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Anemia in Dogs

Anemia in Dogs

You should bring your dog in for veterinary care if you notice any of the signs of anemia as this can indicate a serious health concern. Here, our Fairhaven internal medicine vets talk about the types of anemia experienced by dogs and what the treatment options and prognosis might be.

Anemia in Dogs: How does it happen?

Anemia may happen if your furry friend is not able to produce the red blood cells or hemoglobin their body requires. This condition can also occur your dog suffers severe blood loss due to trauma or conditions such as stomach ulcers or cancer. 

Any dog experiencing anemia will likely be suffering from an underlying condition or disease that requires care from an internal medicine vet.

Regenerative Anemia in Dogs

If your dog is suffering from a form of regenerative anemia it means that your pup's bone marrow is producing red blood cells normally but is unable to meet the body's demand either due to loss of blood or destruction of the cells after they are produced.

Blood Loss Anemia

  • Blood loss anemia is a type of regenerative anemia in dogs that can result from severe blood loss due to a bleeding disorder, accident, injury or surgery. Internal bleeding can also lead to blood loss anemia and may occur due to parasites, cancer, ulcers or other serious health conditions.

Immune-Mediated & Hemolytic Anemia

  • Hemolytic anemia (which is sometimes immune-mediated anemia) is characterized by the breakdown or destruction of red blood cells in your dog’s body. This anemia often stems from a hereditary disease, or the non-immune mediated form of the condition caused by toxins, parasites, low phosphorus levels or hereditary disease.

Aplastic or Non-Regenerative Anemia in Dogs

Aplastic, Anemia of Inflammatory Disease (AID), or non-regenerative anemia in dogs is characterized by the insufficient production of red blood cells. Common causes of aplastic or non-regenerative anemia in dogs include bone marrow disease, kidney disease, exposure to toxins, parvovirus, chemotherapy drugs and other medications.

Methemoglobinemia

  • Genetic disorders can lead to too much methemoglobin in the blood and result in methemoglobinemia in dogs. Methemoglobinemia can also result from exposure to toxins, including human medications, such as benzocaine, acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

What are the symptoms that dogs with anemia experience?

The symptoms shown by your dog will depend upon the type of anemia they are suffering from and the underlying cause of the condition. The following are some of the most common symptoms of anemia in dogs.

  • Pale gums, eyes or ears
  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Black stools
  • Fast pulse or rapid breathing
  • Swelling of the jaw or face
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

If your pet displays signs of anemia, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to schedule an examination. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential when it comes to treating dogs with conditions that can lead to anemia.

What conditions contribute to anemia in dogs?

There are a variety of conditions that can cause anemia in your pup including:

  • Cushing’s disease
  • Chronic diseases suppressing red blood cell production
  • Infectious diseases (such as canine distemper)
  • Intestinal bleeding
  • Severe blood loss
  • Medications that interfere with the production of red blood cells
  • Blood loss caused by parasites
  • Poisons or toxins
  • Cancer
  • Tick-borne diseases
  • Poor nutrition
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Bone marrow disease
  • Kidney disease

What are the treatment options for dogs with anemia?

If your dog is suffering from anemia, they will require treatment using veterinary internal medicine. Your dog's treatment for anemia could include:

  • Intravenous fluids
  • Deworming
  • Parasite medications
  • Gastrointestinal medication
  • Chemotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Change in existing medications
  • Antibiotics
  • Immunosuppressive drugs
  • Blood transfusion
  • Bone marrow transfusion
  • Potassium phosphate supplements

What is the prognosis for dogs living with anemia?

Anemia can be an indication of very serious life-threatening health issues such as cancer, autoimmune diseases, or poisoning. Your veterinary internist will be able to speak with you about your dog's condition and offer treatment with vet internal medicine to provide you with an accurate prognosis.

What are some ways to prevent anemia in dogs?

The only way to prevent anemia in dogs is by controlling the conditions that cause it. Keep substances that are toxic to dogs (such as human food and medications) far away from your canine companion, and provide your pup with a healthy diet and an appropriate level of exercise.

Protecting your dog against worms, fleas and ticks with year-round parasite prevention medications, can also help to prevent your dog from developing anemia.

If you’ve got a breed of dog that faces a higher than average risk of developing anemia (Shih Tzus, Labrador Retrievers, American Cocker Spaniels, and Miniature Schnauzers), take your pup for vet internal medicine including a wellness exam twice yearly.

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.

If you are concerned that your dog has developed anemia, contact our Fairhaven vet internists right away to book an examination for your pup.

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