Signs & Symptoms of Anemia in Dogs

Contrary to popular belief, anemia is not a disease with a specific cure to alleviate sufferers. Rather it is a condition that is often the result of a pre-existing disease or trauma. As in humans, anemia in dogs refers to a reduced number of red blood cells or hemoglobin, maybe even both,  present in your pet’s body. This is a problem for a number of reasons the first of which being that red blood cells and hemoglobin, the protein inside red blood cells, work together to carry oxygen throughout the body while removing carbon dioxide. Generally speaking, these cells circulate throughout your dog’s body for about three months before breaking down and being replaced by new cells. So you can see where a lack of cells can quickly result in complications.

What to Look For In Dogs With Anemia

The signs and symptoms of anemia can be subtle and hard to spot so it is important to know what to look for. Anemia is often the symptom of another underlying disease, though it could present itself alone or coupled with other signs of the pre-existing condition. Regardless, the most obvious sign of anemia is a change in your dog’s gums. Rather than a healthy pink, the gums of an anemic canine will be a pale pink or even white in color.

Your dog may also be more listless and fatigued than usual if suffering from anemia, tiring easily from play or exercise. In addition, you may notice bruising on your dog’s skin and in severe cases, blood may be visible in your dog’s vomit or feces, which may present as black or tar-like in color. If you notice any of these warning signs in your dog, seek out immediate medical attention from your veterinarian.

Causes of Anemia in Dogs

Unfortunately, there is a wide range of things that could cause your pet to develop anemia. Some of the more common causes include:

  • Physical Trauma: Any physical harm that causes blood loss, internal or external, such as a car accident.
  • Autoimmune Diseases: These autoimmune diseases may cause your dog’s body to attack any red blood cells present in their bloodstream.
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) Bleeding: Any internal bleeding in this area of the body could be the result of disease, canine inflammation, or medications that in turn cause anemia.
  • Infectious Diseases: Some infections, such as canine distemper, are serious enough to result in anemia.
  • Ticks: The diseases some ticks carry, such as Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis, can have serious consequences on your dog’s health.
  • Hypothyroidism:  Also known as an underactive thyroid which ultimately results in a slow metabolism.
  • Cushing’s Disease: Cushing’s disease causes the body to release excess cortisol, also known as the stress hormone.
  • Poisons:  Toxicities, like rat and lead, can cause anemia.
  • Cancer:  When left untreated, canine cancer can cause anemia along with a plethora of other health conditions.
  • Kidney Disease:  The blood loss associated with hemodialysis, a treatment for canine kidney disease, can be associated with anemia.
  • Bone Marrow Disease:  The bone marrow is where red blood cells and hemoglobin are produced, any disease affecting this production will likely result in anemia.
  • Nutritional Deficiencies:  Certain nutrients like iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid are necessary for the production of hemoglobin. When your dog is malnourished, anemia may be the result.

While these are the most common causes of anemia, there are a number of other diseases and conditions which could result in your dog becoming anemic. Your vet will be able to diagnose the anemia using a few simple tests but will need to do a more thorough examination and investigation to determine the root cause of its development. Discovering the underlying condition will help shape your veterinarian’s treatment plan for your pup.

Anemia on its own may not seem like much cause for alarm, but it is important to remember that it could be a sign of a much more serious, or life-threatening, condition. The prognosis for your dog’s anemia will depend on the cause and course of treatment as determined by your vet. So if you believe your dog is presenting symptoms of anemia, seek out immediate veterinary care.


“Anemia in Dogs: Learn About Signs, Treatment and Prevention.” Vetstreet, Accessed 16 Oct. 2018.

“Anemia in Dogs.” Pet Health Network, Accessed 16 Oct. 2018.

“Anemia in Dogs.” VCA Hospitals, Accessed 16 Oct. 2018.


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