Haemorrhagic gastroenteritis in dogs

Haemorrhagic gastroenteritis is a severe type of stomach upset that can happen to dogs. It can be fatal without immediate veterinary treatment. 90% of dogs recover after hospitalisation at the vets, usually within 2-3 days. 

The name of this condition has recently been changed to acute haemorrhagic diarrhoea syndrome. Sudden, severe dehydration is the main problem. Any dog can suffer from this syndrome, but it’s most common in middle-aged and small breed dogs. The cause is not clear and several possibilities are being studied. There are many other possible causes of diarrhoea with blood. Speak to a vet straight away if your dog has explosive diarrhoea with blood or is quickly becoming unwell.



What is haemorrhagic gastroenteritis in dogs?

  • Damage to the gut wall causes water, electrolytes and sometimes protein to leak from the blood into the gut
  • This causes severe diarrhoea and rapid dehydration
  • A bacteria called Clostridium perfringens has been detected in the damaged gut wall of some dogs. But this is also present in many healthy dogs and the role it plays is unclear
  • The dog’s condition will worsen quickly and become life threatening in as little as 12 hours

If your dog has explosive diarrhoea with blood or is quickly becoming unwell, speak to a vet straight away. Advice is available in the Joii app 24/7.



Symptoms of haemorrhagic gastroenteritis in dogs

  • Vomiting is common and may be the first symptom
  • Severe watery diarrhoea quickly follows
  • Blood in poo will usually be present in significant amounts, often with a jelly appearance (like raspberry or strawberry jam)
  • Lack of energy progresses quickly
  • Gums may become dry and pale
  • Tummy pain (causing things like abnormal stretching or standing with an arched back)
  • Skin may lose elasticity and stay up when gently pinched
  • Heart rate may increase
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite



Dogs at higher risk of haemorrhagic gastroenteritis

  • More common in middle-age and toy breed dogs
  • May be more common in dogs that have frequent tummy issues
  • Some breeds appear to be more commonly affected:
    • Yorkshire terrier
    • Miniature pinscher
    • Miniature schnauzer
    • Miniature poodle
    • Maltese
  • About 10% of dogs will have more than one episode of haemorrhagic gastroenteritis



Diagnosis of haemorrhagic gastroenteritis in dogs

There is no specific test for this condition, but a blood test will typically show very concentrated blood.

Tests may be needed to rule out other causes of diarrhoea with blood:

Such tests may include:


Vet treatment

Vet treatment of haemorrhagic gastroenteritis in dogs

Your dog will need to see a vet straight away and be put on a drip (intravenous fluids) to correct the severe  dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. They may need to be hospitalised for several days. Other treatments may also be needed:

  • Anti-vomiting medication
  • Pain medication
  • If a fever or signs of blood infection are present, antibiotics will be needed
  • Rarely, a blood or plasma transfusion may be needed


Home treatment

Home treatment of haemorrhagic gastroenteritis in dogs

Haemorrhagic gastroenteritis is a true emergency and needs veterinary treatment straight away. Once the worst part is over (usually 48-72 hours), it may take a few days for your dog’s digestive system to recover. This may be helped by:

  • Small, frequent meals and an easy to digest diet for a few days. Chicken/white fish and white rice can help in many cases, and special foods are available to boost the healing of the gut.
  • Good bacteria (probiotics) and their food (prebiotics) will help the gut function return to normal.

Once the gut function is back to normal, it is worth considering providing a high-fibre diet and long-term probiotic supplementation, as this may reduce the numbers of Clostridium bacteria (this is thought to be one of the causes of this condition).



Can haemorrhagic gastroenteritis be prevented in dogs? Can my family catch it?

Haemorrhagic gastroenteritis is not known to be able to pass to other dogs or people.

At the moment, there is no established way of preventing this disease, but this may change as we learn more. Things that promote good gut health are likely to help:

  • Having a regular, good quality diet
  • Staying up to date with vaccinations and worm treatments
  • Preventing scavenging or eating inappropriate things


When to worry

When to worry about haemorrhagic gastroenteritis in dogs

Take your dog to see a vet immediately if they show:

  • Large amounts of blood in their diarrhoea
  • Black or tarry stools
  • Constant vomiting
  • Weakness or lack of response when you interact with them

Speak to a vet as soon as possible if your dog:

  • Continues to vomit even on an empty stomach
  • Is constantly passing watery diarrhoea
  • Loses interest in food
  • Is quiet or lethargic
  • Passes blood in their diarrhoea

The vets and nurses at the Joii app are always available to give you advice and answer any questions.

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