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Types of Anemia in Dogs

While anemia needs to be addressed and treated quickly, it is actually a symptom itself, not a condition. This means that the underlying cause must also be treated. Here, our Citrus Heights vets talk about the different types of anemia in dogs and how they occur as well as what to expect if your dog is diagnosed with anemia.

What is anemia in dogs?

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 hemoglobin, or when they suffer severe blood loss due to conditions such as cancer or stomach ulcers, or trauma such as an injury or accident.

What are the different 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), autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA), or non-immune mediated is 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 symptoms might my dog experience if they have anemia?

Some of the symptoms that are typically seen in dogs with anemia are:

  • Black stools
  • Vomiting
  • 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 are the common causes of anemia in dogs?

Because anemia is a symptom rather than a disease, there are several conditions which can lead to anemia in dogs, including:

  • Cancer
  • 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 caused by parasitic infections such as hookworms, whipworms, or fleas 
  • Hypothyroidism
  • 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

Is anemia life-threatening for dogs?

Sadly, anemia 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.

Severe anemia in dogs can also lead to the need for blood transfusions to avoid a potentially fatal outcome.

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.

What is the prognosis for dogs suffering from anemia?

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
  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Intravenous fluids
  • Bone marrow transfusion
  • Antibiotics
  • Change of existing medications
  • Immunosuppressive drugs
  • Gastrointestinal medication
  • Parasite or de-worming medications
  • Potassium phosphate supplements

How can anemia be prevented?

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 can 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 people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms. 

If you notice that your dog is displaying signs of anemia or have any other concerns, contact our Citrus Heights vets at Family Friends Veterinary Hospital.

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Family Friends Veterinary Hospital is happy to accept new patients! Our vets are passionate about improving the health of Citrus Heights companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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