Anemia is a shortage of either red blood cells or hemoglobin. Many things can cause dog anemia, and the type of treatment needed will depend on the cause.
Anemia is a result of other diseases, not a disease itself. For one reason or another, your dog won’t have enough red blood cells to carry enough oxygen through their body, causing anemia. Injury, infection, or parasites
might cause bleeding. Problems with your dog’s bone marrow or kidneys might keep the body from making new red blood cells to replace those that naturally age and die. Or, disease might attack your dog’s red blood cells directly and kill them faster than they can be replaced.
Anemia can affect every organ in the body, and can have a profound affect on your dog’s well being. An anemic dog will be tired and weak, you might notice a decrease in their appetite, and their gums and tongue will be very pale.
Fortunately, anemia can be treated. Most cases of anemia can even be cured by addressing the underlying problem.
Anemia Diagnosis & What to Expect at the Vet
Anemia is not something you and your dog can deal with by yourselves. If you notice pale gums and tongue, or other symptoms, take your dog in right away.
Your vet will confirm the anemia by testing your dog’s blood for its proportion of red blood cells or its proportion of hemoglobin. If your dog has a heavy infestation of fleas or ticks, or has already been diagnosed with something known to cause anemia, the diagnosis could be clear. Otherwise, your vet will examine your pup’s urine and feces for signs of internal bleeding and look for parasites and signs of infection. With the cause identified, your vet can usually prescribe medication for the problem, such as antibiotics or de-worming drugs.
As humans, we tend to associate anemia treatment with iron supplementation, because iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia in humans. Dogs can get this form of anemia, too, but it’s very rare. Most anemic dogs have plenty of iron.
Sometimes anemia treatment is relatively quick and simple, but some forms require long-term intensive management. Your dog might have to be seen by a vet every day or two for a while for check-ups and emergency treatments. A cure, or at least a much-improved quality of life, still waits at the end of the tunnel. You and your vet will have to treat the underlying cause of the anemia. Restricted exercise and occasional transfusions can give your pup a long, happy life.
In rare cases, especially if the other components of the blood (the white blood cells and platelets) are also affected, the anemia might be impossible to cure.
Emergency Anemia Treatment
Sometimes cases of anemia are so severe that they must be treated separately from the underlying problem. One or more transfusions, or an injection of Ringer’s solution, will help get your dog through the crisis. Ringer’s solution is an artificial nutrient mix that essentially mimics blood plasma and helps the body’s organs survive blood loss. Even with transfusions, the anemia will come back until the underlying cause is addressed, but these treatments buy your dog time.
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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.