Anemia is a serious condition that is usually caused by an underlying condition that requires veterinary attention. Today our Oceanside vets discuss the causes, symptoms and treatments for anemia in dogs.
What Is Anemia and How Does It Occur?
Anemia is a condition that is typically a symptom of an underlying disease. Anemia in dogs occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells or hemoglobin, or when they suffer severe blood loss due to conditions such as cancer or stomach ulcers, or trauma such as an injury or accident.
What are the types of anemia in dogs?
- Blood loss anemia - This type of anemia is caused by severe loss of blood from injury, surgery, or a bleeding disorder. This form of anemia may also be caused by internal bleeding due to parasites, cancer, ulcers or other conditions.
- Hemolytic anemia - Hemolytic anemia is caused by the destruction or breakdown of red blood cells. Often the result of immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) or autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA), or non-immune mediated caused by a hereditary disease, toxins, low phosphorous levels or parasites.
- Aplastic or non-regenerative anemia - Insufficient production of red blood cells is the cause of this form of anemia. This may occur due to toxin exposure (poisoning), bone marrow disease, kidney disease, parvovirus, chemotherapy drugs, or certain medications.
- Methemoglobinemia - This type of anemia happens when there is too much methemoglobin in the blood caused by certain genetic disorders, or exposure to toxins including some human medications such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and benzocaine.
What are the symptoms of anemia in dogs?
The signs and symptoms of anemia in dogs vary based on the underlying cause but can include:
- Black stools
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Pale gums, eyes or ears
- Fast pulse or rapid breathing
- Weakness or lethargy
- Swelling in the face or jaw
What causes anemia in dogs?
Because anemia is a symptom rather than a disease, there are a number of conditions that can lead to anemia in dogs, including:
- Kidney disease
- Cushing’s disease
- Medications that interfere with red blood cell production
- Infectious diseases including canine distemper
- Severe blood loss as a result of trauma (accident or injury)
- Poor nutrition
- Intestinal bleeding caused by medications or disease
- Blood loss caused by parasitic infections such as hookworms, whipworms, or fleas
- Chronic diseases that affect or suppress red blood cell production
- Bone marrow disease
- Toxins or poisons including rat poison or lead poisoning
- Tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease
Can a dog die from anemia?
Sadly, anemia in dogs can sometimes indicate that your dog is suffering from a very serious or possibly fatal condition such as poisoning, cancer or autoimmune disorders. For that reason, anemia in dogs should always be taken seriously. If your dog is showing any of the signs or symptoms of anemia contact your veterinarian immediately to schedule an appointment.
Can anemia in dogs be cured?
The prognosis for anemia in dogs depends on the cause and whether treatment is available for the underlying condition causing the anemia. Your vet will run a number of diagnostic tests to find the cause of your dog's anemia and then will recommend the best possible treatment. Some treatments that may be recommended by your vet include:
- Blood/bone marrow transfusion
- Intravenous fluids
- Potassium phosphate supplements
- Change of existing medications
- Immunosuppressive drugs
- Gastrointestinal medication
- Parasite or de-worming medications
Prevention of Anemia in Dogs
Because anemia in dogs is caused by other underlying conditions, preventing those conditions whenever possible is critical. Parasite prevention against ticks, fleas, and worms is one way to help protect your dog against developing anemia. Keeping toxic substances far out of your dog's reach, and providing a healthy diet may also help.
If your dog is a breed that is susceptible to developing anemia including American Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, and Shih Tzus, regular wellness examinations twice yearly at your primary care veterinarian can help to detect the early signs of anemia 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.