Anemia in dogs may be caused by a potentially serious underlying health problem. Learn about this condition, and its symptoms, as well as treatment options your vet may recommend.
What is anemia in dogs?
Anemia occurs when there aren’t enough red blood cells or hemoglobin circulating through your dog’s bloodstream. Because red blood cells eliminate carbon dioxide and provide oxygen to the rest of your pooch’s body, they are vital to life.
The protein inside these cells is called hemoglobin, and it carries oxygen. Your dog’s bone marrow produces the red blood cells, which then circulate for about three months before they breakdown and are replaced. This cycle repeats seamlessly and automatically in healthy dogs.
In dogs that are ill or have been injured, the process can become disrupted and anemia can be caused by any number of injuries, conditions or diseases, including:
- Poor nutrition
- Immune diseases that cause the immune system to attack healthy blood cells
- Infectious diseases such as canine influenza or parvovirus
- Parasite infestations (fleas, ticks, roundworms, hookworms, etc.) that lead to blood loss
Some breeds may be more vulnerable to diseases or conditions known to cause anemia. Ask your veterinarian about any health risks your dog may have and what precautions can be taken to prevent them or decrease the risk that your pup will encounter them.
This way, you’ll know which signs and symptoms of conditions to monitor your pet for.
What are symptoms of anemia in dogs?
Anemia can be difficult to detect and it may be just one of the symptoms your pooch exhibits as a result of an underlying condition. It may also be the single symptom you notice. Regardless, keep an eye out for these symptoms of anemia in your dog:
- Fatigue; becoming easily or quickly exhausted during play or exercise
- Bruising on skin (due to losing platelets)
- Change of color in gums from healthy pink to pale pink or white
- Dark blood in feces or vomit, or “tarry” or dark stools
What should I do if I think my dog may be suffering from anemia?
Visit your veterinarian as soon as possible - especially for symptoms such as blood in feces or vomit as this is an emergency that requires immediate attention and expertise.
Your vet will need to officially test your dog and identify whether he has anemia or another condition. If anemia is detected, the veterinarian will be able to identify the type and its underlying cause. A battery of diagnostic tests may also be required, including blood tests. A series of ultrasounds, imaging and x-rays may also be taken.
The PVC (packed cell volume) test is one of the blood tests that may be taken, as it measures the percentage of red blood cells in your dog’s blood stream. If these levels are under 35 percent, your pup will be classified as anemic.
The vet may also take a bone marrow biopsy and blood smear - these can reveal whether your dog has responsive or unresponsive anemia.
If responsive anemia is present, this means their bone marrow is attempting to correct the anemia. However, if your pooch’s bone marrow is not responding as it should, he would be diagnosed with unresponsive anemia. With hemolytic anemia, red blood cells are lost or destroyed by the body.
How is anemia in dogs treated?
Depending on how severe your dog’s case of anemia is, your pup may need a blood transfusion to treat the condition. In this case, your vet at Animal Hospital of North Asheville would develop a custom treatment plan to address the underlying condition. Options for treatment may range from medications to surgery.
Can anemia be deadly to dogs?
No matter the type of anemia your dog has, it’s a serious symptom that can be caused by numerous conditions from injuries to diseases, toxins and autoimmune disorders. See your veterinarian immediately for assistance, as the cause, detection and effective treatment of anemia will determine your dog’s outcomes.
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.