Rather than a disease, anemia in dogs is a symptom related to a number of possible underlying conditions. Today our PetVet Care Center vets share more about the causes, symptoms and treatments for anemia in dogs.
What is anemia?
Anemia is a condition which is typically a symptom of an underlying disease. Anemia in dogs occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells or haemoglobin, or when they suffer severe blood loss due to condition 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 - Due to severe loss of blood caused by 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 - 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 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 - 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 anaemia 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 which 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 cause by parasitic infection 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, anaemia in dogs can sometimes indicate that your dog is suffering from a very serious or possibly fatal condition such as poisoning, cancer or autoimmune conditions. 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. Once your vet has established the cause of your dog's anemia they will recommend the best possible treatment. Some treatments that may be recommended by your vet include:
- Blood transfusion
- Intravenous fluids
- Bone marrow transfusion
- Change of existing medications
- Immunusuppressive drugs
- Gastrointestinal medication
- Parasite or de-worming medications
- Potassium phosphate supplements
Because anemia in dogs is caused by other underlying conditions, preventing those conditions whenever possible is key. 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 your dog with 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.