On HGE and your dog

September 3rd, 2014

If you are squeamish or adverse to reading about bodily functions, you may want to skip reading this post – that being said, if you have a dog it could help save your fur monster’s life, so please read on if you can. I’m going to try and be as detailed as possible in the hopes that it might be helpful to somebody.

Our beloved Panda bear is fine today. Bouncy, smiling, eyes and coat shining. Ten days ago she almost died. We still don’t know why, and likely never will, but her symptoms were specific enough that I think it’s important to share them.

On a Monday, Panda started exhibiting signs of minor indigestion. You know, nothing serious, just softer poop than usual. Every dog owner has experienced this. Dogs eat everything. Panda proudly subscribes to a strict policy of “eat now, ask questions later”. So naturally I decided to let things run their course, but I kept a watchful eye on her. A few days went by, nothing changed – she didn’t get better but she didn’t get worse, either. Everything else was the same. Appetite, mood, energy levels were all normal. I Googled “how long should I wait if my dog has indigestion”… I didn’t get a good answer, but I did stumble on a bunch of articles about a condition called HGE: Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis. I had never heard of this condition before, and it sounded terrifying. I started watching Panda more carefully just in case, but she really seemed to be fine other than the mild tummy upset.

On Wednesday night, Panda woke me up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. I let her out, puzzled – she’d never done this before. It was 3am and pouring rain; I followed her around with a flashlight, in my bathrobe and rain boots. She didn’t seem sicker than before, but the situation felt odd. We went back to bed and watched tv together before catching a few more hours of sleep. Thursday was business as usual: several walks, meals anticipated and enjoyed as always, chasing the ball in the backyard that evening.

On Thursday night, Panda woke me up three times. We must have slept two hours that night. She would try and go to the bathroom and very little would come out. She was acting a little hyper and I knew it was because she felt uncomfortable – I was really concerned at this point and decided to call the vet as soon as they opened the next day.

Friday morning, sleep-deprived and worried, I called the vet – thankfully they had a spot for me in about three hours’ time. I decided not to give Panda her breakfast just in case she had some kind of obstruction. She wasn’t happy about this but I somehow resisted her irresistible face. While we were waiting for her appointment to come around, Panda threw up. I got more anxious. She was getting worse. She went outside and lay down – this was the first time all week that she was showing signs of not feeling well. I sat near her and watched her. She stood up, began to go to the bathroom… and all that came out was a lot of water and blood. I felt my stomach drop down into my toes as total panic and fear took hold. No! I packed her up into the car and we arrived at the vet early – luckily they were able to see us almost immediately and within about 90 minutes from that terrifying moment in the backyard she was isolated and hooked up to an IV.

On HGE and your dog

Since Panda is a rescue, it was particularly heartbreaking as I knew that she probably thought I was abandoning her at her weakest and sickest – I went back that afternoon with a big towel that smelled like home and the vet was kind enough to let me sit with her for an hour. She tried incessantly to crawl out from under my feet and begged me with her eyes to let her come home. Nobody was able to tell me that she would be ok so it was a terrifying day. By that night they felt more confident that she was stabilizing so I went home and tried to eat, but the heartbeat of our house was gone and I could barely stand to be there. Third sleepless night, coming right up.

On HGE and your dog

The next morning, I called the vet as soon as they were open and received the best news: Panda was smiling and had eaten a tiny bit of food. So far she was holding it down. If she was able to hold down food, she’d be able to take her medication orally, and she’d be able to come home. A few hours later I got the ok: come and get her! Much to the hospital’s chagrin, as they had all fallen in love with her. Why am I not surprised.

Panda had to follow a pretty involved food and medication schedule for the next week, and she continued to lose a bit of blood for a few more days before things cleared up. But she continued to improve and is now back to her kibble, her carrots and her usual self. Needless to say, I have become a hovering nightmare. Panda has added “puzzled and annoyed” to her gallery of daily expressions.

Why am I posting this long story? Because: another sweet doggie in our neighbourhood got the same thing. Unlike Panda, she started bleeding in the middle of the night – and by the time she was seen by a vet the next morning, it was too late. She passed away hours later. I can barely imagine the kind of pain and sadness her family has experienced. She was a friend of Panda’s that we always made a point of saying hello to and cuddling with, and I was devastated to learn that she had died. The entire neighbourhood is in shock and worried for their own pets.

There are many theories circulating – it’s been a very rainy summer, things have been more damp than usual – maybe they ate a bad mushroom, or perhaps bacteria was growing on a toy or a bone and they ingested it accidentally. Perhaps they inhaled some pathogenic spores. Or, worse, perhaps they consumed poison that was left out by somebody – for rats or raccoons I guess, which is bad enough, but I can’t even bear to think that anybody was deliberately trying to poison anybody’s pets. I can confirm that Panda has had all of her shots and has been vaccinated against Parvovirus, which is a very serious and highly contagious disease that exhibits symptoms similar to HGE. I spoke with some officials at city hall, discussed the situation with a well-respected local vet just to get a second opinion, emailed all the neighbours I knew who had dogs, and went door-to-door for those whose names I didn’t know and whose emails I didn’t have. I’m writing this blog post because perhaps sharing what happened will help save your dog’s life.

All I can say is that I’m convinced Panda and our neighbour/dog friend were affected by HGE. This is a general condition that can be caused by many things, so it’s not very comforting to identify it as a cause because it doesn’t mean you can protect your dog any better. The only solution to HGE is to catch it as soon as possible, go straight to the vet, aggressively re-hydrate via an IV and pump their system full of antibiotics. Dogs often don’t show that they aren’t feeling well until they are in really bad shape – Panda was eating and otherwise behaving normally until Friday morning, but then she became dehydrated at lightning speed. In smaller dogs it can happen even more quickly.

If you ever see blood, or suspect dehydration, don’t wait – if it’s the middle of the night, go to an emergency animal hospital. But please, please – do not wait. Panda sends her best. xo

On HGE and your dog

8 Comments

  1. So happy that Panda is back to her smiley self! Thank you for sharing what I know is a very traumatic experience. I went through something similar with my Mino when she was a pup. Thankfully, she too now sends her smiles!

    • Girlfriday says:

      Oh my gosh, poor Mino, and poor you!! That must have been terrifying, especially since Mino was a baby :( So glad she’s fine and running with you every day! Panda sends high-fives, Mino! xo

  2. Aimee says:

    Anile, thank you for sharing this. That must have been so horrific to go through.
    We are all so glad Panda is on the mend!

    • Girlfriday says:

      Thanks so much Aimée! it was definitely an awful experience, and when I think of how much worse it could have been, it makes me grateful that we got through it relatively well. Panda sends kisses :) xo

  3. christelle says:

    Tellement contente pour vous de lire que Panda va mieux ! J’ai perdu mon chat en début d’année et j’avais les larmes aux yeux en lisant ton texte… Un gros high five à la patte de Panda, pour moi ! x

    • Girlfriday says:

      Christelle, je suis tellement désolée d’entendre que tu as perdu ton chat – tu me mets les larmes aux yeux aussi! Car nous aussi nous avons perdu notre vieille chatte il y a un mois – lorsque Panda est tombée malade c’était vraiment un overload total, on est tellement soulagés qu’elle va mieux. Merci beaucoup pour le message et le high-five :) Sending you big hugs – Panda sends you kisses too xox

  4. Emily says:

    oh my god, I am all teary eyed reading this – I can’t imagine the panic (well I can practically imagine it) on that day before bringing her to the vet, I am glad you got to get in there quick! So happy Panda is feeling better and that is so scary for pet owners.

    • Girlfriday says:

      Emily, thank-you so much! It was really awful – I still hug her tight every day remembering what happened. Thanks and I really hope this helps somebody else out there. Hugs to you and Bob :) xo

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