When dogs are diagnosed with anemia it means that there is an underlying condition threatening your dog's overall health. Today our Berkeley vets explain the different types of anemia seen in dogs, as well as their symptoms of anemia and how it can be treated.
Anemia in Dogs
In dogs, anemia is a condition that indicates that your pet is suffering from an underlying disease or illness. Anemia occurs when your pet's body isn't producing enough red blood cells or hemoglobin, or when your dog suffers severe blood loss due to conditions such as cancer, or stomach ulcers, or if your dog has experienced trauma such as a serious accident or injury.
The different types of anemia seen in dogs each have their own unique cause and treatment will depend upon the cause of your dog's condition.
Blood Loss Anemia in Dogs
Blood loss anemia occurs when your dog has experienced severe loss of blood due to an injury, surgery, or a bleeding disorder. This form of anemia could also be caused by internal bleeding due to cancer, ulcers, parasites, or other health conditions. Anemia caused by blood loss is a form of regenerative anemia. This is because although the bone marrow responds appropriately to the decreased number of red blood cells by increasing production it is unable to meet the demand.
Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs
Hemolytic anemia is caused by the destruction or breakdown of red blood cells in your dog's body. This form of anemia is often the result of immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) or autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA), or non-immune mediated caused by a hereditary disease, parasites, toxins, or low phosphorous levels.
Immune-Mediated Anemia in Dogs
Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia in dogs - also called IMHA for short - is an autoimmune condition in which your pet's body attacks its own red blood cells leading to anemia and the need for blood transfusions. This serious condition can lead cause the formation of blood clots in the brain and lungs in some dogs.
This form of anemia comes in two types:
- Primary AIHA occurs when your dog's immune system isn't working as it should and attacks your dog's red blood cells. Approximately three-quarters of the cases of Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia in dogs are primary.
- Secondary AIHA occurs when the surface of your dog's red blood cells change due to an underlying disease or a toxin. Your dog's immune system believes the altered red blood cells are an invading health threat and launches an attack. Secondary AIHA can be triggered by conditions such as cancer, Ehrlichiosis, Leptospirosis, parasites, drug reactions, snakebites, chemicals, toxins, or bee stings.
Aplastic or Non-Regenerative Anemia in Dogs
Aplastic or non-regenerative anemia develops in dogs due to insufficient production of red blood cells. This form of anemia can occur due to toxin exposure, bone marrow disease, kidney disease, certain medications, chemotherapy drugs, or parvovirus.
Methemoglobinemia in Dogs
Methemoglobinemia in dogs is caused by too much methemoglobin in the blood due to certain genetic disorders, or exposure to toxins including a number of different medications meant for human use only such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen or benzocaine.
Signs That Your Dog May Be Anemic
Dogs suffering from anemia can display a variety of symptoms depending upon the type of anemia they are experiencing. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Swelling of the face or jaw
- Black stools
- Weight loss
- Fast pulse or rapid breathing
- Pale gums, ears, or eyes
- Lethargy or weakness
Common Causes of Anemia in Dogs
There are a number of conditions that can result in your pup developing anemia. Some of the most common causes of anemia in dogs include:
- Medications that interfere with red blood cell production
- Blood loss caused by parasites
- Kidney disease
- Cushing’s disease
- Infectious diseases including canine distemper
- Severe blood loss as a result of accident or injury
- Toxins or poisons
- Tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease
- Poor nutrition
- Bone marrow disease
- Intestinal bleeding
- Chronic diseases that suppress red blood cell production
Treatment for Dogs with Anemia
If your pooch is diagnosed with anemia, the treatment that your vet prescribes will be based upon the underlying cause of the condition. Common treatments for anemia in dogs include:
- Blood transfusion
- Bone marrow transfusion
- Intravenous fluids
- Change of existing medications
- Antibiotics or immunosuppressive drugs
- Potassium phosphate supplements
- Gastrointestinal medication
- Parasite or de-worming medications
The prognosis for dogs with anemia depends upon the availability of effective treatment for the underlying illness. Severe anemia in dogs can indicate a very serious or possibly fatal condition such as poisoning, cancer or an autoimmune condition. If your pet is showing any signs of anemia contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to book an examination.
Preventing Anemia in Dogs
Preventing anemia in your dog relies upon preventing the conditions that cause anemia (where possible). Parasite prevention medications year-round can help to protect your dog against diseases spread by ticks, fleas, and worms which can lead to anemia.
Keeping toxic substances such as human medications and foods far out of your dog's reach as well as providing your dog with a healthy diet, may also help to prevent your dog from developing anemia.
If your canine companion is a breed that is susceptible to developing anemia (Shih Tzus, Labrador Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, and American Cocker Spaniels) regular wellness examinations twice yearly at your primary care veterinarian may help to detect the signs of anemia early, and provide treatment before the condition becomes more severe.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.