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Dog hemolytic anemia

Canine Hemolytic Anemia

Hemolytic anemia in dogs is a disease where the red blood cells are destroyed in the animal’s body.

Red blood cells (RBCs) are responsible for carrying oxygen to the tissues and impart a red color to the blood. When red cells are depleted, the body is basically starved for oxygen.

The destruction of the red cells (hemolysis) also releases certain products in large quantities from inside of the cells which cause some of the signs associated with hemolytic anemia such as jaundiced gums, pale eyes, and discolored urine. Hemolytic anemia in dogs is a life-threatening disease.

The destruction of erythrocytes can be triggered by a number of mechanisms, and in dogs the most common of one is immune-mediated, where antibodies attacks and kills the body’s own RBCs. The causes of dog anemia are bleeding, infections, cancer in the marrow, certain toxins, mechanical damage to RBCs, heredity, drug reactions to medications, and sometimes vaccinations. The most common cause is immune mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA).

The most common signs and symptoms of hemolytic anemia in dogs which are easily noticeable are:

  • Pale gums
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Weakness
  • Lethargic
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Breathing more rapidly than normal

If you notice any of the mentioned symptoms, seek emergency veterinary assistance.

Diagnosis of Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs

  • Your pet must get accurately diagnosed before starting the appropriate treatment. Your veterinarian will recommend the following tests for the diagnosis of hemolytic anemia in dogs:
  • Complete history and medical examination including your pet's diet, elimination habits, color of the stool and urine and medical history, if any.
  • Physical examination which includes evidence of bleeding, gum and eye color, listening to the heart and lungs, and checking for organ enlargement.
  • Complete blood count and packed cell volume.
  • Serum biochemical profile to evaluate organ function and urinalysis to detect byproducts of red blood cell breakdown in the urine.
  • Saline agglutination tests.
  • Radiographs and ultra sounds.


Treatment for Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs

  • Blood transfusions administered through an intravenous catheter. Alternatively, artificial blood products may be used.
  • Corticosteroids are used to suppress the immune system in case of immune mediated hemolytic anemia.
  • Other treatments depend on the identification of the cause for hemolysis. For instance, if small metal pieces are detected in the stomach, they are removed either with an endoscope or by surgery.

Preventing Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs

  • Administer all the prescribed medications as directed for the length of time specified.
  • You must limit your dog’s physical activity.
  • You must provide proper nutrition to your pet. It is vital that your dog eats a well-balanced diet which helps in the formation of new red blood cells.
  Submitted on April 13, 2010  

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