Hemorrhagic GastroEnteritis (HGE). I looked up this disorder for the first time 14 years ago when our Waggles dog was diagnosed. The primary diagnostic characteristic is hemorrhage in a previously healthy dog. There is no absolute consensus concerning what causes it. HGE can occur without a change in the dog's diet, environment, or routine. It happens almost exclusively in very young dogs. (Waggles had her attack at only a year old, back in 2003. Miracle is 13 years old.) Dogs that have an episode of HGE may be prone to another occurrence, or may never have another experience. If a dog recovers from HGE, and gets older, the chances are great that there will never be another round. Obviously, if left untreated, the disease is fatal. The most important thing is immediate vet care.
The treatment is aggressive supportive care: IV fluids, medications to stop the hemorrhaging, medications to soothe the gastrointestinal tract, and antibiotics. No food or water by mouth initially. If the dog survives, food is reintroduced very slowly. There is a one to four day critical period following onset - you can lose the dog at any time during this period.
On Tuesday morning of last week, I posted to my blog and headed to Miracle’s room to let her out. She has her own room with a couch, a rug, and a dog bed. I let her out each morning as I head to the kennel. I opened the door to her room, and I saw that her dog bed (on the floor) was covered in something. I glanced to the rug and it was badly stained. As horror began to take over, I realized I was looking at blood. My eyes scanned the room for Miracle. She was on the far end of her couch. As I started talking to her and stepping towards her, I realized I was stepping over and around pool after pool of blood. It was everywhere. The end of the couch she was NOT on was also blood-soaked. My head was swimming as I tried to become clear about what was happening. It had to be HGE. I’d seen this all before.
I grabbed the phone and started dialing. The Clinic’s line was busy. I tried again. Busy. I called Older Daughter. She tried to keep me calm. I told her I had to do something quick. She said to hang on and she would come to my house and help me load Miracle in my vehicle. (Miracle weighs close to 60 pounds.) My daughter’s cell phone dropped the call. I immediately dialed the Clinic again. Assistant K answered. I told her what I was looking at and she said to head that way. I set Miracle down off her couch but her legs wouldn’t hold her. I hoisted her up and started towards my vehicle. That 30-minute drive can feel like it takes hours. I finally got her there and got her onto the table in the room I’d been assigned to.
The first order of business was to start IV fluids. We got the line in and then discussed a little more about what was going on. I told Dr. J about the huge amount of blood. I told him that I’d had a dog with HGE many years ago and that this looked just like it. All of the symptoms fit. But it was so rare for a dog Miracle’s age to have this condition. The main thing at this point was to stop the hemorrhaging, keep IV fluids going, and allow Miracle to rest. She was too weak to stand on her own. We got her settled into a quarantine cage and discussed what was next. They would monitor for any sign of blood and keep the IV fluids going. Dr. J said he would not be there that afternoon, but that I would hear from Dr. C. I crawled into the front part of the cage with Miracle, hugged her and hugged her and told her I’d be back. Then I drove home.
Late that afternoon, Dr. C reported that Miracle was hemorrhage-free. He wanted to keep an IV drip all night. I could check in the morning. Early the next morning, I heard from Dr. A (who was on that day). Miracle was doing better. She could stand on her own. We talked at length. Dr. A wanted to keep Miracle that day, but if there was no more blood, we could probably pick her up before closing time. The three vets had consulted. Dr. A explained that this certainly looked like HGE, but in a dog Miracle’s age, it was possible there was more going on. Dr. A is concerned that there could be an underlying cause we don’t know about yet. Also – another episode of HGE right away for Miracle would be life-threatening. She needed to regain her strength and build up her blood supply to come all the way back from this.
Dr. A later contacted me and said we could pick up our Miracle. She said she’d like to leave the IV port in so that if another episode developed over the next couple of days (at home), we could rush her straight in and start an IV immediately. It was Husband’s day off so we drove up and got Miracle. She walked to us and even walked to our vehicle. But that made her so tired she slept most of the way home. I’d spent a couple of hours in her room on Tuesday afternoon cleaning up blood. Her room was fresh and clean. I had to throw away her rug and dog bed, so she had brand new ones waiting for her. I washed the couch cushion covers and covered everything with a cargo blanket. She walked into her room, got a drink of water, and then tried to get on her couch. I had to help her up and she settled in.
This was a close call. At Miracle’s age, it’s a miracle she survived this. Older Daughter came by and removed the IV catheter last night. I don’t know what comes next. At this point I’m just spoiling our big old girl as much as I possibly can.
See you tomorrow.