What is Anemia Due to Iron Deficiency?
Iron is a key mineral acquired through a pet’s diet that is critical for the formation of healthy red blood cells. Hemoglobin and myoglobin, the two major oxygen-carrying proteins found in blood and muscle tissue, respectively, depend on a central core of iron. These proteins cannot successfully be made by the body without proper consumption of iron-containing foods. Usually, any ordinary dog food, as well as properly-constructed homemade meals for a pet, contain all the iron nutrients the animal needs. In rare cases, such as owners who attempt to feed their pet a vegan or vegetarian diet, a lack of iron and protein-containing foods may contribute to health problems including anemia.
The much more frequent cause of iron-deficiency anemia is blood loss, caused either by a wound or parasitic infection. The pet’s body responds to blood loss by attempting to replace the blood cells as quickly as possible. This increases the demand for iron possibly beyond what the animal can obtain from its diet. Symptoms of anemia include weakness, weight loss, and unusually rapid breathing, so see a veterinarian as quickly as possible if you suspect your dog may be losing blood.Anemia describes an insufficiency in the number of red blood cells in an animal or human’s body. This can occur for many reasons, a major cause being iron deficiency either from dietary insufficiency or disease.
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Symptoms of Anemia Due to Iron Deficiency in Dogs
- Weight loss
- Rapid breathing
- Frequent colds or infections
- Blood in stools
Causes of Anemia Due to Iron Deficiency in Dogs
- Lack of iron in diet
- Parasite feeding on blood
- Cancer of bone marrow or digestive tract
Diagnosis of Anemia Due to Iron Deficiency in Dogs
It is important to monitor your dog for symptoms of anemia after an injury or if you suspect a parasitic infection. Especially in young dogs, who have less stored iron, anemia can come on quickly and pose a severe risk to your pet’s health. The veterinarian will ask you if your dog has recently seemed to lose its appetite, behave lethargically, or been in the vicinity of any dogs found to have parasites. If a parasitic infection is slowly overwhelming your dog’s ability to produce blood cells, there may not be obvious signs of parasitic activity other than the effects of blood loss.
The veterinarian will likely request a stool sample to be microscopically examined for evidence of parasites, and a small blood sample to observe any abnormalities or indicators of why insufficient red blood cells are being produced. If no evidence of parasitism is forthcoming, the veterinarian may use ultrasound or MRI to look for any cancers impairing your pet’s ability to absorb and use iron to produce blood cells.
If you make your own pet food or have been feeding your dog a commercial pet food advertised as vegan or vegetarian, tell the veterinarian and if possible, bring in the packaging. Some alternative pet foods do not contain the necessary amount of iron, or other minerals that aid in the absorption of iron, for your dog to thrive. Dogs are omnivores, and can subsist for a while on vegetable material, but need greater amounts of iron and amino acids than most plant-based diets can provide.
Treatment of Anemia Due to Iron Deficiency in Dogs
To correct immediate anemia, iron supplements are often the first-line course of treatment while the underlying cause is being diagnosed. Pets who are severely anemic due to iron deficiency are also impaired in their ability to absorb iron, and so intravenous iron will be needed until the pet can begin to replenish iron on its own.
Correcting the underlying issue will depend on the specific treatment plan needed. Dietary insufficiency can be corrected with help from a veterinary nutritionist, who can suggest diet modifications and feeding plans. Your dog needs a constant supply of foods rich in iron, and so relying on the temporary correction of supplements will just send your dog straight back to the veterinarian.
Parasites like hookworms can be treated with antiparasitics like ivermectin, and cancers treated according to their type, stage, and progression.
Recovery of Anemia Due to Iron Deficiency in Dogs
In severe cases of iron deficiency, iron supplements will have to be administered intravenously for around two months until the animal can successfully begin absorbing iron on its own. It is critical to make follow-up appointments at regular intervals to monitor the dog’s condition- a relapse can severely weaken your dog and leave them susceptible to opportunistic infections.
Milder cases can be managed with diet modification, rest and oral iron supplements. Be sure to follow the exact instructions given by the veterinarian concerning medication and behavior.
Anemia Due to Iron Deficiency Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Can i give human b12 drops to my dog?
I would always recommend using a Veterinary Vitamin supplement over one intended for human use; but if you do use a product for human use, check all the ingredients to ensure that there is nothing dangerous for dogs. The dosage of B12 for dogs is around 0.0005mg/kg or 0.5ug/kg, always check the dosage and if Yoda is currently receiving treatment for anaemia or any other condition from a Veterinarian check with them first since Yoda is under their duty of care. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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