Anemia in dogs is a sign of a deeper health problem. Our Baton Rouge vets explain the condition, symptoms and treatment options.
What is anemia in dogs?
Anemia in dogs is a condition where there is an insufficient amount of hemoglobin or red blood cells, or both, circulating in their bloodstream. These crucial components play an important role in providing oxygen to the rest of the dog's body and removing carbon dioxide. Hemoglobin, the protein found inside red blood cells, carries the oxygen.
Red blood cells are produced in a dog's bone marrow and circulate for around three months before breaking down and being replaced in a continuous cycle. However, this process can be disrupted in dogs that are sick or injured, leading to anemia caused by various diseases, injuries, or conditions. including:
- Parasite infestations (hookworms, roundworms, fleas, ticks, etc.) which result in blood loss
- Immune diseases, in which the immune system attacks healthy blood cells
- Canine influenza, parvovirus and other infectious diseases
- Poor nutrition
As a pet owner, it's important to be mindful of any health risks that your furry friend may face. Some dog breeds or individual dogs may be more susceptible to conditions that can lead to anemia.
To ensure the well-being of your pup, consult with your veterinarian to learn about any potential health concerns and what steps can be taken to prevent or minimize these risks. By staying informed, you'll be equipped to recognize the signs and symptoms of these conditions and take quick action if necessary.
What are symptoms of anemia in dogs?
Anemia can be deceptive - while it may be one of several indications of an underlying issue, it is also possible that it stands alone as the sole symptom. Regardless, it's important to keep an eye out for these telltale signs of anemia in your furry friend:
- Fatigue; running out of energy easily during play or exercise
- Dark or "tarry" stools, or dark blood in feces or vomit
- Change in color of gums (whitish or pale pink)
- Bruising on skin (from loss of platelets)
What should I do if I think my dog is suffering from anemia?
If you suspect your dog is suffering from anemia, it's important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible. In particular, if you notice blood in their feces or vomit, this is an emergency that requires immediate attention. To diagnose anemia, your veterinarian will likely perform a series of blood tests, along with ultrasounds, x-rays, and imaging.
This will help determine which type of anemia your dog has and what's causing it. The packed cell volume (PCV) test is one of the blood tests that may be done, measuring the percentage of red blood cells in your dog's bloodstream.
Your dog will be diagnosed with anemia if the levels are below 35 percent. Other tests such as blood smears and bone marrow biopsies may also be performed to determine if the anemia is responsive or unresponsive. If the bone marrow is trying to correct the anemia, it's considered responsive.
On the other hand, if the bone marrow is not responding, it's classified as unresponsive anemia. Hemolytic anemia occurs when a dog's body destroys or loses red blood cells.
How is anemia in dogs treated?
The response to this inquiry hinges on the intensity of your dog's anemia - they may require a blood transfusion. Your veterinarian will craft a personalized treatment plan to address the root cause of the anemia. Depending on the specific condition, treatment options can vary and may include medication or surgical intervention.
Is anemia fatal for dogs?
Anemia is a concerning issue that can stem from a variety of sources, including autoimmune disorders, injury, toxins, or diseases. If you suspect your dog is suffering from anemia, it's crucial to contact your veterinarian immediately. The prompt diagnosis and treatment of the underlying cause of the anemia will significantly impact your furry friend's outlook.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets.