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Anemia in Dogs - What Pet Parents Need to Know

Anemia in Dogs - What Pet Parents Need to Know

There are a number of reasons why your dog may be diagnosed with anemia, however this condition is most often viewed as a symptom of an underlying illness. Today our Memphis vets explain the different types of anemia seen in dogs, as well as their symptoms and treatments.

Anemia in Dogs

In dogs, anemia is a condition which is often viewed as a symptom of an underlying disease or illness. Anemia results from your pet's body not producing enough red blood cells or haemoglobin, or if your dog suffers severe blood loss due to conditions such as cancer, or stomach ulcers, or due to trauma such as a a serious accident or injury.

Types of Anemia

  • Blood Loss Anemia occurs due to severe loss of blood caused by injury, surgery, or a bleeding disorder. This form of anemia may also be caused by internal bleeding due to parasites, cancer, ulcers or other conditions.
  • Hemolytic Anemia is caused by the destruction or breakdown of red blood cells. Often the result of immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) or autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA), or non-immune mediated caused by hereditary disease, parasites, toxins, or low phosphorous levels.
  • Aplastic or Non-Regenerative Anemia develops in dogs due to insufficient production of red blood cells. This form of anemia may occur due to toxin exposure (poisoning), bone marrow disease, kidney disease, parvovirus, certain medications, or chemotherapy drugs.
  • Methemoglobinemia in dogs is caused by too much methemoglobin in the blood due to certain genetic disorders, or exposure to toxins including some human medications such as benzocaine, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen.

Signs & Symptoms of Anemia in Dogs

If your dog as anemia, you may notice one or more of the following symptoms. These symptoms will vary based upon the underlying cause of the condition.

  • Vomiting
  • Black stools
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fast pulse or rapid breathing
  • Pale gums, eyes or ears
  • Swelling in the face or jaw
  • Weakness or lethargy

Causes of Anemia in Dogs

There are a number of conditions which can be the cause anemia in dogs, including:

  • Kidney disease
  • Cancer
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Intestinal bleeding
  • Medications that interfere with red blood cell production
  • Infectious diseases including canine distemper
  • Severe blood loss as a result of accident or injury
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Poor nutrition
  • Bone marrow disease
  • Blood loss caused by parasites such as fleas 
  • Chronic diseases that suppress red blood cell production
  • Toxins or poisons (rat poison or lead poisoning)
  • Tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease

Treatment & Prognosis

If your pet is diagnosed with anemia, the treatment that your vet recommends will be based upon the underlying cause of condition. Some of the treatments that your vet may recommend include:

  • Surgery
  • Blood transfusion
  • Bone marrow transfusion
  • Chemotherapy
  • Intravenous fluids
  • Change of existing medications
  • Antibiotics or immunusuppressive drugs
  • Potassium phosphate supplements
  • Gastrointestinal medication
  • Parasite or de-worming medications

The prognosis for dogs with anemia depends upon whether an effective treatment exists for the underlying illness. Sadly, anemia can sometimes indicate that your dog is suffering from a very serious or possibly fatal condition such as cancer, autoimmune conditions or poisoning. Which is why anemia in dogs should always be taken seriously. If your pet is showing any of the signs of anemia contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to schedule an examination.


The key to preventing anemia in dogs is preventing the conditions which lead to anemia, (whenever possible). Year round parasite prevention medications to protect your dog against ticks, fleas, and worms is one way to help your dog avoid developing anemia. Keeping toxic substances far out of your dog's reach, and providing your dog with a healthy diet may also help to prevent your dog from developing anemia. If your dog is a breed that is susceptible to developing anemia including American Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, and Shih Tzus, regular wellness examinations twice yearly at your primary care veterinarian may help to detect the early signs of anemia, and provide treatment before the condition becomes more severe.

If your dog is showing symptoms of an anemia, contact your vet immediately. Outside of your vet's regular hours contact Animal Emergency Center in Memphis. Our vets offer emergency veterinary services on evenings, weekends and major holidays. 

Animal Emergency Center in Memphis

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