Anemia in dogs occurs when their bodies are not producing enough red blood cells. There is a wide range of underlying conditions that can cause anemia. Today, our La Mesa vets discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment of anemia in dogs.
What is anemia in dogs?
Anemia is a condition in which your dog's body isn't producing enough red blood cells, or hemoglobin, which are responsible for carrying oxygen to the tissues in the body. Without enough oxygen, the body will feel weak and tired.
Except for in the case of blood loss due to an injury, anemia is generally the symptom of an underlying condition in your pup's body. Conditions and diseases that cause anemia can range from exposure to household toxins to inherited genetic disorders.
Types of Anemia
These are common types of anemia in dogs:
- Blood loss anemia: This type of anemia is the result of a bleeding disorder, accident, injury or surgery. Internal bleeding can also lead to blood loss anemia and may occur due to parasites, cancer, ulcers or other serious health conditions.
- Hemolytic anemia: Occurs when red blood cells are destroyed faster than they can be made. This could be due to a variety of causes, from genetic disorders to cancer.
- Aplastic or non-regenerative anemia: This is the insufficient production of red blood cells. Common causes include bone marrow disease, kidney disease, exposure to toxins, parvovirus, and certain medications.
- Methemoglobinemia: This condition occurs when the body produces too much methemoglobin, a type of hemoglobin that carries oxygen but doesn't release it to the cells. It can be caused by exposure to toxins, including human medications, such as benzocaine, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen.
Symptoms of Anemia
Based on the underlying cause, signs and symptoms of anemia in dogs may vary. They can include:
- Weight loss
- Swelling in the jaw or face
- Black stools
- Loss of appetite
- Weakness or lethargy
- Pale ears, gums or eyes
- Rapid breathing or fast pulse
How to Treat Anemia in Dogs
Depending on your dog’s history and current symptoms, your veterinarian may recommend diagnostic tests to get a clearer picture of your dog's anemia. These can include a complete blood count to identify the severity of the anemia, chemistry tests to evaluate sugar levels and organ function, and any other tests that may help identify an underlying infectious disease. They may also test for iron in the blood as an iron deficiency can lead to anemia.
If your dog is diagnosed with anemia, the prognosis will depend on the cause and whether the underlying cause of the anemia can be treated. Once the cause of anemia has been established by diagnostic testing completed by your vet, a course of anemia treatment can be recommended for your dog.
Your vet may recommend one or a combination of these treatments for anemia in dogs:
- Deworming or parasite medications
- Gastrointestinal medication
- Potassium phosphate supplements
- Change to existing medications
- Bone marrow transfusion
- Intravenous fluids
- Blood transfusion
- Immunosuppressive drugs
Is vitamin C good for anemia in dogs?
Vitamin C goes hand in hand with helping your pup absorb iron into their body. Depending on your dog’s size, 500 to 2,000 milligrams of the vitamin per day may be necessary.
To naturally boost your pup's iron, you can add iron-rich foods to their diets. Things like canned sardines, raw egg yolk (from organic or local eggs), green vegetables, and beef liver are all possible options.
Do not start your dog on a new diet, medication, or other treatment without discussing this with your vet. Food like liver is rich and your vet should advise you on how much to feed your dog so as not to cause any gastrointestinal upset or diarrhea.
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.