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What is Hemolytic Anemia?

When your dog’s body views his own red blood cells as a threat and begins to destroy them within, this disease of the immune system is known as hemolytic anemia. Dogs with this disease suffer from their bone marrow producing the red blood cells; however, once they are released into the blood circulation they become destroyed by their immune system. This is an autoimmune disorder that dramatically reduces the number of red blood cells within the system of the dog, causing intense anemia. The reduction of red blood cells and hemoglobin causes a shortage of oxygen, thus causing the dog to have a myriad of negative symptoms which can, in turn, affect their overall health and lifespan.

Hemolytic anemia is treatable if it comes from a primary source; however, oftentimes the anemia occurs due to an underlying disease or illness. This disease or illness causing the anemia needs to be treated or suppressed in order for the dog to become stabilized in terms of the destruction of red blood cells.

Hemolytic Anemia in dogs is a condition in which affected dogs’ immune system fights and destroys typically healthy red blood cells. This condition can be a primary condition or be a result of a secondary, or underlying illness.

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Hemolytic Anemia Average Cost

From 492 quotes ranging from $500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$3,000

Symptoms of Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs

The symptoms of hemolytic anemia are quite characteristic of the disease itself. If you notice any of the following symptoms within your dog, it is recommended you make an appointment with your veterinarian. Symptoms include:

  • Pale gums
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of willingness to exercise
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty breathing, or breathing rapidly
  • Disorientation
  • Yellowing of the mucous membranes
  • Poor appetite
  • Vomiting

Types

There are several breeds which are commonly affected, more so than others, by IMHA. These breeds may have genetic factors or be primarily predisposed to this disease. Types of breeds that may have a predisposition to this disease include:

  • Vizsla
  • Irish Setter
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Scottish Terrier
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • English Springer Spaniel
  • Poodle
  • Doberman
  • Dachshund
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Causes of Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs

Autoimmune hemolytic anemia in dogs may be either primary or secondary. This autoimmune disease destroys the red blood cells as they circulate within the spleen or liver. The liver becomes overworked, as it must rid itself of the overproduced hemoglobin. Specific causes of this disease include: 

Primary

  • Immune system abnormality
  • The creation of antibodies that attack the red blood cells

Secondary

  • An underlying disorder or disease, such as cancer
  • This disease altering the red blood cells, making them invaders
  • Infection
  • Blood parasites
  • Reactions to drugs
  • Snake venom
  • Toxins
  • Bee stings
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Diagnosis of Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs

If you suspect your dog is suffering from anemia, make an appointment with your veterinarian so he can be assessed. The veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination, and will focus on a test called a complete blood count, or CBC. The complete blood count test accurately will measure several variables within one sample of blood. These include the amount and percentage of red blood cells within the sample. Once the sample is taken and measured, the medical professional will take a closer look at the shape and size of the cells to check for abnormalities in both categories. In hemolytic anemia, the shape, as well as the size, will be atypical. They may also be abnormally clumped together, known as autoagglutination. 

Once the CBC comes back as anemia, the veterinarian will want to do testing to see what is specifically causing it, and to see if the anemia is from a primary cause, or secondary.  Further evaluations may include serologic blood tests to check for parasites, a Coombs test to check for antibodies, and lab testing for finding the specific number or percentage of immature blood cells, known as reticulocytes. 

Other testing will continue, especially if the veterinarian suspects a secondary cause for your dog’s hemolytic anemia. The veterinarian may perform a biochemistry profile to check for the functionality of his organs, urinalysis to check for kidney function and for any urinary tract infection, chest x-rays to test for cancer within the lungs, abdominal x-rays to test for cancer, as well as an abdominal ultrasound.

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Treatment of Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs

Treatment methods may vary, depending on the specific cause of your dog’s hemolytic anemia. If your dog has this autoimmune disorder, either primary or secondary in nature, treatment methods may include:

Blood Transfusion

A blood transfusion may need to be performed if your dog’s anemia is severe. Samples of blood will be drawn for baseline testing, and the blood transfusion will be performed to keep your dog stable while the specific cause of the anemia is diagnosed.

Immunosuppressive Therapy

Immunosuppressive therapy will be suggested if the hemolytic anemia is determined to be of primary origin. The veterinarian may choose to administer doses of corticosteroid medications or other immunosuppressive medications recommended by the medical professional.

Specific Treatments

If your dog’s hemolytic anemia is the cause of a specific underlying disorder or disease, the treatment will depend on the disease he is suffering from. Once your dog is diagnosed with a specific disease causing the blood disorder, your veterinarian will discuss with you treatment options. Once the secondary disease is treated, your dog’s hemolytic anemia will subside in time.

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Recovery of Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs

Autoimmune hemolytic anemia is treatable, and if the cause is a primary autoimmune disorder, then your dog should respond to immunosuppressive therapy. Once your dog adjusts to the immunosuppressive therapy, and his condition begins to improve, he may be able to wean off of the medications. Your veterinarian will give you specific instructions on how to administer the prescription medication to your dog.

In terms of recovery and management or secondary hemolytic anemia, this depends on the disease or disorder that he has been diagnosed with. Once your veterinarian puts a treatment plan in place for the secondary disorder, you will understand more of what the management of the condition entails. He will work alongside you to be sure you understand how to properly care for your companion at home, and will continue seeing your dog for regular follow-up visits, depending on his condition. 

Regular blood work and monitoring will be very important, as this disease can relapse after tapering off any medications. Your veterinarian will test him regularly and oversee any treatment he may need to continue in order to remain stable.

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Hemolytic Anemia Average Cost

From 492 quotes ranging from $500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$3,000

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Hemolytic Anemia Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Ask a Vet

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Airedale Terrier

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Thirteen Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

General Inquiry: Is the there a protocol or standard that's followed by licensed veterinarians in conducting a necropsy when a dog suddenly dies after a major surgery? Also, is there a protocol or standard for post-surgery treatment concerning certain types of surgeries? Thank You

Nov. 23, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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1 Recommendations

Most vets will follow a similar 'formula' when performing a necropsy and will do it in a logical order. While any vet can perform post-mortems, many will leave it up to pathologist who will generally have more experience. With regards to a protocol for post-surgery treatment, the short answer is no. Patients are all individuals and are looked after according to their needs, vital signs etc. All patients should be monitored closely and their treatment will depend on how they are doing. For example, a pet with a low body temperature may need active warming while one with low blood pressure may need specific medicine and intravenous fluids.

Nov. 23, 2020

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Bella

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Golden Retriever

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10 Years

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Serious severity

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4 found helpful

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Serious severity

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Loss Of Apetite
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Bella -10.5 year old golden. Started with not wanting to eat. tired. been 3 weeks now. multiple cbc's done. Coombs test. parasite test. all negative. bone aspiration done. shows red blood cells are being made, but dying once released. autoimmune test was negative. multiple scans show nothing. White blood cell and platelets are normal. being treated with steroids. red blood count was 22 last week, today was down to 18. any suggestions.

Aug. 23, 2018

Bella's Owner

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4 Recommendations

It certainly seems that there is a destruction of red blood cells (since we know that red blood cells are being produced), if infections and parasites have been ruled out it leaves conditions like immune mediated haemolytic anaemia (negative Coombs test) or poisoning (many different poisons may cause anaemia). I cannot say specifically what the cause is but in this instance steroid therapy / immunosuppressive therapy would be the way forward if no other cause is found. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 23, 2018

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Hemolytic Anemia Average Cost

From 492 quotes ranging from $500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$3,000

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