Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs

Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost
Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

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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Maya

dog-breed-icon

pitbull

dog-age-icon

11 Years

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2 found helpful

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2 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Blood In Stool
Lethargy
No Appetite
Pale Gums
Muscle Atrophy
Fever

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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2 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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Tuffy

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Labrador Retriever

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1 yr

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0 found helpful

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0 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Lethargic, Eating Less

Hemoglobin count is 4.9 gm/do PCV - 20.3 % Platelet count - 88k Have completed 3 day course of antibiotics DNS - twice Haemacel- once Polybion The condition has improved for few days but now it has started detoriating.

Oct. 18, 2017

Tuffy's Owner


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0 Recommendations

With the anaemia and the thrombocytopenia I would be looking more towards immunosuppressive treatment; I would check that the anaemia is regenerative based on reticulocytes or bone marrow aspiration. It is difficult to say without examining Tuffy and ruling out other causes like infection, parasites, liver and kidney disease among other causes. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Oct. 18, 2017

I HAVE AN 8 MONTH OLD CHINESE CRESTED / JACK RUSSELL MIX. ADOPTED HER A MONTH AGO. SHE HAS BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH ANEMIA BUT UNKNOWN CAUSE. I BELIEVE HER HEMOGLOBIN WAS 17.5% 2 DAYS AGO AND IS 17% TODAY. WE WILL HAVE THE RESULTS OF ANOTHER TEST ON MONDAY. HELP?

Feb. 17, 2018

Kathy F.

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Hemolytic Anemia Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$3,000

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