Hemolytic Anemia In Dogs

By Ameera Mills. July 8, 2018
Hemolytic Anemia In Dogs

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Anemia is a liver disease that affects both humans and dogs. There are several types of anemia, each with its particular characteristics and respective treatments. Autoimmune Hemolytic anemia affects dogs and is related to the immune system. This disease attacks and eradicates red blood cells in the body.

If your dog is suffering from hemolytic anemia or is showing symptoms take a look at our article on hemolytic anemia in dogs, discussing what it is, its symptoms and treatment.

What is Hemolytic Anemia?

Canine Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA) It is a type of anemia which is characterized by the early destruction of red blood cells that exist in the bloodstream. This destruction thus prevents these cells from functioning properly. These red blood cells are produced in the bone marrow, however once released, are eradicated and therefore cannot provide their needed function.

This is a rare but serious disease which requires a lot of care. If not treated, it can lead to death.

What causes Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia in dogs?

There are several reasons that can cause hemolytic anemia in dogs. The most frequent and common causes include:

  • Inheritance: like many other diseases, hemolytic anemia in dogs occur due to genetic inheritance. Symptoms in this case may show from birth or can appear later in life.
  • Infections: this is when anemia is caused by bacteria and microorganisms that attack the red blood cells. Infections can also occur due to a wound or internal bleeding.
  • Drug injuries: anemia can also occur as a side-effect of the ingestion of specific drugs or chemical agents.
  • Excessive consumption of vitamin C: an uncontrolled consumption of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) can cause autoimmune hemolytic anemia in dogs.

Symptoms of Hemolytic Anemia in dogs

The symptoms of a dog suffering from hemolytic anemia include;

  • Fatigue: it is one of the most significant characteristics of this disease. It happens because there is a decrease in the number of cells that send oxygen to the brain.
  • Tachycardia (accelerated heart-rate): takes place because the heart tries to increase the amount of pulsations so that blood can reach the tissues and brain. As oxygen-sending cells are diminished, a dog's heart rhythm is accelerated to counteract this decrease.
  • Jaundice: is a very frequent symptom in this type of anemia, since there is a significant increase in bilirubin levels. Bilirubin is a yellow compound found in bile and is formed by the destruction of red blood cells.
  • Dark urine: dark urine occurs when there is an excess of bilirubin in the blood.
  • Hypersplenism: refers to an increase in spleen activity. When the spleen is more active than normal, it destroys its red blood cells thereby preventing the transit of oxygen to a dog's body.

Other symptoms characteristic of hemolytic anemia include:

If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, we suggest consulting your veterinarian immediately.

Hemolytic Anemia In Dogs - Symptoms of Hemolytic Anemia in dogs

Diagnosis of Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs

If your dog is presenting the already mentioned symptoms, we recommend taking it to the vet immediately. A professional will be able to analyze the causes and diagnose the dog correctly. Diagnosing hemolytic anemia includes, performing a physical examination of pressure point analysis. This physical examination will also aid in detecting any sensitivity or inflammation in the spleen.

A veterinarian will then perform a blood test, measuring both hemoglobin and reticulocyte levels. If necessary, they might perform other tests in order to rule out any other; pathologies, infections or diseases, which can be caused by infections.

Early diagnosis is crucial in the survival for a dog suffering from hemolytic anemia.

How to treat hemolytic anemia in dogs

There are several treatments for hemolytic anemia in dogs. Some include:

  • Blood transfusions: aims to rapidly increase the number of red blood cells in the body by replacing the cells destroyed by the disease.
  • Corticosteroids: a type of hormone used to prevent the immune system from forming new antibodies.
  • Antiparasitics: when hemolytic anemia is caused by infections or parasitic agents, it is common for the veterinarian to prescribe deworming medicine. This is done with the aim of eliminating possible bacteria and microorganisms that may be affecting the dog's health.
  • Surgery: Surgery is usually a last resort treatment, used in desperate measures when other treatments haven't worked. Surgery is usually recommended when the spleen becomes frequently inflamed, therefore it becomes essential that it is removed.
Hemolytic Anemia In Dogs - How to treat hemolytic anemia in dogs

Is there a cure for Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia?

A cure for hemolytic anemia in dogs will depend on the main cause of its presence. Depending on the degree of the severity of the anemia, emergency measures to restore the number of red blood cells in the body will have to take place.Once treatment is done, a specialist will determine following treatment.

The prognosis of autoimmune hemolytic anemia therefore depends on the cause and individual patient. Studies show that there is a survival rate of 50%-80% of dogs that suffer from this disease, however, early detection is vital! [1]

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Hemolytic Anemia In Dogs, we recommend you visit our Infectious diseases category.


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1 comment
My pek has been dealing with imha for 2 months she is taking meds and is better but no energy, I just want to help her what can I do? Excise her? Play? Rest? What I'm helpless.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Donna,

Exercising will only likely drain her more and can even be dangerous. Taking the advice of the veterinarian and waiting until the medication is taking affect is the best course of action. Let them rest, rely on the prognosis of the vet and let them know if anything changes.
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