Early on Tuesday morning I woke to Amber giving little whimper sounds. Her call for ‘I need to go to the toilet’.
There was one significant difference this morning than usual. Rather than going straight to the toilet, Amber vomited! Not one of those run-of-the mill little chuck ups. This was the entire contents of her stomach from 8-10 hours earlier; her undigested dinner from the night before. I was a little alarmed as Amber has never vomited like that before.
Feeling just a little alarmed quickly turned to that familiar terrible sinking feeling you get deep down inside when you know something is just not quite right. It feels bad…very very bad. Within minutes Amber started vomiting terrible body heaving wretches over and over again. With all the practice I have had with Corey’s various illnesses I do not do the ‘let’s just wait and see’ approach very well. I am more of a chuck ‘em in the car screaming to the vet ‘better to be safe than sorry’ approach kind of person. In the past this performance had served my pets very well at one point or another.
I contacted the UQ Small Animal Clinic & Veterinary Teaching Hospital and told them of Amber’s symptoms. It was agreed she had to come in straight away and see the emergency vet. It only takes 20 minutes to get to there (15 if you ignore speed limits). They would be ready for our arrival. Minutes after we did arrive the emergency vet on duty Dr Stephanie ‘Steph’ Hannan introduced herself and commenced a physical examination, while peppering questions to eliminate possible causes for her vomiting:
- Is she up to date with her vaccinations: ‘Check’;
- is she up to date with her worming: ‘Check’;
- could she have gotten into toxins: ‘Definitely not’;
- could you have given her any new foods or human treats: ‘Nope’;
- could she have eaten something in the yard: ‘She’s a puppy what do you think!’
We quickly discussed the two main possibilities: Pancreatitis (but given that she has not eaten anything fatty or outside of her usual diet seemed unlikely) and something else called Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE). I was told there appears to be an outbreak of HGE with a number of dogs presenting with the condition.
Without pause I completed all the necessary paperwork to begin treatment. Amber underwent an ultra-sound and blood tests. The ultrasound was to check if her Pancreases were abnormal, if something foreign was lodged or if her gastro tract was affected. The diagnostics would check her Electrolytes, red blood cells, protein & fluid levels etc.
It was confirmed Amber was suffering from Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE). I was pleased it was not Pancreatitis but apprehensive about HGE, as I was unfamiliar with the treatment or prognosis of this condition.
Dr ‘Steph’ started Amber on ‘aggressive supportive treatment’ which involved IV fluids to relieve her dehydration levels and IV antibiotics to deal with any bacteria that may be present. She was to stay in hospital until her condition improves, several days are commonly required for treatment.
I felt sick with worry, not believing this was happening. Yesterday she was running around the backyard in her usual happy and cheeky manner, not a care in the world.
Why did Amber get HGE? What could I have done to prevent it?
I called the clinic later that night and again first thing in the morning to check on her progress. Dr ‘Steph’ informed me she had her dinner last night and was feeling much brighter. If she continues to improve while the fluid therapy is tapered off, she might be able to come home that afternoon with oral antibiotics!
I was delighted and cannot even put into words the relief I felt. She was not fully out of the woods, but I felt much more confident my little girl was going to be O.K.
This did not stop the torment of one single question. What did I have to do to ensure she never got HGE ever again?
After researching for hours on end and reading the information sheets provided. It would seem that there was nothing specific I could have done to prevent neither it now or possibly in the future. No current research has been able to prove an exact cause. There are many theories but none conclusive. What they do believe to be true is that HGE is not contagious, it does not spread from dog to dog nor does it discriminate, affecting any dog at any time for no real apparent reason. I feel frustrated that I have no control over this thing!
HGE needs so much more research committed for the cause to be found and more lives can be saved. In the mean time all I can do is tell Amber’s story to as many people as possible so as good pet owners we can all look for the early signs of HGE.
As for Amber and I, well she is home safe and sound (albeit her fur looks like a patchwork quilt), I will be extra vigilant and as usual try and identify early any unusual behaviour or patterns and as always trust my gut instinct, it has served me well so far!