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Symptoms, Causes & Treatment of Anemia in Dogs

Various underlying health conditions can lead to anemia in dogs. Today, our Huntersville vets describe the different types of anemia we see in dogs, in addition to their numerous symptoms and treatments. 


What is anemia in dogs?

If your dog has anemia, the disease could indicate that your pet is suffering from an underlying illness or condition.

Anemia happens when your pet’s body does not produce enough haemoglobin or red blood cells, or when your dog suffers severe blood loss as a result of conditions such as stomach ulcers or cancer. A serious injury or accident can also lead to anemia.

What are the different types of anemia?

Blood Loss Anemia

If your dog is suffering from severe blood loss due to a bleeding disorder, injury or surgery, this can result in blood loss anemia. Internal bleeding due to parasites, cancer, ulcers or other health conditions can also be the culprit.

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.

Methemoglobinemia

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.

Hemolytic Anemia

The breakdown or destruction of red blood cells in your dog’s body can lead to 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 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
  • Vomiting
  • 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
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Infectious diseases (including canine distemper)
  • Bleeding from the intestines
  • Medications which interfere with production of red blood cells
  • Severe blood loss due to injury or accident
  • Blood loss caused by parasites
  • Poisons or toxins
  • Cancer
  • Tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease
  • Poor nutrition
  • Bone marrow disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Hypothyroidism

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
  • Chemotherapy
  • Surgery
  • 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 is displaying signs of anemia, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to schedule an examination.

Can I prevent my dog from developing anemia?

Whenever possible, take measures to prevent anemia by preventing the conditions that cause it. 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.

Protect your dog against worms, fleas and ticks with year-round parasite prevention medications, and you’ll eliminate another potential cause.

If you’ve got a breed of dog that’s 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. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet. 

Is your dog showing symptoms of anemia? At LakeCross Veterinary Hospital, our Huntersville vets can diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions. Book an appointment today.

Anemia in Dogs | Huntersville Vet

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