Anemia is a condition that can develop in cats who do not have enough red blood cells in their bloodstream. Because the job of red blood cells is to carry oxygen to the tissues, an inadequate number results in less oxygen getting delivered, and this can cause symptoms like lethargy, weakness, and pale gums. If left untreated, anemia can seriously hinder your cat’s quality of life, and in severe cases, it could also result in death.
Fortunately, there are a number of treatment options available for cats suffering from anemia, and for many cats, the prognosis is very good.
Diagnosing Cat Anemia
Anemia is typically diagnosed at your veterinarian through complete blood work that analyzes the components of your cat’s blood and examines red blood cell count. The most common blood test performed when diagnosing feline anemia is the PCV or packed cell volume. The PCV is a very quick test that reveals the percentage of red blood cells present in your cat’s bloodstream. If the percentage is lower than normal, your veterinarian will diagnose anemia.
Other tests can be important in determining what is causing the anemia. These tests may include:
- Blood smear to check for blood parasites
- Bone marrow biopsy to provide information about the condition of the bone marrow (which creates red blood cells)
- Fecal parasite exam to check for parasites in the intestines that may be causing blood loss
- Urinalysis to evaluate your cat’s electrolyte levels, which can provide insight into your cat’s overall health
- Biochemical profile to look at your cat’s organ functions and overall health condition
- Feline leukemia (FeLV) test to check for one of the primary causes of anemia
- Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) test to check for feline immunodeficiency virus, or feline AIDS -- another common cause of anemia
Treating Cat Anemia
Treatment for your cat’s anemia will depend on the severity of their condition as well as the underlying cause.
- If your cat’s condition is life-threatening, a blood transfusion may be necessary. A blood transfusion serves to stabilize your cat so that its body will be receptive to other treatments.
- If the anemia is caused by parasites, antibiotics are usually prescribed for several weeks, and the parasites themselves are treated.
- If your cat’s anemia resulted in a weakened immune system, immunosuppressants such as corticosteroids may be prescribed.
- Surgery may be required for some conditions that trigger anemia, for example, tumors or internal trauma that is causing blood loss.
- If your cat is suffering from anemia because of poor nutrition, replacing the missing nutrients and getting your cat on a complete and balanced diet can reverse the condition.
- If your cat’s anemia resulted in an iron deficiency, iron supplements may be prescribed.
- Other treatments will vary depending on the severity and cause of your cat’s anemia.
If you notice that your cat is suffering from symptoms of anemia, contact your veterinarian right away. While some cases of anemia are mild, others can be extremely dangerous. Your veterinarian will work with you to come up with a plan for getting them back to good health.
The Causes of Feline Anemia that You Need to Know What is feline anemia?
Feline anemia is a situation defined by an insufficient number of red blood cells in circulation. Red blood cells are the storehouse of hemoglobin, an iron-rich molecule that binds efficiently to oxygen. This is responsible for absorbing oxygen from the air we breathe and supplying it to vital organs of the body. In the case of feline anemia, the ability of the cat to absorb oxygen and supply it to body tissues decreases. As a result, your cat becomes lethargic and weak. It may also cause difficulty in breathing because your cat will try to force more air into the lungs to compensate for the lack of oxygen supply. Feline anemia can be fatal for your cat if it goes untreated.
What causes feline anemia?
There are basically two types of feline anemia: regenerative and non-regenerative anemia. Regenerative anemia can be caused by hemolysis, a condition where there is a loss of blood or destruction of red blood cells. The bone marrow is capable of producing red blood cells in larger quantities, but it's not enough to replace the amount of blood lost. Feline regenerative anemia can be a result of:
- Hemorrhage caused by internal bleeding or an accident
- Parasites breeding in the cat's body
- Immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, in which the cat's body destroys its own red blood cells.
- Heinz body hemolytic anemia.
Some other causes of regenerative feline anemia include improper cat food, certain types of medications, or toxins like propylene glycol or acetaminophen. An unusual cause of feline regenerative anemia is a condition known as neonatal iso-erythrolysis, in which cats with Type A blood consume colostrum from a mother with Type B blood. On the other hand, feline nonregenerative anemia is characterized by inadequate production of red blood cells by the bone marrow of your cat. Causes of nonregenerative anemia include feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or feline leukemia virus (FeLV), starvation or poor nutrition, and certain types of cancers and inflammatory disease. Chronic kidney disease is also seen to be a common cause of non-regenerative anemia in cats. For the bone marrow to produce red blood cells, it needs a proper supply of erythropoietin. This glycoprotein hormone is produced in the kidney. Cats with chronic kidney disease cannot produce this hormone, thus resulting in anemic conditions. Regenerative anemia is mostly seen in young cats, while nonregenerative anemia is seen in middle-aged or older cats. Diagnosis of feline anemia is performed after testing blood count, blood smear, biochemical profile, fecal matter, and antibodies. Finding the underlying cause of feline anemia is important since anemia is an indication of a graver condition. The treatment will, however, depend on the cause and seriousness of the condition.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can anemia in cats be cured?
Anemia in cats can be treated and managed, but whether or not it can be cured depends on the underlying cause of the anemia. Anemia is a condition where there is a decrease in the number of red blood cells or hemoglobin in the blood, which can be caused by a variety of factors, including blood loss, decreased production of red blood cells, or destruction of red blood cells. If the anemia is caused by blood loss, such as from an injury or parasite infestation, then treating the underlying cause can help to cure the anemia. This may involve surgery to repair the injury or medications to eliminate the parasites. However, if the anemia is caused by decreased production of red blood cells, then treatment may involve addressing the underlying disease or condition that is causing this problem. For example, if a cat has kidney disease that is affecting its ability to produce red blood cells, then treating the kidney disease may improve the anemia. In cases where the anemia is caused by the destruction of red blood cells, such as with immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, treatment may involve medications to suppress the immune system and reduce the destruction of red blood cells.
How can I help my cat with anemia?
A balanced and nutritious diet is important for cats with anemia, as it can help to support their immune system and promote the production of red blood cells. Cat food brands high in iron and iron supplements can also help cats with anemia. Iron is an essential nutrient that is required for the production of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. Many high-quality cat foods contain adequate levels of iron to support normal red blood cell production. However, if your cat has been diagnosed with anemia, your veterinarian may recommend a specific brand of cat food that is formulated with higher levels of iron or recommend adding an iron supplement to your cat's diet. Too much iron can be toxic to cats, so it is crucial to follow your veterinarian's recommendations regarding iron supplementation. Additionally, if your cat's anemia is caused by an underlying health condition, such as kidney disease, your veterinarian may recommend a different approach to managing their anemia. Anemic cats may feel tired or weak and may need to rest more than usual. Be sure to provide a quiet and comfortable place for your cat to rest and avoid strenuous activity or exercise. Anemia can make cats more susceptible to dehydration, so monitor their water intake and ensure they are drinking enough water. You can encourage your cat to drink more by providing fresh water in a clean bowl and adding water to their food. In some cases, anemia can lead to other health problems, such as blood clotting disorders or organ damage. Watch for signs of complications, such as pale gums, lethargy, vomiting, or diarrhea, and contact your veterinarian if you notice any concerning symptoms.
What causes a cat to be anemic?
Blood loss is the most common cause of anemia in cats. Blood loss can be due to injury, surgery, or internal bleeding caused by conditions such as parasites, cancer, or organ damage. Nutritional deficiencies, bone marrow disease, or chronic kidney disease can cause decreased production of red blood cells. Destruction of red blood cells can be caused by immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, a condition where the body's immune system attacks and destroys red blood cells. Other causes of hemolytic anemia include infection, certain medications, or exposure to toxins. Certain inherited disorders, such as feline infectious anemia or feline leukemia virus, can cause anemia in cats. Chronic diseases such as cancer, liver disease, or heart disease can also lead to anemia in cats.
Is anemia in cats serious?
Anemia in cats can be a serious condition, as it can lead to a number of health problems if left untreated. Anemia is a condition where there is a decrease in the number of red blood cells or hemoglobin in the blood, which can cause a variety of symptoms such as lethargy, weakness, pale gums, loss of appetite, and difficulty breathing. If left untreated, anemia can lead to more serious complications such as blood clotting disorders, organ damage, and even death. Additionally, the underlying cause of the anemia can also be a serious health concern, such as a parasitic infection, cancer, or kidney disease.
What is the fastest way to cure anemia?
In some cases, a blood transfusion may be necessary to correct severe anemia quickly. However, this is usually reserved for more severe cases and is not always a viable option. The treatment of anemia depends on the underlying cause of the condition. Therefore, there is no single fast way to cure anemia. The treatment plan for anemia in cats is based on the specific cause of the anemia and may include medications, dietary changes, supplements, and/or other treatments. If the anemia is caused by blood loss, for example, the underlying cause of the bleeding must be addressed to stop the blood loss. If the anemia is due to a nutritional deficiency, then providing a balanced and nutritious diet, and possibly iron supplements, may help to correct the anemia.
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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.