Today, our New York vets explain the types of anemia in dogs, in addition to their numerous symptoms and treatments.
What is anemia in dogs?
Anemia in dogs can happen when their body doesn't make enough red blood cells, often due to an underlying health issue like stomach ulcers or cancer. A serious injury or accident can also lead to anemia.
What are the different types of anemia?
Blood Loss Anemia
Dogs can develop aplastic or non-regenerative anemia when their bodies don't produce enough red blood cells. This can happen because of bone marrow or kidney problems and exposure to certain toxins, infections like parvovirus, or specific medications.
Aplastic or Non-Regenerative Anemia
Dogs can develop aplastic or non-regenerative anemia as a result of insufficient production of red blood cells. Bone marrow disease, kidney disease, exposure to toxins, parvovirus, chemotherapy drugs, and other certain medications can also cause this form of anemia.
In dogs, certain genetic disorders can lead to too much methemoglobin in the blood and result in methemoglobinemia. This condition could also be due to exposure to toxins, including some medications meant for exclusively human use, such as benzocaine, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen.
When your dog's red blood cells break down or get destroyed, it can cause a type of anemia called hemolytic anemia. This form of anemia often results from immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) or the non-immune mediated form of the condition (caused by toxins, parasites, low phosphorus levels, or hereditary disease).
What are the symptoms of anemia in dogs?
If your dog is suffering from anemia, you may notice one or more symptoms, which will vary depending on the underlying cause of your dog's condition.
- Pale gums, eyes, or ears
- Weakness or lethargy
- Black stools
- Fast pulse or rapid breathing
- Swelling of the jaw or face
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
What causes anemia in dogs?
Numerous conditions can result in your dog developing anemia. A few of the most common causes of anemia in dogs include:
- Chronic diseases that suppress red blood cell production
- Infectious diseases (including canine distemper)
- Bleeding from the intestines
- Medications that interfere with the production of red blood cells
- Severe blood loss due to injury or accident
- Blood loss caused by parasites
- Poisons or toxins
- Tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease
- Poor nutrition
- Bone marrow disease
- Kidney disease
How is anemia in dogs treated?
If your dog is diagnosed with anemia, your veterinarian will recommend a treatment based on what's causing the condition. Some treatments that your vet recommends could include:
- Intravenous fluids
- Deworming or parasite medications
- Gastrointestinal medication
- Change in existing medications
- Antibiotics or immunosuppressive drugs
- Blood transfusion
- Bone marrow transfusion
- Potassium phosphate supplements
Depending on the availability of effective treatment for the underlying illness, the prognosis for dogs with anemia may vary. Sadly, anemia can be an indication of a very serious or fatal condition, such as an autoimmune condition, poisoning, or cancer.
If your pet displays signs of anemia, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to schedule an examination.
Can I prevent my dog from developing anemia?
Whenever possible, avoid anemia by keeping harmful substances away from your dog. Keep substances that are toxic to dogs (such as human food and medications) far away from your curious pup, and provide him with a healthy diet. These actions may help prevent your dog from developing anemia.
Use year-round medication to shield your dog from worms, fleas, and ticks with year-round parasite prevention medications, and you'll eliminate another potential cause.
If you have a breed of dog that susceptible to developing anemia (Shih Tzus, Labrador Retrievers, American Cocker Spaniels, and Miniature Schnauzers), regularly scheduled wellness exams - every six months - at your primary care veterinarian may help to detect early signs of anemia, so your dog can receive a diagnosis and get treatment before the condition gets more severe.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your condition.