Polycythemia in Dogs: A Detailed Guide How To Identify and Treat Polycythemia In Dogs

Polycythemia in Dogs: A Detailed Guide https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-and-tan-english-bulldog-lying-on-black-rug-164446/

Polycythemia, commonly known as erythrocytosis, is a disorder that affects the red blood cell count in dogs. Here, we will discuss the condition in detail.

Polycythemia, also known as erythrocytosis, is a condition that affects the red blood cell count in dogs. In this disorder, the quantity of red blood cells increases abnormally, resulting in thicker blood that can cause a range of health issues. Although it is a very uncommon illness in dogs, it can be dangerous if untreated.

This article will cover the causes, signs, and treatments of canine polycythemia as well as what pet owners can do to assist their dogs.

What Causes High Hemoglobin in Dogs?

Dogs' polycythemia may be brought on by a number of factors, including:

  • Primary polycythemia: The bone marrow overproduces red blood cells as a result of this uncommon hereditary disease.

  • Secondary polycythemia: This kind of polycythemia is brought on by an underlying illness such heart disease, lung disease, or being at a high altitude.

  • Dehydration: Abnormal red blood cells in dogs may be manufactured when it's dehydrated in an effort to make up for the lost fluid volume.

  • Tumors: Tumors in the bone marrow or elsewhere in the body can stimulate the production of high red blood cells in dogs.

  • Chronic hypoxia: Chronic hypoxia, or a lack of oxygen, can also lead to polycythemia as the body attempts to compensate for the oxygen deficit.

However, if you think your dog has polycythemia, consult a vet since it may be an indication of a more serious condition.

Symptoms of High Red Blood Cell Count in Dogs

The symptoms of canine polycythemia might differ depending on the underlying cause and the severity of the condition. However, some common ones include:

  • Increased thirst and urination: This is often due to dehydration caused by the thickening of the blood.

  • Rapid breathing and panting: The thick blood can make it difficult for the heart to pump, leading to rapid breathing and panting.

  • Weakness and fatigue: The thick blood can also reduce the amount of oxygen that is being carried to the body's tissues, leading to weakness and fatigue.

  • Loss of appetite: Polycythemia in dogs can cause them to lose their appetite, which can lead to weight loss.

  • Enlarged abdomen: The thick blood can cause the veins to enlarge, leading to an enlarged abdomen.

  • Exercise intolerance: The thick blood can make it more difficult for the heart to pump, leading to exercise intolerance.

  • Collapse: In severe cases, the thick blood can cause the heart to stop pumping, leading to collapse.


  • Physical examination: The veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination to assess your dog's overall health, including checking their heart and respiratory rates, as well as their skin, coat, and eyes.

  • Blood tests: To determine the quantity of hemoglobin, the hematocrit, and the number of red blood cells in the blood, a sample will be drawn (the proportion of red blood cells in the blood). These tests assist in identifying whether there is elevated RBC in dogs.

  • X-rays: X-rays may be taken to look for any signs of heart or lung disease, which could be contributing to polycythemia.

  • Ultrasound: An ultrasound of the heart and abdomen may be performed to look for any signs of internal organ damage or tumors.

  • Additional tests: Depending on the results of the initial tests, the veterinarian may recommend additional tests such as a biopsy of the bone marrow, a CT scan, or an oxygen saturation test to help determine the underlying cause of the polycythemia.

Treatment and Recovery Options

The root cause of the problem will determine the best course of action for treatment and recovery for high red blood cell count in dogs. Typical treatment options include:

  • Medications: If polycythemia is caused by an underlying medical condition such as heart disease or lung disease, heart medications or lung-related drugs may be prescribed to manage these conditions.

  • Blood thinners: Blood thinners may be prescribed to help reduce the thickness of the blood, which will make it easier for the heart to pump.

  • Oxygen therapy: Supplemental oxygen therapy or drugs to ease breathing may be helpful for cats who are experiencing respiratory distress.

  • Phlebotomy: In some cases, a procedure called phlebotomy may be performed to remove some of the blood from the body, which can help to reduce the number of red blood cells.

  • Surgery: If the polycythemia is caused by a tumor, surgery may be necessary to remove the tumor.

  • Diet and lifestyle changes: Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle can help to support your dog's overall health and well-being, which can improve its ability to recover from polycythemia.

Preventive Tips

Polycythemia in dogs may be avoided in some circumstances. For instance, timely and effective treatment of underlying medical disorders that may be the source of the illness, such as heart or lung disease treatments, may assist in avoiding the development of polycythemia.

If the polycythemia is caused by high altitude, taking steps to reduce the amount of time your dog spends at high altitudes may help to prevent the condition.

In cases where polycythemia is genetic, it is not preventable, but early detection and treatment can help to prevent complications and improve your dog's quality of life.

However, with proper treatment and care, most dogs with polycythemia can make a full recovery and lead a happy and healthy life.

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