Anemia in dogs can indicate a number of potential underlying conditions. Today, our Fort Worth vets explain causes, symptoms, and treatments of anemia in dogs.
What is anemia?
Anemia usually indicates an underlying disease. Anemia in dogs occurs when the body does not produce enough red blood cells (hemoglobin) or when a condition such as stomach ulcers, cancer, or trauma from an injury or accident causes severe blood loss.
What are the types of anemia in dogs?
Aplastic or non-regenerative anemia in dogs - The insufficient production of red blood cells causes this type of anemia. Poisoning (exposure to toxins), kidney disease, bone marrow disease, chemotherapy drugs, certain medications, or parvovirus can all cause this.
Blood loss anemia in dogs - Severe blood loss can be caused by an injury, bleeding disorder, or surgery 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 in dogs - Certain genetic disorders or toxins, including some human medications such as acetaminophen, benzocaine, and ibuprofen, can cause an excess of methemoglobin in the blood, resulting in this type of anemia.
Hemolytic anemia in dogs - 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 in dogs (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
- 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
- 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
- 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?
Unfortunately, anemia in dogs can be a sign of a very serious, potentially fatal condition such as an autoimmune disease, cancer, or poisoning. This is why anemia in dogs should never be ignored. If you notice any signs of anemia in your dog, make an appointment with your veterinarian right away.
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:
- Bone marrow transfusion
- Intravenous fluids
- Blood transfusions
- Potassium phosphate supplements
- Change of existing medications
- Parasite or deworming medications
- Change to current medications
- Gastrointestinal medication
- Immunosuppressive drugs
Can anemia in dogs be prevented?
Because anemia in dogs is caused by underlying conditions, it is critical to make every effort to prevent these conditions. Keeping your dog's parasite prevention medications up to date will keep worms, ticks, and fleas at bay. Keeping toxic substances out of your dog's curious nose's reach is another way to prevent 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 Harris Parkway Animal Hospital 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.