anemia in pets

While there are definitely species differences, there are a wide number of medical conditions that both animals and people share. Anemia in pets is one of those that occur in dogs, cats, and people alike. Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital has all the info that you need to know if your pet is affected.  

What is Anemia Anyways?

Anemia is the medical term for a low red blood cell count. Red blood cells are the components of blood that are responsible for carrying oxygen to the various tissues throughout the body. Without them, life becomes very difficult. 

While anemia is the medical diagnosis, it can have many causes that are varied in origin. In general, the causes of anemia falls into one of three main categories:

  • Lack of production—In some situations, the body may not be making red blood cells appropriately. This could be nutritional, such as iron deficiency. Sometimes diseases such as cancer within the bone marrow or kidney disease resulting in decreased production of stimulating compounds can also result in the lack of production of red blood cells. 
  • Destruction—If red blood cells are being actively destroyed by the body due to an auto-immune process, blood borne infection, or toxicity such as garlic or zinc, anemia can occur.
  • Loss—If active bleeding is occuring (can be external or internal such as due to a bleeding tumor or ulcer), anemia can result. Internal and external parasites such as fleas and hookworms can also result in enough blood loss in a smaller pet to result in anemia. 

Symptoms of Anemia in Pets

Regardless of the cause of anemia in pets, the resulting symptoms are pretty similar. Due to the lack of oxygen circulating in the body, anemic dog symptoms and anemic cat symptoms can include:

  • Pale or white mucous membranes (gums, conjunctiva around eyes)
  • Heavy breathing even at rest
  • Lack of energy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sudden collapse
  • Visible bleeding

These symptoms can also be related to other medical problems. Regardless, if your pet is exhibiting any of them, you should call us right away

Treating Your Pet

Treatment for anemia in pets depends largely on the underlying cause of the problem. An auto-immune hemolytic anemia might require the use of a steroid while anemia caused by a bleeding tumor on the spleen needs surgery.

If your pet is anemic, our team will get to work right away to try to diagnose the cause. Testing including blood tests, urinalysis, radiographs (X-ray), and ultrasound is generally a good place to start. 

Oftentimes, supportive care to address the anemia until the actual cause can be treated is necessary. In some cases oxygen support or even blood transfusions may be necessary to get a pet through an anemic episode. 

For milder cases, it is essential to provide good preventive care at home. Parasite prevention and good nutrition is key. If your pet has been diagnosed with iron deficiency, feeding iron-rich foods can be helpful. For most cases, though, a solid, veterinarian-recommended food is all you need to provide a good balance of vitamins and minerals. 

Anemia in pets can be a serious condition, but we are equipped to help you should the problem affect your furry family. A low red blood cell count can be a bummer, but our expert veterinarians are here to help in any way they can.