It’s not uncommon for patients to exhibit bleeding inflammation, especially if they’ve also been diagnosed with other afflictions, such as parvovirus infection, inflammatory bowel disease, or pancreatitis. Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis refers to an inflammation of the intestine and stomach, accompanied by bleeding, and its symptoms are quite common. So much so that they might be confused with any of the above diseases. However, there’s a marked difference between a parvovirus infection, for instance, and an actual HGE (hemorrhagic gastroenteritis) or AHDS (acute hemorrhagic diarrhea syndrome) diagnosis.
While any dog can be affected by AHDS, small breed dogs seem to be more at risk, with dogs experiencing frequent stress and/or hyperactivity more commonly affected by AHDS.
Acute hemorrhagic diarrhea syndrome is not a bleeding inflammation of the intestine, but rather a life-threatening condition that manifests as sudden on-set bloody diarrhea. Because the symptoms can lead to rapid dehydration, the condition must be considered a medical emergency. AHDS requires prompt treatment, or else, your dog might go into shock, and die. On the bright side, following prompt hospitalization, most dogs receive treatment and recover promptly. Of course, it’s vital that your vet identifies and accurately diagnoses AHDS promptly, to be able to administer the correct treatment.
Often, diarrhea itself is preceded (in 80% of cases) by bloody vomiting episodes. If your dog’s vomit contains obvious blood traces, it may be a precursor to this potentially life-threatening condition and should prompt a visit to the emergency room.
While there are no actual tests to diagnose ADHS, your vet will most likely conduct a packed cell volume (PCV, or hematocrit), to establish a diagnosis. The way these test works is, the vet will take a few drops of your dog’s blood, and measure the percentage of red blood cells contained within. Normal PCV levels for healthy dogs are roughly in the 37-55 percent mark, which means that amount should be made up of red blood cells, with the rest made up of white blood cells, and other fluids.
Due to the dehydration that accompanies ADHS, your dog’s fluid levels will plummet, thus leading to a sharp increase in red blood cell count. On average, the ADHS patient has a PCV level of at least 57%, though often, it’ll be over 60% (which is an alarming number).
The PCV test will also monitor the level of total protein in the patient’s blood (also called total solids). In patients suffering from acute hemorrhagic diarrhea syndrome, the protein level will be worryingly low. Following the PCV test, your vet will look for the following warning signs to make an accurate diagnosis:
- High PCV (57% or above);
- Low total protein count (a normal total protein count, accompanied by high PCV is also a sign of AHDS);
- Vomiting (at least one episode, within 10 hours prior to diarrhea);
- A young dog (roughly around 5 years old);
- Watery, bloody diarrhea (in patients suffering from AHDS, diarrhea looks almost like pure blood);
- Small dog (the median patient size is no more than 25 lbs);
- Rapid response to treatment (patients with AHDS experience a rapid response to intravenous fluids);
While there are other reasons, as seen above, for bloody diarrhea, the above signs will help your vet determine the AHDS diagnosis and subsequent treatment.
Causes of AHDS
While acute hemorrhagic diarrhea syndrome is not new in the animal care world, there are still many things that remain unknown about the condition. It’s thought that AHDS stems from infection with an intestinal bacterium called Clostridium perfringens Type A. this foreign organism then produces two highly dangerous toxins, known as NET E and NET F, which ulcerate the intestinal lining. That’s the source of all the blood present in the patient’s diarrhea. This is why fluid is rapidly lost in patients with AHDS. It’s also what causes the increase in PCV.
AHDS is commonly diagnosed through a specific PCR test for Clostridium perfringens Type A.
Treatment of AHDS
In treating acute hemorrhagic diarrhea syndrome, the vet’s main focus will be on restoring the fluids that are aggressively being lost through watery diarrhea. This will mean an aggressive fluid replacement treatment, whose main aim is to get the PCV count back into the normal range and prevent shock. Once the PCV count gets too high, the dog will fall into shock and will likely die from AHDS.
The good news is, most dogs experience dramatic improvement within the first 24 hours after hospitalization. During this time, nausea and pain control medication will also be administered, as well as low-fat foods, when the dog is willing to eat again. All in all, most affected dogs experience a complete recovery and leave the hospital after 3 days or so. Within a week, the dog’s stools will also be back to normal.
Depending on the patient’s condition, your vet may also order an antibiotic course, as well as probiotic treatment, to replace the helpful bacteria in your dog’s gut.