Anemia in dogs is a serious condition that can be caused by a number of underlying health issues. In this post our Cordova emergency and specialist 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.
Types of Anemia Seen in Dogs
Blood Loss Anemia
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 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.
Aplastic or Non-Regenerative Anemia
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 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
If your pooch is suffering from anemia you may notice one or more of the following symptoms. Your dog's anemia symptoms will vary based upon the underlying cause of your pup's condition.
- 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
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 pup is diagnosed with anemia, the treatment that your vet recommends will be based upon the underlying cause of the condition. Some of the treatments that your vet may recommend 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 pooch 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 comes down to preventing the conditions that cause anemia (whenever possible). Year-round parasite prevention medications to protect your dog against ticks, fleas, and worms is one way to help your dog avoid developing 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.