furbaby....Jaye

Nyssa Fox 2 years ago


I am currently in the recovery process of HGE with one of my yorkies. Luckily, we got her into the vet ASAP but we are still dealing with her blindness. Doctor says it may not be permanent, but as of now it is present. Did your baby stay blind after healed? If so, how long? I am struggling right now.....

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Alexadry - I'm so glad your boy survived HGE as a puppy. The symptoms and prognosis are very frightening. The vet at the animal ER who treated my girl said the cause can't really be pinned down, but is probably bacterial in nature. Since my dog leads a sheltered indoor life, never gets into garbage or any food I don't give her and only goes out on leash in my yard, he suggested that the bacteria may have "hitched a ride" in on someone's shoes, and she happened to lick the floor. Whatever caused it, the experience was awful for both my furbaby and for me.

Thanks for sharing your experience with HGE.


alexadry profile image

alexadry 2 years ago from USA

My boy got a bout of HGE when he was only an 8 week-old puppy. It started the same evening we got him, so I called his breeder for explanations, but being a BYB, he never returned my calls;( it got worse and worse as the day progressed so we ended up going to the ER one hour away in the middle of the night. Sigh of relief when they ruled out parvo. $1,200 later, they diagnosed him with gastro-enteritis, he bounced back but hospital staff could not give me an idea as to what caused it and this made me unhappy as I needed to know how to prevent it! Luckily he never had it again and he's 6 now, but it sure was scary!

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thank you, Crafty. I'm so glad Richie recovered. I make my dog's food too--from organic ingredients, so the emergency vet was puzzled about how she got HGE. However, he said that the "bug" (whatever causes it) could have been brought into my home on someone's shoe and she ingested it by licking the floor as dogs do.

There are so many toxic chemicals in everyday items that we must be eternally vigilant about what we buy and use. One thing that's dangerous is that "stain-proof" coating they put on some furniture. That may have been sprayed on Richie's new bed.

Thanks for reading.

Regards, Jaye

CraftytotheCore profile image

CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

Bless your heart Jaye! I have a special place in my life for animals. My dog Richie had to be taken to the emergency vet one night after profusely becoming ill. No explanation for it. At the time I was making homemade food for all of my dogs. They never diagnosed him with anything. He recovered about a week later. The only thing different before he got sick was we had bought him a new dog bed. They claimed it might have been the chemicals in the dog bed.

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks, Nell. I hope you feel better very soon. Quite a few prescription meds can be used interchangeably for humans and animals (dosage adjusted), though some are used off-label for pets.

The experience of my dog having HGE was so terrible, I want other pet parents to know about this dangerous disease.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

Hi Jaye, I am so sorry to hear about your dog, but thank goodness she recovered. Funnily enough I am on metrodinazole too for stomach problems, they are antibiotics, this was a kidney problem, they are really good, great advice that all dog owners should read, nell

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thank you, Frank. I appreciate your concern about Puppy Girl and her mom, and I'm glad that you've learned about HGE from this hub.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

Jay I love dogs and just by reading the accounts here I feel the pain too.. thank you for sharing and educating at least me on HGE...bless you

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks, LK - It was a very frightening experience for me because I was so afraid she was going to die. She must have been physically miserable, and I was relieved and thankful when she recovered.

She's okay now and, hopefully, she won't ever get HGE again. I'm still researching, trying to find out why some dogs have a reoccurrence. It's possible the disease may damage the intestinal lining--I don't know. (One of the meds prescribed was for ulcerated stomach.)

Thanks for your good wishes.


LKMore01 profile image

LKMore01 3 years ago


What you went and Puppy Girl went through must have been terrifying. I am so happy to hear you are both recovering. My thoughts are with you.

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Hi, drbj - She seems to be completely recovered from the attack of HGE. I'd never heard of it before she got it, either, and it was a very frightening illness (scary for me, miserable for her). That's why I wrote this hub--to warn other pet parents that fast treatment is needed for the symptoms because it can so quickly be fatal. I hope this information can save other dogs.

Thanks for reading and your comments. I hope you're having a great weekend. JAYE

drbj profile image

drbj 3 years ago from south Florida

I hope your sweet Puppy Girl has entirely recovered by now, Jaye. She is lucky to have such a smart and concerned mommy. Never knew about HGE before. Your comprehensive article may save the life of someone's dog.

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

I didn't notice that I'd typed my name twice until it was too late to remove the extra one. Please excuse the duplication.

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks, Deb. I am very fortunate to have a state-of-the-art emergency pet hospital nearby and am so grateful to the staff for their excellent care of my girl. I learned while she was being treated that time is of the essence with HGE. Even an hour or two can make a difference in survival.



aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Sounds to me like you are a great pet parent. You were right on top of things and got her all the help that she needed. Great work!

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks for the accolades and your heartfelt comments, Joe. She seems to be fully recovered from the HGE, which is a great relief.

I hope you are fully recovered from the medical scare you had last week (TIA) and are taking good care of yourself. I'm confident your doctor already gave you sound advice to prevent it from happening again, and you're wise enough to follow it.

Aloha and a good week to you as well......JAYE

hawaiianodysseus profile image

hawaiianodysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

I chose to include "Beautiful" in my HP-offered accolades selection because the love and compassion you exemplify for Puppy Girl tugs at my heartstrings. Good for you for going the extra mile to take very good care of a loved one.

Thank you for sharing, Jaye, and I earnestly hope that your beloved canine is recuperating well.

Aloha, and have a nice rest of the week!


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thank you, Blossom. I hope your little friend never gets this disease, but being forewarned is better than not knowing anything about it. Thanks for reading.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thank you, Blossom. I hope your little friend never gets this disease, but being forewarned is better than not knowing anything about it. Thanks for reading.


BlossomSB profile image

BlossomSB 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

I've never heard about this before, either, so thank you for bringing it to my attention. My little friend has a fussy tummy anyway and I have to be careful what she eats, especially when visiting friends. I'm really grateful for the warning.

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Paula - Thanks for caring about Puppy Girl. I do love her dearly, and I was so afraid she was dying. It was an incredible relief when the vet told me she would be okay!

I hope you never have to deal with HGE, but knowing the distinctive symptoms equips you to recognize it.

Many of the dogs that die from it succumb because the pet parents think it's only a harmless virus that will "run its course", not realizing their dog is in critical condition until it's too late. There's nothing harmless about HGE.

I'd never heard of this disease before my dog got it, and no one I've talked to (other than vets) knew about it either. That's why I feel a strong need to spread the information. Thanks for the vote.


Shyron - Thanks for the vote and sharing. I hope everyone who reads this article shares it with everyone on their social networking sites and email contact lists so many people will know about it in case it ever attacks their dogs.


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 3 years ago

Thank you for this information, this really helps.

Voted up, UAI and shared. I would pin this if I could.

fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 3 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Jaye.....From one Mommy to another, you surely got my heart rate up with this story. All I wanted to do was get to the end, to know for certain that your baby was OK. Gosh, what a medical emergency. I really can relate to your panic and nervousness.

I love the Vet's comment about your little girl eating better than he does! I'm sure it's true. You are an awesome Mom.

Never heard of HGE and don't want to have to deal with it. I'm happy that "Puppy Girl" got through the storm!....UP+++

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks, Liz - Even though I've read a lot about dogs and their health issues, I'd never encountered anything about HGE. It was certainly scary, and I'm so thankful that waiting until daylight to go to the veterinary ER wasn't fatal for my dog. Puppy Girl appears to have fully recovered from the illness, and I hope she never gets it again.

However, now that I know the danger of those symptoms, I'd never wait for even an hour. I realize we're fortunate--everyone doesn't live fifteen minutes from a 24/7 animal ER hospital, but some vet clinics have a doctor on call for emergencies.

It was nervewracking to write about this because it made me relive the experience, but making sure other pet parents know about HGE is the reason I shared this story.

Thanks for your comments.


epbooks profile image

epbooks 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

Thank you for this valuable information. I always get nervous with my dogs if any of them are sick, especially stomach issues. I had never heard of HGE before so this is good to know. I hope Puppy girl is feeling better and continues to recover. I hesitate to bring them to Emergency sometimes because I feel like a worry wart-but my theory is that if you think you should go to ER, then go. It's better to be safe than sorry. Thanks so much for sharing your story!

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks, Bill - We've definitely had some challenges, but she and I are both pretty tough for aging ladies.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

My goodness you have had your trials with that poor dog. I have never heard of HGE...thank you for the information, Jaye!


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

mperrottet - Thanks for the vote, feedback and sharing. This disease can cause death so fast that dog owners need to know about it. HGE symptoms means a dog needs fast emergency vet care. Thanks for your good wishes for my Puppy Girl. She's fine.



mperrottet profile image

mperrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

Thanks for this article. This sounds like a serious problem that pet owners need to be aware of. I'm so glad that your Puppy Girl recovered, and hope that she continues to do well. Voted up, useful, interesting and sharing.

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