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Symptoms of Anemia in Cats

Tired? Weak? Pale Gums? Your Cat Might Be Anemic

By Meredith Alling. January 17, 2014 | See Comments

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A White Cat Sitting In On A Chair

If your pet has been acting strange and out of sorts lately, they may be anemic. Learn the signs of anemia here.

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Anemia -- a condition which means there are not enough red blood cells in the body to deliver sufficient oxygen to the tissues -- can affect any cat at any age. The symptoms can either be mild or severe depending on your cat’s degree of illness, and unfortunately, many of the symptoms of anemia mimic those of other health conditions, so it can sometimes be difficult to spot.

However, knowing the classic symptoms of anemia in cats can help you to begin putting the pieces together, especially if you already know that your cat is suffering from one of the underlying conditions that can cause anemia.

Common Anemia Symptoms in Cats

Not all cats with anemia will exhibit the same symptoms, and the severity of your cat’s symptoms will depend on just how sick they are. Here are some of the most common symptoms of anemia in cats.

  • Lethargy and Weakness: Because oxygen is required for normal bodily functions and anemia reduces the amount of oxygen delivered to body tissues, it can result in lethargy and weakness. You may see your cat sleeping a lot and looking frail, and they may not be interested in regular activities like playing or exploring.
  • Lack of Appetite and Weight Loss: When a cat is sick, their appetite is often the first thing to go. Because they are not eating normally, they may also lose weight. These serious symptoms are seen with many health conditions, and they should never be ignored.
  • White or Pale Gums or Tongue: These are perhaps the most obvious symptoms of anemia. These mucus membranes often turn white or pale because the oxygen that gives those tissues their healthy red or bright pink color is not being delivered in adequate amounts. Your cat’s nose or the bottom of their eyelids may also appear pale.
  • Rapid Breathing and Increased Pulse: In severe cases of anemia, if the cat’s body is going into shock, you may see rapid breathing or an increased heart rate. These are also common symptoms of heart disease and sometimes the conditions are confused.
  • Eating Dirt or Litter: Some cats with anemia develop an iron deficiency. It is somewhat rare and typically only seen in cats on very poor diets or those who are experiencing severe blood loss. Cats who have an irony deficiency may attempt to eat dirt or litter to ingest the iron that their body is telling them they need.
  • Fever: Cats suffering from anemia caused by a parasitic infection may develop a fever.

In mild cases of anemia, a cat may show no symptoms, and the condition will only be discovered through blood testing.

When To Seek Help

Any of the above symptoms -- especially if there is no other explanation -- warrant a trip to the veterinarian. Your vet will run a series of tests to determine if your cat is suffering from anemia, and if they are, will suggest treatment options. Many cats respond very well to anemia treatments, and the sooner you can get started, the better off your cat will be.

More on Cat Health

How to Prevent Dental Health Problems in Cats
What Can Affect a Cat's Lifespan?
When Should You Neuter a Cat?

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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Feline Anemia at a glance

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  • 1The symptoms of anemia can be severe, mild, or nonexistent depending on your cat’s degree of illness
  • 2Many of the symptoms of anemia mimic the symptoms of other health conditions
  • 3Common symptoms include lethargy, weakness, lack of appetite, weight loss, pale gums, and rapid breathing
  • 4Contact your veterinarian if you see any symptoms of anemia in your cat