Anemia in Dogs - How to Help Your Dog?

Anemia in Dogs - How to Help Your Dog?

Author WDF Staff


Getting the news from your vet your dog is anemic can be pretty scary. We don’t love the sight of blood, and some of us can start panicking even talking about it. However, when it comes to anemia in dogs, there are things we should understand to be able to help our dogs and follow the vet’s instructions. Here is what you should know about anemia in dogs.

What is anemia in dogs?

Owners often confuse anemia with a disease. It is not a disease, but usually just a symptom of another disease or health problem. It can be defined as an “insufficient number of red blood cells or hemoglobin in your dog’s cardiovascular system.”

That can be confusing to some of us. That basically means that there are not enough protein (hemoglobin) and cells (red blood cells) that carry oxygen to all parts of the dog’s body. The usual life of red blood cells is about three months. After that, they break down, and the dog’s body replaces them.

boxer puppy laying on the ground

How dangerous is anemia in dogs?

The exact level of danger can be hard to determine. Anemia can be treated, but the real threat comes from the underlying condition that causes anemia. It should be treated as a severe symptom because conditions that cause it are usually pretty serious. The outcome will be determined by the issue causing anemia and the effectiveness of appropriate treatment.

What causes it?

As we said, anemia is a symptom, not a disease. There are many potential causes of anemia in dogs, and some are more serious than others. However, until the exact cause is determined, you should treat anemia as a sign something is very wrong with your dog. You should take them to the vet as soon as possible. Some of the most common reasons for anemia in dogs are;

  • Canine distemper
  • Tick-borne diseases
  • Parasites
  • Immune-mediated disease
  • Trauma-related blood loss (internal or external bleeding)
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Bone marrow disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Chronic diseases that affect or suppress red blood cell production
  • Cancer
  • Exposure to medications that affect the red blood cell production
  • Poor nutrition
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Toxins (heavy metal or rat poisoning)

As you can see, all of these causes are pretty dangerous. Make sure you call your vet as soon as possible and get your dog checked out.

Symptoms of anemia in dogs

One of the crucial things you should know as a dog owner is to spot symptoms of anemia in dogs. The sooner a health issue is discovered, the better the chances of successful recovery. The tricky thing about this condition is that it can be the only symptom, or it can be just one of an underlying condition’s symptoms.

dog laying in park

The easiest way to spot anemia is to check the dog’s gums. Healthy gums should be pink, and an anemic dog’s gums are very light pink or even whitish. You can also spot anemia if your dog seems lethargic and if they get tired quickly. Keep an eye on your dog while they are playing in the park.

Another indication that your dog could be anemic is a dark, tarry stool. That means there is blood in your dog’s poop, and you should treat that as a medical emergency. The same goes for the dog’s vomit. If you can spot dark, partially digested blood in the dog’s vomit, you should go to the vet’s immediately.

How do vets diagnose anemia in dogs?

Vets have a set of diagnostic tests that will help them determine whether a dog is anemic. But first, they will ask you about the dog’s behavior and history in the past couple of days. That is very useful if the dog ingested poison. After that, the vet can perform one of these tests;

  • Urinalysis
  • Blood tests
  • Fecal tests
  • Radiograph
  • Ultrasound

The most common and the easiest way vets diagnose anemia in dogs is by performing a PCV blood test. PCV stands for packed cell volume, and this test measures the percentage of red blood cells in your dog’s blood sample. The usual count is around 35%. If your dog has red blood cell levels below that, they will be considered anemic.

tired puppy

The vet might ask for additional tests if they suspect a disease is causing your dog’s anemia. You should talk to them and express your concerns. Most vets are pretty amazing, and they will let you know about the risks and possible problems from this issue.

How is anemia in dogs treated?

Most cases of anemia in dogs will require a two-step treatment. The first thing your vet needs to do is determine how severe the anemia is. If the situation is bad, the vet will ask for a transfusion. That will replenish the dog’s red blood cells and get the boost they need to go further with the treatment.

The second part of the treatment will be determined by the cause of anemia. There are several options ranging from medications, corticosteroid therapy, chemotherapy, or even surgery. It will all depend on the underlying condition causing anemia in your dog.

Again, talk to your vet about treatment options. They will be more than happy to let you know why they are recommending specific approaches. They are medical professionals, and having them on your side will significantly benefit you and your dog.

World Dog Finder team

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