Anemia in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Anemia in dogs can be caused by a potentially serious underlying condition. Our Flat Rock Vets explain what anemia is, and describe its symptoms and treatment options. 


What is anemia in dogs?

If your dog’s bloodstream doesn’t have enough red blood cells or hemoglobin circulating through it, this is referred to as a condition called anemia. Red blood cells are essential to life - they provide oxygen to the rest of your dog’s body and eliminate carbon dioxide. Hemoglobin is the protein inside these cells, and it is a carrier of oxygen.

Red blood cells are produced in your dog’s bone marrow and will circulate for about three months, at which time they break down and are replaced. In healthy dogs, this cycle will repeat flawlessly.

In dogs that are injured or sick, this process is disrupted and any number of conditions, diseases or injuries may cause anemia, including:

  • Cancer
  • Poor nutrition
  • Canine parvovirus, influenza and other infectious diseases
  • Immune diseases, in which the immune system attacks healthy blood cells
  • Parasite infestations (ticks, hookworms, roundworms, fleas, etc. ), which lead to blood loss
  • Hypothyroidism

Certain breeds may be more susceptible to conditions or diseases that are known to cause anemia. Consult your veterinarian about any health-related risks your dog may have, and what can be done to prevent them or decrease the risk that your pooch will suffer from them. This way, you’ll know which signs and symptoms to watch out for.

What are symptoms of anemia in dogs?

Anemia is challenging to detect - though it may be one of many symptoms that your dog displays as a result of an underlying condition, it’s also possible that it will be the only symptom you see. Regardless, look for these symptoms of anemia in your dog:

  • Bruising on skin (due to loss of platelets)
  • Dark or “tarry” stools, or dark blood in vomit or feces
  • Gums change color to white or pale pink
  • Fatigue; running out of energy quickly during exercise or play

What should I do if I suspect my dog is suffering from anemia?

See your veterinarian as soon as possible. In particular, blood appearing in vomit or feces is an emergency that requires immediate attention.

Your dog will need to be officially diagnosed and tested for anemia to learn which type he has, and its underlying cause. Your veterinarian may perform a series of diagnostic blood tests, along with a series of x-rays, imaging and ultrasounds.

Blood tests may include the PCV (packed cell volume) test, which measures the percentage of red blood cells contained in your dog’s blood stream. If the levels are lower than 35 percent, he’ll be classified as anemic.

Your veterinarian may also perform a bone marrow biopsy and blood smear, which can reveal whether the anemia is responsive or unresponsive.

If your pup is diagnosed with responsive anemia, that means their bone marrow is trying to correct the anemia. However, if their bone marrow does not respond as it should, this would be categorized as unresponsive anemia. With hemolytic anemia, a dog’s body loses or destroys red blood cells.

How is anemia in dogs treated?

Depending on the severity of anemia in your dog, a blood transfusion may be required to treat the condition. Your vet will create a custom treatment plan to address the underlying condition. Treatment options may vary from medications to surgery.

Can anemia be fatal to dogs?

Anemia is a serious symptom that may be caused by a number of conditions from autoimmune disorders, to diseases, injuries and toxins. See your veterinarian immediately for help, as the cause and treatment of anemia will determine outcomes for your dog.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog showing signs of anemia? We offer both primary veterinary care and emergency services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. contact our office today to book an appointment. Our compassionate vets are experienced in diagnosing and treating a number of illnesses and conditions.

Anemia in Dogs, Flat Rock Vet

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