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Acute hemorrhagic diarrhea syndrome (AHDS) is a relatively rare condition in dogs that can be fatal if not treated properly. The disease is characterized by the sudden onset of bloody diarrhea and possibly vomiting, which can lead to severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. While AHDS occurs in both male and female dogs, it’s more common in males, with small and toy breeds who are middIe aged being most often afflicted.


The most common symptoms associated with AHD include:

-Bloody diarrhea


-Loss of appetite


-Painful abdomen


The onset can be very rapid and can be associated with severe fluid loss, leading to shock even before classic signs of dehydration are seen. It is a condition that can be fatal if not treated appropriately and in a timely manner.

PULL QUOTE: Acute hemorrhagic diarrhea syndrome AHDS in dogs is an emergency situation. Emergency veterinary medical care


Though no specific cause for acute hemorrhagic diarrhea syndrome in dogs has been found, there are some potential causes or contributing factors:

  • a species of bacteria called clostridium perfringens, which produces a toxin that can cause blood poisoning
  • Toxins can disturb the lining of the intestines and intestinal blood vessels
  • Stress and hyperactivity
  • Dietary indiscretions (ingestion of non-food items)
  • Intestinal foreign body
  • Immune-related diseases
  • Pancreatitis
  • Allergic reactions (includes those inhaled as well as those ingested)
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Increased risk for pets with owners in the medical field


Diagnosis of acute hemorrhagic diarrhea syndrome in dogs can be challenging for veterinary professionals. This is one of the many diseases or conditions in which your input can be important for obtaining the appropriate diagnosis quickly. Your input will need to address the potential dietary regimen issue, activity levels of your pet, and any known allergies or previous allergic reactions. Because bloody diarrhea can be a symptom of a variety of conditions, your veterinarian will need to eliminate as many of those other diseases and conditions as quickly as possible.

Your vet will do a physical examination and will order blood testing, which will likely include:

  • A complete blood count CBC) to assess blood component values
  • Serum biochemical profile {CH EM) to assess liver function, kidney function, and electrolytes
  • Urinalysis (UA) to assess kidney function and look for markers for inflammation and infection
  • Blood coagulation profile PT/PTT) to ascertain if the canine’s blood is clotting appropriately

 Ultimately, the diagnosis of AHDS is based on these criteria:

  • Age of the dog
  • The breed: Generally small or toy breed
  • Elevated red blood cells
  • Decreased blood protein levels


Treatment options for AHDS will be dependent upon the level of severity. Your vet will be primarily concerned with the immediate condition of your pet upon presentation in the clinic. It’s likely that your pet will be in some stage of dehydration and will require some emergency measures to stabilize them.

Fluids and most likely electrolytes will likely be administered intravenously. Your pet’s organs require appropriate oxygenation, and that can only happen if the fluid levels in the body are sufficient, so we address dehydration first.

Here are some other options which may be included in your pet’s treatment plan:

  • Analgesics for pain management           
  • Antibiotics for potential bacterial infiltration into the bloodstream and to prevent sepsis
  • Anti diarrheal/Anti-nausea medications to ease symptoms and allow your pet to regain its strength. 

As dramatic as the diarrhea is, most patients have an equally dramatic improvement in the first 24 hours of hospitalization, and the average dog is out of the hospital after about three days. This syndrome is treatable and can have a good prognosis if treated quickly. The key is to be aware that, just as in humans, diarrhea and vomiting can dehydrate the body pretty quickly. Bringing your dog to an emergency veterinary facility as soon as possible could mean the difference between life and death and should be taken seriously.