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What is Anemia?

Anemia is the term veterinarians use to describe a reduction of red blood cells in the feline’s circulatory system. Red blood cells, known as erythrocytes, are equipped with a special iron containing molecule known as hemoglobin. This special molecule is what allows the red blood cells to pick up oxygen from the lungs and carry it to the body’s various organs. When the red blood cells are low in quantity, the feline begins developing symptoms related to a low oxygen supply, including difficulties in breathing. Anemia can be the result of disease, hormone abnormalities, bone marrow abnormalities, nutrition, or toxicity. 

Anemia Average Cost

From 460 quotes ranging from $500 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,500

Symptoms of Anemia in Cats

Red blood cells carry oxygen and nutrients to the body, therefore a decreased level of these red blood cells cause clinical signs associated with these deficiencies including: 

  • Exercise intolerance
  • Lethargy 
  • Decreased appetite 
  • Pale mucous membranes (gums)
  • Jaundice: yellowing of the mucus membranes and inside the ears
  • Pica: craving and consumption of inappropriate elements 
  • Tachycardia: increased heart rate 
  • Tachypnoea: increased respiratory rate 
  • Weakness

Types 

Anemia in cats is classified as either regenerative or non-regenerative. 

Regenerative Anemia 

In regenerative anemia, the feline’s bone marrow responds to the decreased level of circulating red blood cells by increasing erythrocyte production. Cases of red blood cell destruction and bleeding are usually classified as regenerative. 

Non-regenerative Anemia

In non-regenerative anemia, the feline’s bone marrow does not respond to the low level of red blood cells and does not produce new hemoglobin cells. Abnormalities of bone marrow and a decrease in the hormone that stimulates the production of erythrocytes are often classified as non-regenerative anemia. 

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Causes of Anemia in Cats

Causes of regenerative anemia include:

  • Hypophosphatemia: blood phosphate deficiency common in diabetic cats. 
  • Neonatal Isoerythrolysis: immunologic newborn cat disease. 
  • Inherited red blood cell disorders (common in Somali and Abyssinian cat breeds)
  • Infections (viruses, bacteria and other infectious organisms such as feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia)
  • Toxins, such as metals, chemicals, foods (e.g. onions, fava beans), plants 
  • Human medications, such as acetaminophen and aspirin 

Causes of non-regenerative anemia include: 

  • Myelofibrosis: disease that leads to enlargement of the liver and spleen.
  • Myelodysplasia: disorder of the bone marrow 
  • Primary Leukemia: a type of white blood cell cancer 
  • Pure Cell Aplasia: severe reduction of red blood cells only linked to viral infection
  • Aplastic Anemia: a disorder in which the bone marrow loses its ability to grow new blood cells. 
  • Anemia of Chronic Disease: anemia is the result of a long-term inflammatory infection, hyperthyroidism, hormonal disorder or tumor. 
  • Nutritional deficiencies (iron deficiency) 
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Diagnosis of Anemia in Cats

Anemia in cats can be diagnosed through a review of your cat’s medical history, a physical exam, routine diagnostic tests, and through the consultation with the cat owner. The veterinarian will want to conduct a differential diagnosis on your cat to eliminate the possibility of ingestion of a toxic substance, infection, and organ failure, which commonly causes anemia. A urinalysis and blood work are likely tests to further diagnose a feline with suspected anemia.

CBC Complete Blood Cell Count

A complete blood cell count measures the levels of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, which provides important information to the veterinarian. 

PCV Packed Cell Volume or Hematocrit

Measures the percentage of blood volume occupied by erythrocytes, which provides important information regarding the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. 

Blood Smear

A blood smear is a test performed to identify blood cell abnormalities, revealing irregularities in size and shape. 

Bone Marrow Aspirate Biopsy

The act of using a fine needle to take bone marrow from inside the bones for observation. 

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Treatment of Anemia in Cats

If the feline is in a severe stage of anemia, the veterinarian may request a blood transfusion to stabilize the cat before treating the underlying cause for the low red blood cell levels. The feline will need to have a blood test conducted before receiving the blood transfusion, as the incorrect blood type could result in adverse reactions. A donor or supply will be located, and infusions will take place while in hospital care. 

If the anemia is caused by an infection, toxic substance, organ failure, hormone deficiency, nutrient deficiency, or feline viral infection, the veterinarian will prescribe treatment based on the specific cause. 

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Recovery of Anemia in Cats

Felines that have received blood transfusions may be hospitalized for a few days depending on the severity of the condition. Non-regenerative anemia feline cases will require continuous treatment and veterinary follow-up appointments to balance the number of circulating red blood cells, preventing a life-threatening anemic condition. Regenerative anemia cases will return to normal in most cases as soon as the underlying condition is addressed and treated.

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Anemia Average Cost

From 460 quotes ranging from $500 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,500

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Anemia Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Tabby

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Four Years

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Unknown severity

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Anemia

Hi, I’m having trouble finding a solution with the two vets I’ve taken my cat too. My cat wasn’t playing anymore or sleeping next to me and just seemed low in energy. So I took him in for a early check up and the vet ran a complete blood work. They found out he was anemic but they can’t find an underlying disease or issue even with the complete blood work, stool, UA and Xray. I attached the blood work and urinalysis for your viewing. His X-ray didn’t indicate any issues, he also tested negative for Coombs, ova & parasite and guardia (elisa). I hope someone may have insight on what to do next.

Aug. 11, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, So sorry to hear about your cat. I have seen a cat that was anemic that was due to Feline Mycoplasma. That test is actually recommended on the bloodwork that you sent. I would have that test ran. Cats get this disease due to a flea bite. I hope your cat starts to feel much better soon.

Aug. 12, 2020

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Moto

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Russian Blue

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5 Years

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

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Anemia

My cat was diagnosed with a uti, came home and she still wasnt eating. Took her back and red blood cell count was around 2 and her clotting factors were elevated. Started her on vitamin k and fluids but she still wont eat or make rbc on her own. Introduced a steroid and appetite stimulate and she is still declining. Currently her RBC is less than 1.9 and they are giving her a transfusion just so I can get up to her and say goodbye. Have I done everything I can? Feline leukemia was negative and we do not own rat poison. Read more at: https://wagwalking.com/cat/condition/anemia

Sept. 14, 2018

Moto's Owner

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Acorn

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short hair

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11 Years

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Anti-Social Behavior
Severe Dehydration
Subnormal Body Temperature
Flea Infestation

My 11-year-old hefty (at 19-22 lbs) cat Acorn started hanging out in the basement (which we thought was because it is cooler in the basement). On Sunday, he was meowing from the catio (which is attached to the basement through a tunnel connected to a basement window. I rescued him from the catio and brought him upstairs. He seemed very disinterested, drank some water, had some crusting around his nose and I noticed he would shiver occasionally. I placed him in sunny windows, but he didn't seem happpy. We took him to the vet who told us he was severely dehydrated and had a subnormal body temperature of 94 (when it should be 101). Later that day, the vet called saying that he was severely anemic and needed a blood transfusion. His blood read was at 10 and should have been at 20. He has since had two blood transfusions which have brought his blood up to 16 (after the first) and then 17 (after the second). He wasn't eating so they asked us to come by to pet him and try to get him to eat. I sent my husband (since i am out of the area currently) with his favorite food (corn), and he ate it. I also talked to him over the phone, and he meowed and purred when he heard me. He has since had a steroid. Any ideas? How long do you think he will need to stay? They asked about feline leukemia, but i thought he would have a fever and weight loss, which he did not. He does have a bad case of fleas since the Frontline we have been using religiously is worthless. (We also have five other cats, all of which are indoor cats.) Any thoughts on what this could be or how long he will need to stay at the vet hospital???

Sept. 11, 2018

Acorn's Owner

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Chloee

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Calico

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12 Years

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

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Anemia
Weight Loss,
Weight Loss, Low Energy

My cat got diagnoised with anemia. After looking at her blood labs my vet also said she has coronavirus. My question is did the coronavirus cause the anemia? He mentioned doing a blood transfusion but even after that he said she will get sick again, I assume do to the coronavirus. She's 12 years old and very weak, he said she may not even make it through a blood transfusion. Is this information I was given a correct explentation? I have a difficult time understanding health related issues like this.

Aug. 9, 2018

Chloee's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Coronavirus is one of those infections which tests pick up but really isn’t indicative of anything apart from exposure to the coronavirus, it doesn’t really indicate a current infection. There are many different causes for anaemia, which may or may not be related to coronavirus/FIP (feline infectious peritonitis); I cannot say whether or not there is a relation in the case (also remember that coronavirus doesn’t mean FIP). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 10, 2018

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plomito

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siam

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5 Months

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Doesnt Want To Eat
Doesnt Want To Eats

my cat is really bad he cant stand up and he keeps trying to sleep and I already took him to the vet and thry gave me some pills but what I see is thaya my cat is really bad what can I do

Aug. 7, 2018

plomito's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Since I don't have any way of knowing why Plomito is anemic, it is difficult for me to comment on how to treat him. I'm not sure what medication he is on, but it may take some time to take effect. It would be best to call your veterinarian, as they know more what is going on with him and how he is being treated, and see if there is anything more that you can do for him.

Aug. 7, 2018

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iMax

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domestic short hair

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7 Months

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Serious severity

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Anemia
Lethargy

I have a 7 months old domestic kitten who started licking pavement and the rocks on our fireplace. 1 week ago he wouldn’t move from the blanket so I took him to the vet. They said his PCV was 17% she first suggested a blood transfusion and then she said we could start him on antibiotics and steroids. The next day I took him back and his PCV was 11%. I took him to the emergency vet where they did a blood transfusion over night. His PCV was 18% and I brought him home Wednesday. On Thursday we went back to our vet where they tested him and his PCV was 22%. Everything was great and we had a check up on Monday (today). His PCV went back to 14%. This evening he just started becoming lethargic again. She said his case is unknown and put him on a stronger dose of steroids. I just gave them to him and now I hope he gets some energy again. I just wonder if anyone else has had this happen and what was the outcome? I haven’t been given a real answer as to what’s going on and I wonder if it’ll be easier on him if I put him down. I’m heartbroken and just want my baby boy to get better.

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Bonnie

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Maine Coon mix

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2 Days

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

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Weight Loss
Lethargy
Lack Of Appetite

On christmas day Bonnie was severely lethargic and had pale white gums. I took her to the emergency vet and was told that she was in critical condition and a PCV of 7%, she needed a transfusion immediately or she would die. We had to take her to a clinic that had A type cat blood and she recieved 2 transfusions, her PCV jumped to 11% after the first and 13% after the second they took another blood test and found out that she was not regenerating blood cells on her own, so they sent her home with Doxycycline to take once a day and Prednisolone to also take once a day. They took a few blood samples to run tests on, she was negative for mycoplasma and feline leukemia. Yesterday January 9th she was lethargic and not eating she had a checkup on New years eve, her PCV had gone down to 11% so they added on Atopica, an immunosuppressant to take every 12 hours. On January 7th she had another check up and her PCV had fallen to 9%. They then said that it is most likely pure red blood cell aplasia and that we just have to be patient with her treatment and we should see some result in the coming weeks. January 9th she was again lethargic and not eating so she had to get two more units of blood, which is difficult, because she had two transfusions already so they had to cross match 4 different times to actually find blood she would not have an adverse reaction to. Her PCV is now up to 19%. Today January 10 I have noticed she has started eating her clay litter, non clumping. I heard this could be from the anemia, as they clay litter has nutrients that she feels she needs. I am hoping that this means that she is now more aware than she has been since she got sick, and not another underlying issue, because I have already spent $7,000 on her care and I have no more money

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Bow

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DOMESTIC

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9 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargic
Lethargic, Temperature

My 9 week old kitten had a bad reaction to his vaccines. He has cat flu but more worrying his pcv came back as 22 on Monday but dropped to 20 today. He is in vets 24 hr care on fluids & much improved this evening. But could the anemia be a result of his reaction? Can it ho back up with treatment?

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Luke

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domestic short hair

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6 Months

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

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Weight Loss
Weight Loss, Lethargy, Vomiting, Lo
Weight Loss, Lethargy, Vomiting, Ne

Help! My kitten has been losing weight, no appetite and vomiting when he tries to eat anything. He’s been diagnosed with Heinz Body Anemia. We’re giving him Sub-q fluids at home and one second we think he’s feeling a little better and then he doesn’t want to move much or eat anything.

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Bubby

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Indoor Cat

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1 Year

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Loss Of Appetite
Tired
Sleeps A Lot
Lack Of Appetite
Eats Cat Litter
Lack Of Playfulness
Poops In Random Places

My 1 year old cat Bubby is Anaemic. I am now 22 weeks pregnant. I have noticed something off with Bubby for quite a while now since I had him as a kitten. Especially around his 1 year birthday. He has started eating his cat litter (not sure when) and I try to watch him as much as I can so he doesn't do it anymore. He still manages to. And now he has decided to poop all over the house..especially on the edges of the windows and sometimes my bed. I'm not sure what else to do so wanted to see if anyone else has a kitty that has something in common. And how you fixed the pooping every where situation. Because I want to help him not get rid of him. Even if it continues but would not like to have to see him like this any more especially after baby gets here in January. Please help us. I'm desperate and I can only imagine how my fur baby feels.

Anemia Average Cost

From 460 quotes ranging from $500 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,500