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Types of Anemia in Dogs

Anemia in dogs can indicate a number of potential underlying conditions. Today, our South Charlotte vets explain causes, symptoms and treatments.

What is anemia?

Typically, anemia indicates underlying disease. Anemia in dogs happens when the body doesn’t produce a sufficient number of red blood cells (hemoglobin), or when a condition such as stomach ulcers, cancers or trauma from an injury or accident leads to severe blood loss.

What are the types of anemia in dogs?

Aplastic or non-regenerative anemia - This form of anemia is caused by insufficient production of red blood cells. This may happen due to poisoning (exposure to toxins), kidney disease, bone marrow disease, chemotherapy drugs, certain medications or parvovirus.

Blood loss anemia - An injury, bleeding disorder or surgery may cause severe blood loss which can lead to this condition. Ulcers, cancer, parasites or other conditions that cause internal bleeding may also result in this form of anemia.

Methemoglobinemia - Certain genetic disorders or exposure to toxins including some human medications such as acetaminophen, benzocaine and ibuprofen can result in too much methemoglobin in the blood, which can lead to this type of anemia.

Hemolytic anemia - The breakdown or destruction of red blood cells can cause this form of anemia. Hemolytic anemia is often the result of autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA) or immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA), or non-immune mediated due to low phosphorous levels, parasites, hereditary disease or toxins.

What are the symptoms of anemia in dogs?

Signs and symptoms of anemia in dogs depend on the underlying cause but may include:

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

What causes anemia in dogs?

Anemia is a symptom rather than a specific disease. Several conditions can cause anemia in dogs, including:

  • Tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease
  • Blood loss due to parasitic infections such as fleas, whipworms or hookworms
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Bone marrow disease
  • Toxins or poisons, including rat poison or lead poisoning
  • Chronic diseases that impact or suppress production of red blood cells
  • Intestinal bleeding due to disease or medications 
  • Poor nutrition 
  • Cancer
  • Kidney Disease
  • Severe blood loss due to trauma (injury or accident)
  • Medications that interfere with production of red blood cells
  • Cushing’s Disease
  • Infectious diseases including canine distemper

Can anemia be fatal to dogs?

Sadly, anemia in dogs can sometimes be a sign that your dog is suffering from a very serious, potentially fatal condition such as an autoimmune disease, cancer or poisoning. This is why anemia in dogs should always be taken seriously. Schedule an appointment with your vet immediately if you see any symptoms of anemia in your dog.

Can anemia in dogs be cured?

The prognosis for anemia in dogs varies depending on cause and whether treatment for the underlying condition is available and administered in time. Once the cause of your dog’s anemia has been established, your vet can recommend the best possible treatment.

The treatments your vet may recommend include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Bone marrow transfusion
  • Intravenous fluids
  • Blood transfusions
  • Surgery
  • Potassium phosphate supplements
  • Antibiotics
  • Change of existing medications
  • Parasite or deworming medications
  • Change to current medications
  • Gastrointestinal medication
  • Immunosuppressive drugs

Can anemia in dogs be prevented?

Because underlying conditions cause anemia in dogs, making every effort to prevent these conditions is critical. Ensuring your dog is up to date on parasite prevention medications will keep worms, ticks and fleas at bay, Keeping toxic substances far out of reach of your dog’s curious nose is another way to prevent him or her from developing anemia, and ensuring your dog eats a healthy diet may also help.

Some breeds are vulnerable to developing anemia, including Labrador Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, Shih Tzus and American Cocker Spaniels. Routine examinations at Sharon Lakes can help to detect early signs of anemia.

Our vets are experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of challenging cases and have a variety of diagnostic tools and treatment methods at their disposal.

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.

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