Finding out that your dog has been diagnosed with a new condition can be an extremely scary and uncertain time for an owner. Your veterinarian will be explaining a lot of different things and may even walk your through different treatment options, if available. As a result, it is easy to become overwhelmed in the moment and walk away remembering little of what you’ve been told. And while you should always consult with your vet when it comes to your dog’s treatment and overall health, Canna-Pet® can also be a trusted resource. So let’s break down what anemia is and how it can be treated.
What is Anemia?
Simply put, anemia is a reduced number of red blood cells or hemoglobin, the protein within red blood cells, in your dog’s body. The primary purpose of these cells is to distribute oxygen throughout the body while helping to remove carbon dioxide, which is toxic to mammals in large quantities. These cells are generated in your dog’s bone marrow, the soft fatty substance in the cavities of skeletal bones, and circulate in the bloodstream for about three months before being replaced. When there is a lack of red blood cells, your dog’s body will not be able to perform basic functions such as clotting after an injury.
Signs & Symptoms of Anemia in Dogs
The most noticeable symptom of anemia in dogs is a change in the color of your dog’s gums. Healthy dogs have bright pink gums, but those with anemia will display pale pink or even white gums. Other signs may be more subtle so it is important to know what to look for. Anemia may result in your dog becoming fatigued or listless, tiring quickly after play or exercise, bruising easily, and stools that appear black or tarry, known as melena. Your dog may also be vomiting blood or defecating blood in his stool as well. These symptoms are serious and should warrant an immediate trip to the veterinarian for further examination.
Causes of Anemia in Dogs
More often than not, anemia is the symptom of another underlying condition. As a result, anemia may appear as the only symptom or it may manifest with a number of other symptoms. Some of the most common causes of anemia include:
- Physical Trauma
- Autoimmune Diseases
- Gastrointestinal (GI) Bleeding
- Infectious Diseases
- Tick-Borne Diseases
- Cushing’s Disease
- Kidney Disease
- Bone Marrow Disease
- Nutritional Deficiencies
Anemia Diagnosis in Dogs
Veterinarians have a number of blood tests at their disposal to determine if your dog is anemic. The most common of these is known as the packed cell volume (PCV) test, which simply measures the percentage of red blood cells in the bloodstream. Any level below 35% is considered to be anemic. She may also choose to utilize a complete blood cell count (CBC), which evaluates the individual components of your dog’s blood in order to provide a clearer picture of your dog’s health, or a red blood cell count (RBC) and a hemoglobin count to provide additional details. The diagnosis of any underlying cause will require additional testing.
Treatment of Anemia in Dogs
If your dog’s anemia is severe, your veterinarian will need to do a blood transfusion. What this means is that the vet will give your dog blood that was donated in order to help raise his red blood cell count. The main purpose of this transfusion is to help stabilize your dog and minimize further harm while your vet is conducting tests to determine the underlying cause.
More specific treatment will be utilized once your veterinarian has discovered the pre-existing condition. These treatments may include corticosteroids, de-worming medications, surgery, or other medications for specific conditions. Your veterinarian should outline the root cause of your dog’s anemia and the treatment plan designed for his needs based on the diagnostic results. The prognosis for dogs diagnosed with anemia will depend on the dog’s condition at that time as well as the underlying cause. As a result, anemia should be considered a severe symptom and you should seek medical attention from your veterinarian if you suspect your pup is suffering from the condition as time could be vital to the treatment of the underlying cause.
“Anemia in Dogs: Learn About Signs, Treatment and Prevention.” Vetstreet, Accessed 18 Oct. 2018. www.vetstreet.com/care/anemia-in-dogs.
Leonardi, Lauren. “Dog Anemia: Treatment & Prognosis.” PetCareRx, Accessed 18 Oct. 2018. www.petcarerx.com/article/dog-anemia-treatment-prognosis/1628.
“Treatment and Prognosis for Anemia in Dogs.” Petwave, Accessed 18 Oct. 2018. www.petwave.com/Dogs/Health/Anemia/Treatment.aspx.