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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.

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

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

dog-name-icon

Bella

dog-breed-icon

Golden Retriever

dog-age-icon

10 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Tired
Loss Of Apetite

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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3320 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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Charlee

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Maltese Shih Tzu

dog-age-icon

8 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

White Gums, Low Pvc, Lethargy

Hi, my 8 year old femal Maltese x shitzu dog has presented with anemic symptoms. Day 1: we took her to our local vet where a blood test was taken and revealling her organs were normal and her PVC was 20. She was placed on an immune suppression medication (I believe, to stop the red blood cells being attacked), fluids and stayed 24 hours for observations. Day 2: we went to pick her up as she had been stable (PVC had not decreased or increased) and she was eating. When we arrived her PVC dropped to 15 and she was transferred to an emergency hospital where she was admitted to remain on the medication and receive fluids. Day 3: We were notified that her PVC had dropped to 13 and a blood transfusion was necessary. She has just received this transfusion. I am wondering how long until we wil know if the medication is winning the battle so the red blood cells are no longer being attacked causing her PVC to drop? I am upset that she has remained in a vet cage for 3 days, when might she be able to come home? I read about possibly removing the spleen in these types of cases?

June 16, 2018

Charlee's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

It can take a few days for her to respond to the medication, and these cases can be quite critical and need intensive hospitalization. We typically only remove the spleen in cases where the disease does not respond, and your veterinarian will want to give Charlee a chance to respond.

June 16, 2018

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Maggie

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Springer spaniel

dog-age-icon

2 Years

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Confused,Wouldn’T Eat, Panting

Our beautiful 2 year old springer spaniel became weak and disoriented, our vet sent her to a specialty vet emergency hospital. A week later we made the decision to put her down. Now I wonder if we were too hasty. Vet said she had an extremely aggressive form of IMHA.

April 14, 2018

Maggie's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Immune mediated hemolytic anaemia is a terrible condition, however many cases may be managed with immunosuppressive therapy (i.e: corticosteroids); but each case is different and should be treated as such. I cannot tell you if you were too hasty to make the decision or not, but treatment can be long and unrewarding in some cases; severe cases may require blood transfusions if red blood cell count gets too low. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

April 15, 2018

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Gertrude

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Pomeranian

dog-age-icon

5 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

She Is Diabetic And Her Platelets

I need to reach Dr. Callum Turner. I live in Dallas and I have a sick, just turned 6, Pomeranian dog with on going diabetes and blood disorder issues, and all we have here in Dallas, that we have seen with her, are not good. Her platelets just dropped to 11K today. Please help! My cell number is 972-814-5677. My email is michelle@lawyersdallas.com

April 2, 2018

Gertrude's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Unfortunately we do not offer a phone service or private email service to visitors to our website; we answer general questions from the public and are legally unable to diagnose or prescribe prescription medications as we are unable to build a Doctor patient relationship (no in person physical examination). However, there is a relationship between diabetes and thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet count) which has been documented in numerous scientific studies (mainly in humans); however I cannot say whether this is the case here. Generally thrombocytopenia is caused by either an increase in use (clotting), an increase in destruction (immune mediated thrombocytopenia, infections etc…) or a decrease in production (bone marrow disorders, liver and kidney disease among others). If you have concerns regarding the Veterinarians you have visited already, I would suggest getting a copy of any medical records and consulting with PetRays which offer a second opinion service with board certified Veterinary Specialists; their website is linked below. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM http://petrays.com/specialists/internal-medicine/ http://petrays.com/Petrays_fee_schedule.pdf

April 3, 2018

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Maya

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pitbull

dog-age-icon

11 Years

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Serious severity

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2 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Muscle Atrophy
Fever
Lethargy
No Appetite
Pale Gums
Blood In Stool

I've been in contact with my vet but I'd love a secondary opinion. My dog has been battling IMHA for 3 weeks now. Her blood count went from 20 to 13 to 23 and then to 19 according to all the visits to the vet. It's been a series of ups and downs, eating, not eating and all shades of color in her gums. However I'm curious if the dose of Prednisone is appropriate, 20mg 2x/day. She's an 11 year old pitbull and was 63 lbs but is now a frail, bony dog. Yesterday her stool was black suggesting bleeding somewhere in her GI system so I'm curious if this is the last signal to give up on her and let her rest or if we can find one last glimmer of hope. We've gone to extremes to try to find something she'll eat. Today she can't hold herself up or walk a distance of more than 10 feet. I'm very concerned this is it but I'd be remiss if I didn't keep trying. There's a concern in my home that she's suffering and should be put down. None of the research I've read talks about pain, only lethargy. Also, with the black stool - is there anything else other than blood to cause this?

April 2, 2018

Maya's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

I'm sorry that Maya is having these problems, that is very sad. I think in any disease, you need to consider your pets' quality of life above other things, and from your description I'm not sure that she is enjoying her life. If she was truly diagnosed with IMHA, it can be difficult to manage, and in an 11 year old dog I would be concerned that the IMHA is secondary to a cancerous process that has not been detected yet. The dosage of Prednisone is appropriate for that disease, but some dogs also need to be on Azathioprine to put IMHA in remission. Black tarry stools do indicate that she is losing blood from her GI tract, and may be contributing to her anemia, as well as her other signs. I hope that you are able to get some comfort for her.

April 2, 2018

Thank you Dr. King. Maya is not resting peacefully. I knew the decision had to come soon but I guess you're never prepared to actually put thought into action with these things. You're right - the disease was just too much for her to manage and while we didn't see any underlying cause, she had a fever of 104.5 and her blood count was 19 when we got to the vet yesterday. I don't think I'll ever feel 100% comfortable with not having tried harder, maybe go for the transfusion but like you said, she wasn't able to do her favorite things anymore. Thank you for your help. It made dealing with the aftermath more reassuring for me. Byron .

April 3, 2018

Maya's Owner

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Jessie

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Chihuahua

dog-age-icon

3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Vomiting
Poor Appetite
Fatigue
Hypothermia

We have a two year old teacup chihuahua that presented rapidly within twelve hours vomiting, lethargy and labored breathing. Her vet suspects imah and started her on an injectable steroid along with iv fluids. Her hemoglobin was 5.51 and dropped to 4.64 in a two hour span but that was after fluids so may just be the added volume. She has a positive test for pancreatitis and also a high BUN. The problem is, she is only 3.5 pounds so could decline rapidly. The cost of all the extra testing and transfusions (if her level drops to critical) are more than we can afford. We brought her home and are taking her back tomorrow for more injectable steroids and fluids along with another CBC. I'm looking for just an opinion on if this seems like the right course. My vet isn't a specialist but is very honest so she has given me odds of 50/50 survival based on symptoms and evaluation of blood work. They did not check for parasites, do any xrays or anymore than a CBC and a complete blood panel. This came on so rapidly in an otherwise completely healthy dog, I'm baffled as to a cause or if this would even be manageable.

dog-name-icon

Cookie

dog-breed-icon

Jack Russell Terrier

dog-age-icon

5 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting
Lethargic
Not Eating
White Gums

We currently have our 5 year old Jack Russell at an emergency vet for this possible issue. My question, can the white blood cells be abnormal looking when they have this issue?

dog-name-icon

Coco

dog-breed-icon

Chipin

dog-age-icon

3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Weight Loss
Lethargy
Loss Of Appetite
Low Energy

Hi, so this is probably gonna be lengthy and full of speculation, but here goes nothing... So I have a 6 lb chi pin female named Coco, and it seems like after my grandmother bug bombed the house, my dog started acting weird thereafter. She said that the house aired out, but I could smell something in the kitchen and living room where she bombed. And my dog was with me. Healthy. I’d say about a day and a half later, I started noticing that Coco wasn’t really eating or drinking water and she slept all the time. Eventually I really started worrying when she seemed too weak to even stand up. Long story short, I find out she has this disease by our veterinarian. I’ve been doing a lot of research, and it’s caused also by toxins? Could the bug bomb have triggered her immune system to fight her own red blood cells? All I want to know is how it started, or if that’s even a possibility at all.

dog-name-icon

Casey

dog-breed-icon

Cockalier

dog-age-icon

15 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Disorientation
Loss Of Balance
Loss Of Appetite

my family decided to foster a Cockalier and after having him 2 weeks he got very sick: disoriented, lethargic, not eating, pale gums, unable to walk and not drinking. We took Casey to a pet ER where he was diagnosed with an unknown infection ( no parasites) and severe anemia to the point he would need a transfusion that we could not afford. The ER doc bolused him with fluids, gave him IV antibiotics and told us he was very grave. He woke this morning, peed A LOT, licked 2 icecubes full of water and has seemed to be getting better.What can I do at home to help him?

Hemolytic Anemia Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$3,000

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