Anemia in Dogs - Causes & Symptoms

When our Memphis vets diagnose anemia in dogs it is viewed as a symptom of an underlying condition rather than the primary condition. If anemia has been diagnosed in your dog, here is what you should know about the causes, symptoms and treatments.

What is anemia in dogs?

Anemia in dogs is a condition which is typically viewed as a symptom of an underlying disease, illness or trauma. Anemia occurs when either your pet's body doesn't produce enough red blood cells or hemoglobin, or if your dog suffers severe blood loss due to a medical condition such as cancer, or due to trauma such as a serious accident or injury.

There are 4 different types of anemia that dogs can suffer from:

Blood Loss Anemia

Blood loss anemia occurs in dogs due to severe loss of blood caused by injury, surgery, or a bleeding disorder. This form of anemia could also be caused by internal bleeding caused by parasites, cancer, ulcers or other conditions.

Hemolytic Anemia 

Hemolytic Anemia happens due to the destruction or breakdown of the dog's red blood cells. This form of anemia can result from immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA), autoimmune hemolytic anemia- (AIHA), or non-immune mediated causes such as hereditary disease, parasites, toxins, or low phosphorous levels.

Aplastic or Non-Regenerative Anemia

Caused by insufficient production of red blood cells, aplastic or non-regenerative anemia can occur in dogs due to toxin exposure (poisoning), bone marrow disease, kidney disease, parvovirus, certain medications, or chemotherapy drugs.

Methemoglobinemia

In dogs, methemoglobinemia is caused by too much methemoglobin in the blood due to certain genetic disorders, or exposure to toxins including some human medications such as benzocaine, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen.

What are the symptoms of anemia in dogs?

If your dog as anemia, you may notice one or more of the following signs and symptoms. These symptoms will vary based upon the underlying cause of the condition, and the type of anemia causing the symptoms.

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

What causes anemia in dogs?

There are a number of conditions which can lead to your dog becoming anemic, including:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Kidney disease
  • Cancer
  • Intestinal bleeding
  • Medications that interfere with red blood cell production
  • Severe blood loss as a result of accident or injury
  • Infectious diseases including canine distemper
  • Bone marrow disease
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Poor nutrition
  • Blood loss caused by parasites such as fleas 
  • Chronic diseases that suppress red blood cell production
  • Toxins or poisons (rat poison or lead poisoning)
  • Tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease

What is the treatment for anemia in dogs?

The treatment that your vet recommends for your dog will be based upon the underlying cause of the condition. Some of the treatments that your vet may recommend include:

  • If your pet is diagnosed with anemia,
  • Chemotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Blood transfusion
  • Bone marrow transfusion
  • Parasite or de-worming medications
  • Change of existing medications
  • Antibiotics or immunusuppressive drugs
  • Potassium phosphate supplements
  • Gastrointestinal medication

What is the prognosis for dogs with anemia?

The prognosis for dogs with anemia depends upon whether there is an effective treatment for the underlying illness. 

Sadly, anemia can indicate that your dog is suffering from a very serious or life-threatening condition such as cancer, autoimmune conditions or poisoning. Which is why pet parents should always take the symptoms of anemia seriously. If your dog is showing any of the signs of anemia listed above, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to schedule an examination.

Prevention

When it comes to preventing anemia, the focus should be on preventing the underlying causes. 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 far out of your dog's reach, and providing your dog with a healthy diet may also help to prevent your dog from developing anemia.

If your dog is a breed that is susceptible to developing anemia including American Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, and Shih Tzus, regular twice yearly wellness examinations at your primary care vet may 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.

If you think that your dog may have anemia contact Stage Road Animal Hospital in Memphis. For over 45 years, our vets have been providing comprehensive veterinary care for cats and dogs in the North Memphis community. 

Symptoms, causes and treatments of anemia in dogs, Memphis Vet

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