Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE)

By Taylor Young: A Horrible End For A Wonderful Companion

The last photo of Ansel Young (June 27th, 2009). Photo by Taylor Young.

This weekend, my best friend and oldest companion, Ansel, died. She was 8 1/2 years old. Even for an Akita, that’s young. She died of Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis or HGE — an almost unknown disease which can take a dog’s life in a matter of hours. I decided to write this blog because of the lack of information on this subject.

I encourage all dog owners to contribute and share their thoughts and their own stories. The only thing which will save more dogs from this horrible fate is if we all inform each other.

What is Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis?
It is a possibly fatal disease which can strike any dog at any time. There is no known cause for it other than some speculation that it could be a virus, or parasite. It could also be caused by allergies, a change in diet, stress and many other reasons.

How do I know if my dog has it?
The signs are blood in the dog’s vomit and bloody diarrhea. However, in Ansel’s case, she showed no clear signs of blood either in her vomit, or in her diarrhea. So watch closely. If you suspect that there is even the smallest amount of blood, rush your dog to the vet.

Is it curable?
Most of the cases of HGE have been cured. The most important thing is to recognize the signs early and act quickly. There is only about a 10-15% chance of fatality with treatment. That’s WITH treatment. Without treatment, as in Ansel’s case, fatality is almost guaranteed. There is also a 10-15% chance of HGE recurring in your dog once they’ve had it. So again, it takes dedication and diligence to spot it and get your dog to the vet.

What’s the treatment?
Hospitalization is a must. The vet will administer an IV with fluids, antibiotics and sometimes potassium. There is also a possibility of a blood transfusion in cases that need it.

What is the recovery time?
Most dogs should recover in a few days. In that time, their diet should consist of bland foods like boiled rice and boiled burger. After a week, or so a normal diet can resume.

Link to helpful sites:


About Taylor Young:

taylor-youngA professional photographer and marketing consultant based in East Grinstead, West Sussex, England, I’m originally from Florida and worked in Pennsylvania. I specialize in weddings, food, travel, portrait and corporate photography. The love of my life is my Akita, Ansel Young, my constant companion for 8 1/2 years whose sudden death left me heartbroken. She filled my life with love and many pleasant memories. You can see my work at Taylor Young Photography, Passport Foodie and my blog.