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Anemia in Dogs: Causes, Signs & Symptoms

Anemia in Dogs: Causes, Signs & Symptoms

While anemia in dogs is not a disease, it is a symptom associated with numerous potential underlying conditions. Here, our Farmington Hills vets share more about the causes, symptoms and treatments for anemia in dogs.

What is anemia?

Anemia is usually a symptom of an underlying disease. If your dog's body doesn't produce enough red blood cells or haemoglobin, or when they suffer from severe blood loss due to a condition such as stomach ulcers or cancer, or trauma such as an injury due to an accident. 

Are there different types of anemia in dogs?

Here are the four different possible types of anemia that dogs can experience:

Blood loss anemia - Surgery, a bleeding disorder or injury can all cause severe blood loss. This type of anemia can also be caused by internal bleeding due to ulcers, parasites, cancer or other conditions. 

Hemolytic anemia - Red blood cells can break down or be destroyed, often as a result of immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) or autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA), or non-immune mediated due to toxins, parasites, low phosphorous levels or hereditary disease. 

Aplastic or non-regenerative anemia - If insufficient blood cells are produced, this form of anemia may occur due to bone marrow disease, parvovirus, chemotherapy drugs, certain medications, kidney disease or exposure to toxins (poisoning).

Methemoglobinemia - Too much methemoglobin in the blood caused by certain genetic disorders, or exposure to toxins including some human medications such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and benzocaine.

What are signs of anemia in dogs?

Anemia in dogs can have many signs and symptoms. They may vary based on the underlying cause, but may include:

  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Black stools
  • Loss of appetite 

What are the causes of anemia in dogs?

Since anemia is a symptom rather than a disease, numerous conditions can lead to anemia in dogs, including:

  • Bone marrow disease 
  • Kidney disease
  • Hypothyroidism 
  • Intestinal bleeding caused by medications or disease
  • Infectious diseases including canine distemper
  • Severe blood loss as a result of trauma (accident or injury)
  • Blood loss cause by parasitic infection such as hookworms, whipworms, or fleas  
  • Poor nutrition
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Chronic diseases that affect or suppress red blood cell production
  • Medications that interfere with red blood cell production
  • Cancer
  • Toxins or poisons including rat poison or lead poisoning
  • Tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease

What causes sudden anemia in dogs?

As for what can cause sudden anemia in dogs, anything that has an acute onset such as trauma or injury, or exposure to toxins or poisons can cause sudden anemia in dogs.  

Sadly, anemia can sometimes indicate that your dog is suffering from a very serious or possibly fatal condition such as poisoning, cancer or autoimmune conditions. For that reason, anemia in dogs should always be taken seriously. If your dog is showing any of the signs or symptoms of anemia contact your veterinarian immediately to schedule an appointment.

Can vaccines cause anemia in dogs?

There has been some question of whether being recently vaccinated may cause dogs to develop immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) or immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (IMTP). Pet parents should know that your veterinarian will consider multiple aspects of your dog's health before administering vaccinations, including diseases risk, your dog's immune status and potential or vaccine reactions.

While more research is needed on these links, in our view, the preventive health benefits of vaccinating appropriately against infectious diseases likely outweigh the risks of developing IMHA and IMTP in most cases.

Can anemia in dogs be treated or cured?

The prognosis for anemia in dogs depends on the cause and whether treatment is available for the underlying condition causing the anemia. Once your vet has established the cause of your dog's anemia they will recommend the best possible treatment. Some treatments that may be recommended by your vet include:

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

Can I prevent my dog from developing anemia?

Because anemia in dogs is caused by other underlying conditions, preventing those conditions whenever possible is key. Parasite prevention against ticks, fleas, and worms is one way to help protect your dog against developing anemia. Keeping toxic substances far out of your dog's reach, and providing your dog with a healthy diet may also help.

If your dog is a breed that is susceptible to developing anemia including American Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, and Shih Tzus, regular wellness examinations twice yearly at your primary care veterinarian can help to detect the early signs of anemia 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.

Is your dog displaying symptoms of anemia? Contact Angel Animal Hospital. We have veterinarians trained to diagnose and treat a range of health issues in pets. 

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