K9 Corner

Published 8:32 am Wednesday, September 6, 2017


An email newsletter this week highlighted a medical condition called hemorrhagic gastroenteritis or HGE. The most recent findings were not so different from those I wrote about in 2015. However it is important to be aware of the causes of bloody diarrhea and what to do so I will reprint my 2015 column as a reminder.

Checking my copy of The Merck Veterinary Manual, Sixth Edition, the first entry is Enteric Campylobacteriosis caused by Campylobacter jejuni. This organism can be transferred to humans, dogs, cats and other livestock. The feces may have blood and leukocytes and there may be ulcers in various parts of the gastrointestinal tract. It is treatable and the diarrhea may persist two weeks or in some cases several months.

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Coccidiosis is another intestinal disease caused by one of several protozoa. With this organism the liver may be affected as well as the intestinal tract. This is also treatable but the environment must be kept clean and dry and feeding and watering devices should be kept clean and protected from fecal contamination. In severe cases keeping the animal quiet and stress-free during recuperation is important.

Hemorrhoids can cause blood in the stool, but this is not a disease. The stool is usually relatively normal and the blood surrounding it is red. (Bleeding that has occurred in the upper intestinal tract is digested and turns the feces dark brown to black in color.)

Whip worms are noted for producing bloody stools in heavily infected dogs. This is fresh red blood as the worms attack the lining of the intestine. Whip worms are tricky to eliminate and I would suggest veterinarian assistance.

Parvovirus is a serious viral disease easily transmitted from place to place by surviving on shoes and clothing. It causes bloody diarrhea and, though it is treatable, the treatment is long term and expensive. That is why it is so necessary to have your dog vaccinated and then at least have the animal’s antibodies for this viral infection checked each year. If the antibodies are low, then the dog must be revaccinated to protect it.

As an example of how serious parvovirus is, I was fostering a dog and one morning discovered blood all over the crate he had slept in. The veterinarian diagnosed whip worm and treated him successfully. However, when I mentioned the experience to a shelter employee later, I was informed that if the dog had been in their care, he would have been put down immediately and the kennel would have been disinfected to protect the other animals. They would have assumed the dog had parvovirus without even testing. As it was, the dog in my care recovered and was adopted.

An uncommon condition called Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis or HGE killed one of my dogs. Not much is known about this condition: not what causes it and treatment is almost guesswork: IV fluids and antibiotics along with rest is still the norm. Dogs that survive tend to have repeat episodes.  At the time my dog came down with it the only treatments were antibiotics and fluids to re-hydrate him. HGE causes the lining of the intestine to slough off which in turn causes massive bleeding. In just a few hours, my dog had bled to death.