Sunday, February 5, 2012

What are the Symptoms of Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis?

By Tracy Dudlik
Last week we had a scary episode with our foster dog, and came to find out that it is a fairly common problem in several small breeds, miniature Schnauzers among them.     Little Coal started off Tuesday seeming to feel ok, but not wanting to eat and seeming a little quiet.     By mid day, she was vomiting and having diarrhea and was very lethargic.    We rushed her to the vet, and IV’s and testing were started right away.    Our first thought was pancreatitis, or some foreign body ingestion.    Tests for these were negative, but she had low body temp and soon began having blood in both the vomit and the diarrhea.  Our vet was concerned that her organs might be starting to fail.     We came to find out that she had a disease known as hemorrhagic gastroenteritis(or HGE).      This illness is caused by a virus and can affect some dogs very severely as it did Coal.  It causes the lining of the lower intestines to become inflamed, break down and bleed, causing the bloody discharge.   The good news about this is that with good supportive care it has a low mortality rate.    The bad news is that it comes on without warning very quickly, and without the supportive care is easily fatal due to dehydration and organ failure.    There is no medication for it.  Like any virus it has to run its course.   The treatment is to support the dogs system while they fight it off.  This means giving the dog IV fluids, and antibiotics and anti diarrhea meds to prevent secondary infection and combat the symptoms.   There is disagreement as to whether or not it is contagious.   Some vets say it is, and some say not.   Our vet said that the underlying virus (like any virus) is contagious, but not all dogs have a serious illness from it.   Our Jazz, who had a similar situation when we first adopted her, got mildly ill this time with just a day or so of soft stools, and lack of appetite.  Likely she caught a touch of the virus but had some immunity built up.    Miss Coal stayed with the vet until Thursday evening when she was able to come home.    With treatment she is now back to herself and being a bouncy playful schnauzer.  

Our little Miss Coal
This illness is common, but it is especially dangerous to the very dogs we deal with every day.   Dogs with low immune systems such as those who come out of puppy mills or those who have been neglected are particularly at risk for the more severe symptoms if they catch this.      They do not have the solid healthy immune systems to fight it off so prompt treatment is essential.     These little ones that come to us sick or worn out are a greater risk of being seriously or even fatally ill from this.   Happily I know that we are all very careful and vigilant about the care they get.   I am very happy that Coal is now healthy and happy.   I thank my friend who dropped everything to take her to the vet, my son who made sure she was carefully watched until she got there, the vet who gave her such wonderful care, and of course all the prayers that were shared for her that helped her get well, and us not feel so alone.

Please watch out for this.   It can make them very sick in a hurry, but happily with good care they get well just as fast.
Miss Coal is feeling much better and is looking for her furever home.

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