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Types of Anemia in Dogs

Various underlying health conditions can lead to the development of anemia in our canine companions. Here, we discuss the different types of anemia seen in dogs, associated symptoms and treatment options.

Anemia & Your Dog's Health

Anemia can develop when your dog's body is unable to produce enough hemoglobin (red blood cells), or if your dog suffers severe blood loss due to trauma or conditions such as stomach ulcers or cancer.

If your pup is diagnosed with anemia, your furry friend is likely suffering from an underlying condition or disease that requires urgent veterinary attention.

Are there different types of anemia in dogs?

If your dog is suffering from a form of regenerative anemia it means that your pup's bone marrow is producing red blood cells normally but is unable to meet the body's demand either due to loss of blood or destruction of the cells after they are produced.

Blood Loss Anemia in Dogs

  • Blood loss anemia is a form of regenerative anemia in dogs that results from severe blood loss due to a bleeding disorder, accident, injury or surgery. Internal bleeding can also lead to blood loss anemia and may occur due to parasites, cancer, ulcers or other serious health conditions.

Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs

  • IMHA (Immune Mediated Haemolytic Anaemia) is characterized by the breakdown or destruction of red blood cells in your dog’s body. This type of anemia often stems from a hereditary disease, or the non-immune mediated form of the condition caused by toxins, parasites, low phosphorus levels or hereditary disease.

Aplastic or Non-Regenerative Anemia in Dogs

Aplastic, Anemia of Inflammatory Disease (AID), or non-regenerative anemia in dogs is characterized by the insufficient production of red blood cells. Common 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 too much methemoglobin in the blood and result in methemoglobinemia in dogs. Methemoglobinemia can also result from exposure to toxins, including human medications, such as benzocaine, acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

What are the signs of anemia in dogs?

Symptoms of anemia in dogs depend upon the type of anemia and the underlying cause of the condition. The following are some of the most common anemia symptoms seen in our four-legged friends:

  • 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

If your dog is showing signs of anemia, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to schedule an examination. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential when treating dogs with conditions that could lead to anemia.

What causes anemia in dogs?

Anemia can result in dogs due to a number of serious health conditions such as:

  • Cushing’s disease
  • Chronic diseases suppressing red blood cell production
  • Infectious diseases (such as canine distemper)
  • Intestinal bleeding
  • Severe blood loss
  • Medications that interfere with red blood cell production
  • Kidney disease
  • Poisons or toxins
  • Cancer
  • Tick-borne diseases
  • Poor nutrition
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Bone marrow disease
  • Blood loss caused by parasites

How is anemia in dogs typically treated?

Treatments for anemia vary. If your dog is diagnosed with anemia their treatment will depend upon the underlying cause of their condition. Anemia in dogs treatment can include:

  • Intravenous fluids
  • Deworming
  • Parasite medications
  • Gastrointestinal medication
  • Chemotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Change in existing medications
  • Antibiotics
  • Immunosuppressive drugs
  • Blood transfusion
  • Bone marrow transfusion
  • Potassium phosphate supplements

What is the prognosis for anemia in dogs?

Anemia can be an indication of very serious life-threatening health issues, such as cancer, autoimmune diseases, or poisoning. For this reason, the prognosis for dogs with anemia varies based on the availability of effective treatment for the underlying condition. 

Can I prevent my dog from developing anemia?

Prevention of anemia isn't entirely straightforward. The only way to prevent your dog from developing anemia is by preventing the conditions that cause it. Keep substances that are toxic to dogs (such as human food and medications) far away from your canine companion, and 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 your dog is a breed at higher risk of developing anemia (Shih Tzus, Labrador Retrievers, American Cocker Spaniels, and Miniature Schnauzers), attending routine wellness exams every six months is key. These routine checkups allow your vet to monitor your dog 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.

Are you concerned that your dog may be suffering from anemia? Contact Stoney Creek Veterinary Hospital today to book an urgent examination for your pup. 

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