Anemia Due To Bone Marrow Failure (Or Toxicity) Average Cost

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What is Anemia Due To Bone Marrow Failure (Or Toxicity)?

Anemia is defined as a reduction in the normal number of red blood cells. All types of blood cells originate in the bone marrow, so healthy bone marrow will respond to a low blood cell count by producing more. If the body is unable to adequately generate replacement blood cells, this is called non-regenerative anemia. Dysfunctional bone marrow is one of the most common causes. When bone marrow is unable to adequately produce all types of blood cells, including precursors to white and red blood cells as well as platelets, anaplastic anemia results. In dogs, this can happen due to an underlying bone marrow disease, as well as toxic ingestion, long term use of certain drugs, and some infections. Treatment will need to focus on rectifying the disease or condition which caused the imbalance, and recovery will depend on the type and severity of the problem.

Bone marrow that is not working properly is unable to adequately regenerate blood cells. This leads to a condition defined as anaplastic anemia. In dogs, anaplastic anemia develops secondary to a number of diseases and underlying conditions. Treatment and recovery will depend on the cause.


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Symptoms of Anemia Due To Bone Marrow Failure (Or Toxicity) in Dogs

Symptoms of anemia due to bone marrow failure, typically develop slowly. The body will adjust to the low blood cell count and continue to function normally as long as possible. As the condition progresses, symptoms will become more pronounced, especially if the problem is due to a cancerous condition like leukemia. Take your dog to see a veterinarian if you notice any of the following signs:

  • Poor Appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of stamina
  • Weakness
  • Rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Rapid breathing (tachypnea)
  • Paleness of the mucus membranes, especially notable around the gums
  • Blood in the stool
  • Petechiation (a purplish spot on the surface of the skin)
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Disorientation
  • Lack of coordination
  • Seizures


Several different types of bone marrow conditions lead to non-regenerative anemia:

  • Aplastic anemia – the most general term for anemia due to bone marrow failure or toxicity characterized by lack of production of all types of blood cells.
  • Pure red cell aplasia (PRCA) – only the erythroid line, the tissue that leads to the production of red blood cells, is affected. Hormone replacement drugs (recombinant human erythropoietin) as well as autoimmune responses are often the source.
  • Leukemia – several different types of leukemia (sometimes called myeloproliferative diseases) cause the production of cancerous white blood cells. These are relatively rare in dogs. In acute forms, abnormal cells called blasts infiltrate the bone marrow and halt the production of normal blood cells.
  • Myelodysplasia – a pre-leukemia condition in which blood stem cells produced in the bone marrow are unable to properly develop. It often develops into leukemia.
  • Myelofibrosis – in this condition the bone marrow is replaced with fibrous tissue. It can occur secondary to leukemia, as well as parasite infections and some types of drug therapy.

Causes of Anemia Due To Bone Marrow Failure (Or Toxicity) in Dogs

Sometimes there isn’t an obvious cause for bone marrow failure, especially if it is due to a cancerous condition. Other times the condition can be traced to a treatable cause. These are some of the most common sources:


  • canine parvovirus
  • ehrlichiosis

Medical treatments

  • chemotherapy drugs
  • some antibiotics
  • estrogen replacement
  • methimazole (hyperthyroid drug)
  • fenbendazole (roundworm treatment)
  • phenylbutazone (pain medication)

Other factors

  • Toxin ingestion
  • Cancerous tumor in another part of the body
  • Radiation therapy
  • Autoimmune response
  • Hereditary 
  • Idiopathic (unknown)

Diagnosis of Anemia Due To Bone Marrow Failure (Or Toxicity) in Dogs

A complete blood cell count (CBC) will evaluate the severity of the anemia and sometimes blood tests can indicate the source of the problem as well. Urine samples can suggest dysfunction in various body systems and the veterinarian may also ask for a feces sample. A bone marrow biopsy or aspiration will be required to evaluate the condition of the bone marrow. These procedures involve inserting a hollow needle into the bone marrow in order to obtain a sample that can be analyzed microscopically. Sedation or general anesthetic will be necessary for either of these tests.

The veterinarian will need to know your dog’s complete medical history and any drugs he is taking or has taken in the past. A detailed description of the symptoms, including the time of onset and severity, is very important. X-rays or other tests could be required depending on the suspected cause.

Treatment of Anemia Due To Bone Marrow Failure (Or Toxicity) in Dogs

Treatments can vary widely depending on the cause. Antibiotics will be given to treat infection, while prednisone or a similar immune-suppressant may be prescribed if the problem is believed to be immune mediated. Medication will be given to stimulate the production of white blood cells until the bone marrow has fully recovered and blood transfusions may be necessary to help the body bounce back.

Symptoms of leukemia will also be managed with antibiotics to counter the depleted immune system and blood transfusion. Chemotherapy may be ordered to try to kill the abnormal cells. The response rate for severe forms of leukemia is only around 30% and most dogs that did respond were only in remission for about 4 months. This type of treatment can reduce symptoms and help your dog survive a bit longer.

If another medication is responsible for the problem, the veterinarian will try to reduce the dose or find another drug with does not lead to toxicity. Effectiveness will depend on the medication and the severity of the condition.

Recovery of Anemia Due To Bone Marrow Failure (Or Toxicity) in Dogs

Your dog may make a full recovery from some mild infections or treatable autoimmune responses. If cancer is the root of the problem, treatment will probably involve managing the symptoms as long as possible and eventual euthanasia. Some toxicity cases are reversible once the problematic drug is discontinued. Discuss the side effects of any long-term medication your dog is taking, and evaluate positive and negative effects to determine if it is worth the risk. Frequent blood tests can help your veterinarian monitor the problem before symptoms become severe or irreversible. Regular check-ups and testing is the best way of diagnosing anemia before symptoms become apparent.

Anemia Due To Bone Marrow Failure (Or Toxicity) Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

4 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

low red blood cell count
pale gums
low platelet count

Medication Used



My dog has been sick for over two months now. On December 30 I took him into the vet since he was acting weird. Had puked twice in 2 weeks and was acting very snappy with our other dog, just not himself. Check up was good until she checked his gums and realized there was an issue and took his blood. His platelets came back as 0 and his rbc was at 22. We took him to emergency and they got him stable and after a couple days we were able to take him home on the prednisone. After a week his levels were not improving so they added atopica (cyclosporine) to the mix. This boosted his platlets back to normal but he is still very anemic. We have been back with the internal medicine specialist and lowered his pred and atopica thinking they could be suppressing his rbc. We just had him in after a week and his rbc has actually dropped to 20. We have another appointment in a week but wondering if anyone has any ideas about what this could be? A lot of what I’ve seen for the bone marrow issues is a similar treatment to what he’s already on and I believe testing his bone marrow is the next step of his rbc doesn’t increase but if this doesn’t change his treatment I’m not sure what to do

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Shepard husky mix
1 Year
Fair condition
1 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

White gums

Our 1.5 year old husky shepherd mix was diagnosed with PRCA just a couple weeks ago. She went in with 8RBC And after two transfusions she was at a 28, it is now been three weeks and she’s gone down to 21. I have an appointment tomorrow for another transfusion. She has been on prednisone as well and cyclosporine modified 50 mg. Doctor said it could take 100 days for them to be affective.
Any new leads to PRCA would be amazing! The internal medicine vet hospital I am going to says PRCA is incredibly rare. Everything I have read says there is usually an underlining cause for it....

I would love to know how Cleo is doing now?

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10 Years
Serious condition
1 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

exsessive hunger

I have a 10y/o Pug with severe anemia. 3 weeks ago her RBC count was 12 she received a blood transfusion which brought her blood count up to 28. She has gone to weekly check ups since and found her bone marrow is not producing RBC and over the 2 weeks her levels began to drop again. The vet hospital has not found the cause for the anemia and is treating her with prednisone with hopes to fight of whatever is affecting the bone marrow. We took her in today 1 week after being on prednisone and her blood levels had dropped from a 22 to a 20. The doctor is not sure what to do next and said that its possible the prednisone has not had enough time to work and wants to recheck in one week. Have you ever had/heard of a case like this before? An is it possible for the RBC to rise after all of this?

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12 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

sleepy, pale gums

my dog is a 12 year-old medium size schnauzer, he had his yearly lab work done a week ago and it shows that RBC, HGB, HCT are low, while the MCV, MCH are high and the MCHC is normal. WBC is normal. I was told he is anemic-- although he has appetite when I feed him something else but his dry food, and drinks/pees constantly. He has energy when going out, loves to run, but gets tired easily. I assumed that I saw him more sleepy as he is older. No vomiting and stools look good. Everything else is either negative or withing normal limits. I wonder if he is anemic as he is very picky to eat and sometimes we must hand-feed him, or maybe it is because of a chemical near the farm where we live.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
Pale gums, low red blood cells (RBC), low haemoglobin HGB), low haematocrit (HCT), high mean corpuscular haemoglobin (MCH) and high mean corpuscular volume (MCV) are characteristic for anaemia with pale gums occurring in severe cases. There are various different causes for anaemia and you should work with your Veterinarian to determine and manage the cause. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Miniature Schnauzer
3 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition


Currently, I have a 10 pound miniature schnauzer, Winson, that has been on Apoquel for probably a year to treat itching. Last week, I took him in for a vet visit because he had been eating dirt for a couple of months and not acting himself (low energy) and losing weight. He was down to 9.1 pounds last week. His blood work showed an extremely low RBC count of 7. Everything else in his lab work was normal. I reminded the veterinarians that he takes Apoquel and they said there’s nothing in the literature to point to that being the cause of his severe anemia. He was started on prednisone and doxycycline (in case it may be tick bite related) and I discontinued the Apoquel. Exactly one week later, his RBC has only gone up to 10. He is otherwise presents normally… no vomiting, no breathing problems, he is eating, drinking, peeing and pooping normally.

My question is this: in your experience, do you think his bone marrow (RBC only) has been suppressed by the Apoquel and by simply removing the drug, he should improve? There is discussion of him having Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia and that is the reason for the prednisone. As of right now, the vet is kind of stumped and is seeking a specialist to consult with.

Thank you!
-Maureen Heim

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. It would be unlikely after a year that the Apoquel would cause that level of anemia, and it hasn't been shown to have that side effect. There are drug related IMHA's , but again, it would be unusual after a year. IT seems that your veterinarian is covering all of the bases for medication, and is actively pursuing a diagnosis for you. It would be best to stay in contact with them and make sure that they are aware of any changes in Winston's behavior or condition. I hope that he continues to recover.

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Springer sp
11 Months
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms


Medication Used


Are there any farm toxins that could cause a red cell line specific marrow suppression
HgB 37, crit 112, normal WBC and platelets
Well puppy, no infections or underlying disease found

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
Farms are dangerous places for dogs, cats, children and adults; between accidents, chemicals and diseases farms are not good places to be around. There are many possible toxins which may be found on a farm which may cause a variety of different conditions including anaemia, the possible sources would depend on the type of farm you’re operating, age of the farm and chemicals/products used. For a more in depth discussion, you should discuss with the Pet Poison Helpline regarding the type of farm and what is used to narrow in on a possible cause. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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