What causes anemia in dogs, and how is it treated?

What causes anemia in dogs, and how is it treated?

Anemia in dogs can be caused by a number of underlying health conditions. Today our West Chester vets explain the different types of anemia seen in dogs, as well as their various symptoms and treatments.

What is anemia in dogs?

Anemia is a condition which indicates that your dog may be suffering from a serious underlying disease or illness. Anemia in dogs occurs when the animal's body isn't producing enough red blood cells or haemoglobin, or when your pet suffers severe blood loss due to conditions including cancer, or stomach ulcers, or if your dog has experienced trauma such as a serious accident or injury.

What are the different types of anemia seen in dogs?

Hemolytic Anemia - Hemolytic anemia is caused by the destruction or breakdown of red blood cells in your dog's body. Often this form of anemia results from hereditary disease, parasites, toxins, or low phosphorous levels.

Aplastic or Non-Regenerative Anemia - This form of anemia develops in dogs due to insufficient production of red blood cells. Aplastic or non-regenerative anemia may be caused by toxin exposure, bone marrow disease, kidney disease, certain medications, chemotherapy drugs, or parvovirus.

Methemoglobinemia - Methemoglobinemia in dogs is characterized by too much methemoglobin in the blood possibly caused by certain genetic disorders, or exposure to toxins including a number of different medications meant for human use only such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen or benzocaine.

Blood Loss Anemia - Blood loss anemia occurs when your dog has experienced severe loss of blood due to an injury, surgery, or a bleeding disorder. Blood Loss Anemia could also be caused by internal bleeding due to cancer, ulcers, parasites, or other health conditions.

What are the symptoms of anemia in dogs?

Symptoms of anemia in dogs vary based upon the underlying cause of the condition. That said, if your dog is suffering from anemia you may notice one or more of the following symptoms: 

  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Facial swelling
  • Black stools
  • Weight loss
  • Fast pulse
  • Rapid breathing
  • Pale gums, ears, or eyes
  • Lethargy or weakness

What causes anemia in dogs?

There are a number of conditions which can result in a dog developing anemia. Some of the most common causes of anemia in dogs include:

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

How is anemia in dogs treated?

If your pet is diagnosed with anemia, the treatment recommended by your veterinarian will be focused primarily on the underlying cause of condition. Some of the treatments that your vet may recommend include:

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

What is the prognosis for dogs with anemia?

Your dog's successful recovery from anemia will depend upon the availability of effective treatment for the underlying illness. Sadly, anemia can indicate that your dog is suffering from a life-threatening condition such as poisoning, cancer or an autoimmune condition.

If your pet is showing any of signs of anemia contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to schedule an examination. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for the successful treatment of many underlying conditions that can lead to anemia in dogs.

How can I prevent my dog from developing anemia?

Preventing anemia in dogs comes down to preventing the conditions that cause anemia (whenever possible). Year round parasite prevention medications to protect your dog against ticks, fleas, and worms is one way to help your dog avoid developing anemia.

Storing toxic substances such as human medications and foods far out of your dog's reach, as well as providing your dog with a healthy diet, may also help to prevent your dog from developing anemia.

If your pet is a breed that is at high risk of developing anemia (American Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, and Shih Tzus), regular wellness exams twice yearly at your primary care veterinarian may help to detect the signs of anemia early, and provide treatment before the condition becomes more serious.

If your dog is showing symptoms of anemia contact West Chester Veterinary Medical Center to book an appointment, or visit your nearest emergency veterinary clinic for urgent care.

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