Causes & Symptoms of Anemia in Dogs

Anemia in dogs can be caused by a number of different underlying health conditions. In today's blog our Thomasville vets explain the different types of anemia seen in dogs, as well as their various symptoms and treatments.


What is anemia in dogs?

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

Are there different types of anemia?

Hemolytic Anemia

Hemolytic anemia is caused by the destruction or breakdown of red blood cells in your dog's body. This form of anemia is often the result of immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) or autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA), or non-immune mediated caused by hereditary disease, parasites, toxins, or low phosphorous levels.

Aplastic or Non-Regenerative Anemia

Aplastic or non-regenerative anemia develops in dogs due to insufficient production of red blood cells. This form of anemia can occur due to toxin exposure, bone marrow disease, kidney disease, certain medications, chemotherapy drugs, or parvovirus.

Methemoglobinemia

Methemoglobinemia in dogs is caused by too much methemoglobin in the blood due to 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. This form of 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?

You may notice one or more of the following symptoms if your dog is suffering from anemia. Symptoms of anemia will vary based upon the underlying cause of your dog's condition.

  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swelling of the face or jaw
  • Black stools
  • Weight loss
  • Fast pulse or rapid breathing
  • Pale gums, ears, or eyes
  • Lethargy or weakness

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

How is anemia in dogs treated?

If your pet is diagnosed with anemia, the treatment that your vet recommends will be based upon the underlying cause of condition. Some of the treatments that your vet may recommend include:

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

The prognosis for dogs with anemia depends upon the availability of effective treatment for the underlying illness. Sadly, anemia can indicate that your dog is suffering from a very serious or possibly fatal 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.

Is there any way to prevent my dog from developing anemia?

Preventing anemia in your dog 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.

Keeping 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 dog is a breed that is susceptible to developing anemia (American Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, and Shih Tzus) regular wellness examinations twice yearly at your primary care veterinarian may help to detect the signs of anemia early, and provide treatment before the condition becomes 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.

If your dog is showing symptoms of anemia contact Thomasville Veterinary Hospital Urgent Care + Surgery to book an appointment, or visit your nearest emergency veterinary clinic for urgent care.

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