HGE is an inflammation (infection) of the stomach and small intestine, characterized by a sudden onset of vomiting and diarrhea. Often both the diarrhea and vomiting are bloody. The diarrhea is frequently described as looking like raspberry jam. Dogs initially appear bright and alert but become very depressed and lethargic as symptoms continue. Damage to the lining of the stomach and intestines can make the dog susceptible to infection. Early treatment of HGE is important so that dehydration and other symptoms can be resolved before they become life threatening. The disease is considered and emergency, as it can progress to profound shock and death in a matter of hours.
The causes of HGE are unknown, but bacterial toxins, viruses and abnormal immune response may be potential factors.
Treatment usually requires hospitalization with fluid therapy. The patient is not given and food or water for approximately 24 hours in order to give the digestive tract time to heal. Often, injectable antibiotics and anti-vomiting medications are used to control symptoms until the dose is able to be given orally. The prognosis is good if treatment is started quickly. A small percentage of patients experience a recurrence of HGE.