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All Posts Tagged: diarrhea

Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis in Dogs — Severe Bloody Diarrhea

Recently we’ve had quite a few cases of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE) at Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. The good news with HGE is that, seeing blood in their dog’s stool, many owners will bring them in immediately, allowing us to start treatment right away, greatly improving the survival rate and minimizing hospitalization time. HGE sometimes can be mistaken for colitis, an inflammation of the colon that presents with mucousy, blood-tinged stool. Patients with colitis — which we also see a lot of at Greenbrier — usually are bright and alert and can be treated as outpatients. Dogs with HGE, however, usually present with lethargy and very bloody, watery or mucoid diarrhea, and in severe cases can present in shock from dehydration. The diarrhea in cases of HGE has often been described as “strawberry jam-like”. Occasionally HGE causes vomiting as well.

The etiology or cause of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis is unknown but is thought to involve any one of the following: allergy, stress, parasites, or bacteria. Small breed dogs are affected most often, but any dog can get HGE. It is believed that when the condition is present, the permeability of the GI tract is increased, allowing protein and plasma to leak into the bowels and causing the dog to become severely dehydrated. The diagnosis usually is made based on the description of the diarrhea and a simple blood test that looks at the levels of protein and red blood cells. A very high level of red blood cells, low levels of protein and very bloody diarrhea is diagnostic for hemorrhagic gastroenteritis.

We treat HGE with high levels of IV fluids. Occasionally, dogs with low protein will need an additional type of IV fluid to boost the protein level. Other treatments might include antibiotics (since one theory holds that hemorrhagic gastroenteritis is caused by Clostridium, a form of bacteria), GI protectants, and antiemetics or antinausea medication. If untreated, HGE can be a life-threatening disease. Once placed on IV fluids, most dogs will need to be hospitalized for 1-3 days and then will be fine. But it is extremely important to seek veterinary care immediately if your dog has a bloody stool.

© 2011 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Parvovirus: Make sure your dog is protected!

A lot of you have probably heard of parvovirus, commonly referred to as just “parvo.” This disease is characterized by weakness, vomiting and extreme diarrhea (often with blood in it). Parvo is mostly found in young dogs, aged 6 weeks to 6 months, but it can be found in older adult dogs as well. Younger dogs are often more severely affected. Predisposed breeds include Rottweilers, Labradors, American Staffordshire Terriers and “pit bulls,” although any dog can be affected (I diagnosed this disease in a Shih Tzu earlier this year). Parvo is shed in the stool and has fecal-oral transmission — meaning that dogs become infected by eating infected substances (e.g., feces or grass with feces on it) or grooming other dogs with feces on their rears. And this little virus is hard to get rid of — once it is in your yard, it can last for up to a year.

What effects does Parvo have on your dog? In addition to the above-mentioned lethargy, vomiting and extreme diarrhea, this virus can do some truly awful things to your pup. Parvo is so debilitating that many pets have to be hospitalized for several days — if not weeks — with intravenous fluid support, antibiotics, anti-nausea injections, antacid injections and plasma transfusions. The virus can also severely decrease your pet’s white blood cell count and protein levels. And in rare instances, Parvo can even have effects on your pet’s heart or can create an obstruction in your pet’s intestines, causing the intestines to “fold in on themselves” and close off — an obstruction that requires surgery to fix. Although not all pets are this severely affected and some can be managed on an outpatient basis, some pets do die from this disease.

So what can you do to prevent this disease in your pet? Vaccines are available and are, for the most part, very effective. Occasionally a vaccinated pet can still get parvo, but in those cases the disease is often less severe than if they had not received the vaccine. Talk to your veterinarian about when to vaccinate and how many vaccines your pet needs — predisposed breeds often need more vaccines than other breeds. Also, do not take your pet to a place where there has been parvovirus within the last year. And if you yourself come into contact with a dog that has parvovirus, take care not to become a “fomite” &mash; when exposed, people can act as carriers and spread the disease to their own pets. After contact with an infected dog, Parvo can be found on your hands, clothes or shoes — so wash your hands, change your clothes and take off your shoes to help avoid bringing this disease home to your pet. Bleach in a 1:30 dilution with water can kill parvovirus on your floor and other surfaces, if you allow the solution to sit for approximately 10 minutes.

If you suspect your dog may have parvovirus, keep him/her away from all other dogs and take your pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Your veterinarian can perform a “snap test” to check for the virus. If your dog has been diagnosed with this disease, be sure to clean up all of his/her stool immediately, do not allow your pet to be around other dogs, and do not introduce another dog into your house without consulting your veterinarian first.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Giardia…cha cha cha…

Diarrhea has a number of causes, but one that we saw quite a bit in our patients this summer is Giardia, a parasite that is transmitted in stool (Giardia can be transmitted to humans in this way, but people most often get this parasite from contaminated water). Once a pet is infected, it will typically take 5-12 days in dogs and 5-16 days in cats for the parasite to be found in the stool — however, diarrhea can occur before the parasite actually shows up in the stool.

To diagnose Giardia, your veterinarian will need a fresh stool sample from your pet. As this parasite cannot be detected by the naked eye, the doctor will examine the sample under a microscope. Sometimes the test may need to be repeated, as this parasite can shed intermittently — so while an initial test may come up negative, further tests may come up positive. A newer variety of test is the “snap test,” which tests for Giardia proteins in the stool. The snap test does help improve diagnosis; however, while almost all veterinarians have the capability to look at a stool sample under the microscope, the snap test is less readily available, and not all veterinarians will be able to offer it.

Treatment for Giardia involves multiple aspects of your pet’s life. Oral dewormers are given, as with many intestinal parasites. But with Giardia, bathing and hygiene are just as important as medication. This parasite can stick to your pet’s fur, and when the animal licks itself, he or she can be reinfected. You will also need to dispose of all stool immediately, and clean bedding and flooring regularly. Diluted bleach will kill this parasite on floors and in the laundry — however, killing Giardia on surfaces like grass is far more difficult, since it would require killing the plant life as well.

Other preventative measures include wearing gloves when handling stool and always washing your hands after handling stool or playing with your pet. There is a Giardia vaccine available, but this particular vaccine does not prevent infection. Instead it reduces the amount of the parasite shed in the stool, thereby reducing the amount of environmental contamination. This treatment doesn’t usually help animals that have already contracted the parasite, but it may be helpful in kennel situations and with pets that keep getting reinfected.

If your pet has diarrhea, please give your primary care veterinarian or Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital a call as soon as possible. We can help diagnose the cause and get your pet the treatment that he or she needs.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Diarrhea…cha cha cha…

No one wants to talk about it, but sometimes our pets get diarrhea. Diarrhea can range in consistency from soft to very watery, and in color from black to brown to bright red and bloody. Your pet may have large amounts of diarrhea, or small amounts with more frequent trips to the bathroom.

Two of the most common causes of diarrhea are parasites and dietary indiscretion, otherwise known as “eating something they’re not supposed to.” However, there are a lot of other causes, including bacterial overgrowths; viral diseases such as parvovirus; abrupt diet changes; food allergies; abnormal digestion and absorption diseases; stress; toxins; drugs; metabolic diseases such as diabetes and Addison’s disease; kidney, liver and pancreatic abnormalities; inflammatory diseases; and in our older patients, cancer. (This is by no means an all-inclusive list, however!)

If your pet has diarrhea, your veterinarian will likely want to start by running a “fecal,” which tests the stool for parasites. When you go to your veterinarian, you can bring a sample of the stool with you, if it is fresh, for them to test. Be sure to wear gloves when handling stool, and wash your hands directly after, as some parasites can be transmitted from pets to people! Depending on the age of your pet and the severity of the diarrhea, other tests that may be run include parvovirus tests and blood work. Chronic diarrhea may require further testing and colonoscopy with biopsy samples.

Treatment for diarrhea depends on its severity, cause and duration. Your veterinarian may put your pet on a bland diet. Parasite infections are often treated with deworming medication. Sometimes your pet will need antibiotics or fluids. For severe cases, your pet may need to be hospitalized and given intravenous fluids and injectable medications.

If your pet has developed diarrhea, bring him/her to your local veterinarian, or to Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital if it is after hours. They can decide on the appropriate treatment to help your pet feel better.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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