Anemia in Dogs: Causes, Treatment, Signs of Anemia and More!

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By: Verina Hassett Updated: April 17, 2020

anemia in dogs dog with low red blood cell countAre you worried your dog might be anemic? Do you want to know the why, what, and how of anemia in dogs? There can be many possible factors behind a dog developing anemia, but there are a few signs you can look out for. There are also ways you help prevent your dog from developing this blood-related condition, and improve their health if they are anemic.

What is Anemia? The Anemia Definition!

So, what is anemia?

Contrary to popular belief, anemia is not a disease in itself. Anemia doesn’t happen in isolation, it’s a symptom or condition that presents as a result of something else going on. Before you read on, if you have an aversion to the “b” word, we can’t help but refer to red blood cells in this article. But if it makes reading any easier, just think of it as “red cells” throughout instead!

When a dog has anemia or is anemic, this means the number of their red blood cells or hemoglobin levels has dropped. Red blood cell counts can reduce as a result of illness, infection, or injury. They may be destroyed, damaged or inhibited in their development or circulation.

Red blood cells carry oxygen around the body to keep everything functioning and pumping as it should. Blood cells are created inside bone marrow. They then have a life cycle of a few months circulating around the body, until replaced by new ones. The job of white blood cells is to help protect from infectious diseases.

Low red blood cell count in dogs

A Look at the Potential Anemia Causes

There can be many causes of anemia in dogs, and they do need to be diagnosed by a veterinarian. Some of these include:

  • Blood loss: If your dog has been injured, both external and internal bleeding can result in anemia through the loss of their red blood cells.
  • Reactions to medications: Some dogs can react to medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These can cause gastrointestinal bleeding in some dogs, causing further loss of red blood cells. Other medications may affect the production of red blood cells.
  • Flea and parasite infestations: Ticks and fleas cause blood loss from animals. The resulting loss of red blood cells can result in anemia, especially in puppies and smaller dogs.
  • Exposure to toxins: Accidental consumption or inhalation of chemicals and poisons, such as rat bait, can lead to anemia as it spreads through a dog’s bloodstream and affects their red blood cells. Even worse, these toxins and poisons can be fatal.
  • Non-infectious diseases: Dogs with illnesses such as chronic liver or kidney disease, hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, tumors, and cancer, may also be at risk of being anemic.
  • Infectious diseases: Bacterial infections, tick-borne diseases, and infectious diseases such as canine distemper can also affect red blood cells and cause anemia.
  • Nutrition and hormonal imbalances.

Ever Heard of CBD Oil for Dogs?

CBD oil for dogs is a natural alternative to pain medication and can help your buddy feel better all around. This “pawesome” product is as an alternative to anti-inflammatory medication especially when it comes to painful diseases and conditions like blood loss. 

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While we do want to make clear that it cannot cure anemia, CBD can relieve your pup of the pain. It can also help with increasing the appetite of dogs not wanting to eat and relieving digestion issues.

Types of Anemia Dogs Can Get!

The medical terms for the different types of anemia you may hear your veterinarian refer to include:

  • Aplastic anemia in dogs: This condition develops when a dog’s body stops developing red blood cells in their bone marrow.
  • Non-regenerative anemia in dogs: This condition refers to when the bone marrow is unable to produce enough red blood cells to meet the needs of the dog.
  • Regenerative anemia: This condition can happen in dogs and cats when they are injured and suffer blood loss. With regenerative anemia, the animal’s bone marrow cannot regenerate or keep up with the number of red blood cells they need to produce to replace those lost through bleeding.
  • Immune-mediated hemolytic anemia: Canine autoimmune-mediated hemolytic anemia (AIHA or IMHA) can affect dogs with pre-existing immune system issues. Red blood cells can be destroyed more rapidly than they can be replaced if they have an immune-mediated disease. IMHA or hemolytic anemia in dogs is a life-threating disease if not detected and treated.
  • Hemolytic anemia in dogs: This type of anemia is caused by the early destruction of red blood cells. A subgroup is microangiopathic hemolytic anemia.

Symptoms of Blood Loss? Signs Your Dog is Anemic!

Anemia Symptoms in Anemic dog

There are a few signs and symptoms you may see if you think your dog is anemic. Remember, if you do think your dog may be anemic, get them to your veterinarian so the cause can be established. A veterinarian will need to check all clinical signs and run blood tests to confirm anemia. The two most obvious symptoms of anemia you may see in your dog are:

  • Pale gums: Healthy gums are pink, whereas gums that are pale or whitish are often an indication that a dog may be anemic.
  • Lethargy and low energy: A dog with anemia may lose its get up and go, or have difficulty sustaining periods of exercise.

Signs of Anemia in Severe Cases

Other symptoms that may be seen in severe cases of anemia in dogs are:

  • Bruising: Severely anemic dogs may bruise easily and inexplicably on their legs and body. Bruises may be slow to heal or spread rapidly.
  • Dark stools: Stools or poos that are very dark can indicate that blood is being passed through the system.
  • Blood in vomit: Any signs of a blood smear in a dog’s vomit may also be a sign of anemia.

Again, any signs of these symptoms get your pet to your veterinarian!

Pet Products That Can Help Prevent or How to Treat Anemia in Dogs!

The treatment of anemia in dogs always depends on the underlying cause, and how severe the anemia is. Anemia is a serious symptom, so if you think your dog may be anemic, take them to the vet! Many causes of anemia can be treated, managed, or cured, but severe cases and sudden onset of anemia can be fatal.

If a dog has very severe anemia, your veterinarian may recommend a blood transfusion. This can help bring your dog’s red blood cell or hemoglobin count up to levels for them to stabilize. Other treatments will depend on the cause of their anemia and may include medications such as steroids, worming treatments, chemotherapy, or surgery to get them back on track.

Your veterinarian may recommend giving your dog a nutritional boost as part of their treatment plan. Or, you may look to introduce some supplements or healthy treats as a preventative measure. There are pet products available that you can give your dog to help ensure you are meeting their nutritional needs.

Vets Preferred Premium Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil!

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Yummy Honest Paws Dog Treats!

Treat your dog with the good stuff! Honest Paws CBD dog treats come in three different formulations designed to calm, relieve, and restore your dog to its natural way of being!

How to Prevent Anemia

Yes, there are some preventative measures that everyone who is a pet parent can take to reduce the risk of their dog or cat becoming anemic. These include:

  • Flea and tick managementKeep these little parasites under control! You’ll not only make your dog’s life a little happier, you’ll prevent any infestations of these little bloodsuckers and disease spreading critters.
  • Accident and trauma prevention: Keep your dog enclosed in a fenced yard. Train them to respond to your commands, or keep them on a leash while at walking. It’s not always immediately obvious to us when a cat or dog has suffered a knock that may have caused internal bleeding.
  • Know your dog’s health risks: Certain breeds are predisposed to certain illnesses and health conditions, such as hypothyroidism. Get to know the health issues associated with your dog’s breed so that you can keep an eye out for any warning signs that they may be becoming anemic.
  • Feed your dog a healthy nutritious diet: Dogs and cats don’t tend to suffer from iron-deficiency anemia like humans do – unless their diet is seriously iron deficient. Always feed your pet high-quality pet food and treats, that way you can be sure they are getting the iron-rich diet and other nutrients their systems need.

Vet Checking Anemic Dog with Low red blood cell count

Common Questions on Anemia in Dogs

Can fleas and ticks cause anemia in dogs?

Are pale gums related as a symptom?

How do you know what the cause of anemia is?

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