Numerous underlying health issues can cause anemia in dogs. Our Los Angeles County vets list the types of anemia seen in dogs, as well as symptoms of this serious condition and how your vet may choose to treat it.
Anemia in Dogs
Anemia is a condition that indicates your dog is suffering from an underlying illness or disease. When your pet's body doesn't produce enough red blood cells or hemoglobin, your dog can suffer severe blood loss due to conditions such as stomach ulcers or cancers, resulting in anemia. This may also occur if a serious accident or injury has caused trauma to the body.
Types of Anemia Seen in Dogs
Aplastic or Non-Regenerative Anemia
Insufficient production of red blood cells can lead to aplastic or non-regenerative anemia in dogs, which can occur due to exposure to toxins, kidney disease, bone marrow disease, parvovirus, chemotherapy drugs or certain medications.
When the levels of red blood cells drop, the bone marrow does not respond effectively.
Blood Loss Anemia
If your dog experiences severe blood loss due to a bleeding disorder, injury or surgery, blood loss anemia can occur. Internal bleeding due to parasites, ulcers, cancers or other health conditions can also cause this type of anemia.
The breakdown or destruction of red blood cells in your pooch's body can lead to hemolytic anemia. This form of anemia often results from immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) in dogs, or autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA), or non-immune mediated anemia caused by a hereditary disease, toxins, low phosphorous levels or parasites.
If there is too much methemoglobin in the blood due to certain genetic disorders or exposure to toxins including a range of medications meant for exclusively human use such as benzocaine, acetaminophen or ibuprofen, this can cause methemoglobinemia.
Regenerative anemia in dogs can be caused by a hemorrhage or hemolysis (rupture or destruction of blood cells). The bone marrow releases immature red blood cells to try to make up for the absence of red blood cells. The loss in red blood cell mass may be caused by decreased bone marrow production, genetics, poisoning or blood loss.
Signs That Your Dog May Be Anemic
If your pup is suffering from anemia, you may notice one or more of the symptoms listed below. Symptoms will vary depending on the underlying cause of your pooch's condition.
- Pale gums, ears or eyes
- Loss of appetite
- Rapid breathing or fast pulse
- Weight loss
- Black stools
- Swelling in the jaw or face
- 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 on 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. Sadly, anemia can indicate that your dog is suffering from a very serious or possibly fatal condition such as poisoning, cancer or an autoimmune condition. Sometimes, severe anemia in dogs can occur due to these or severe trauma, making the prognosis less favorable.
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.