Anemia in dogs can be a symptom of serious underlying health issues that require urgent veterinary care. Here, our Cumming vets explain the different types of anemia in dogs, including causes, symptoms, and treatments.
Why Anemia Occurs in Dogs
Anemia can occur when your pup’s body is unable to produce enough hemoglobin or red blood cells. It can also happen if your dog suffers from severe blood loss due to trauma or conditions such as stomach ulcers or cancer. If your dog has anemia, it's a sign that your pet is suffering from an underlying condition or disease that requires urgent attention from a vet.
Types of Anemia in Dogs
If your dog suffers from anemia, it is important to identify the specific type. There are a variety of types of anemia in dogs, including blood loss anemia and aplastic anemia.
Blood Loss Anemia
Blood loss anemia is a type of regenerative anemia in dogs that can result from blood loss due to a bleeding disorder, accident, injury, or surgery. Internal bleeding can also lead to blood loss anemia. Internal bleeding can come from may occur due to parasites, cancer, ulcers, or other serious health conditions.
Immune-Mediated & Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs
Hemolytic anemia and immune-mediated anemia are characterized by the breakdown or destruction of red blood cells in your dog’s body. This form of anemia often stems from a hereditary disease. There can also be a non-immune mediated form of the condition caused by toxins, parasites, low phosphorus levels, or hereditary disease.
Aplastic Anemia in Dogs
Aplastic anemia in dogs is characterized by the insufficient production of red blood cells. Some causes of aplastic or non-regenerative anemia in dogs include bone marrow disease, kidney disease, exposure to toxins, parvovirus, chemotherapy drugs, and other medications.
Methemoglobinemia in Dogs
Genetic disorders can lead to the production of too much methemoglobin in the blood, which results in methemoglobinemia in dogs. Methemoglobinemia can also result from exposure to toxins, such as benzocaine, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen.
Symptoms of Anemia in Dogs
The symptoms your dog displays will depend on the type of anemia they are suffering from and the underlying cause of the condition. The following are some of the most common symptoms and signs of anemia in dogs:
- Weakness or lethargy
- Black stools
- Fast pulse or rapid breathing
- Pale gums, ears
- Lack of veins in the eyes
- Swelling of the jaw or face
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
If your pet is displaying any of these signs of anemia, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to schedule an examination. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential when it comes to treating dogs with conditions that can lead to anemia.
What Causes Anemia in Dogs
Anemia can develop in dogs due to several serious health conditions such as:
- Chronic diseases, which often suppresses red blood cell production
- Infectious diseases (such as canine distemper)
- Intestinal bleeding
- Severe blood loss
- Cushing’s disease
- Medications that interfere with the production of red blood cells
- Poisons or toxins
- Tick-borne diseases
- Poor nutrition
- Bone marrow disease
- Kidney disease
- Blood loss caused by parasites
Treatment for Anemia in Dogs
If your dog is diagnosed with anemia, they will receive different treatments depending on the underlying cause of their condition. Your dog's treatment for anemia could include:
- Intravenous fluids
- Parasite medications
- Gastrointestinal medication
- Change in existing medications
- Immunosuppressive drugs
- Blood transfusion
- Bone marrow transfusion
- Potassium phosphate supplements
The Prognosis for Dogs with Anemia
Anemia can indicate very serious, life-threatening health issues such as cancer, autoimmune diseases, or poisoning. The prognosis for dogs with anemia varies based on the availability of effective treatment for the underlying condition.
The only way to eliminate anemia in dogs is by preventing the conditions that cause it. To keep your pet heathy and reduce their risk of anemia, keep substances that are toxic to dogs (such as human food and medications) far away from your canine companion. Also, make sure to provide your pup with a healthy diet and an appropriate level of exercise.
Protecting your dog against worms, fleas, and ticks with year-round parasite prevention medications, can also help to prevent your dog from developing anemia.
If you’ve got a breed of dog that faces a higher-than-average risk of developing anemia, take your pup for a veterinary wellness exam every six months to monitor for early signs of the condition.
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.