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 their 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.
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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.