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Autoimmune Anemia in Dogs

If your dog is diagnosed with autoimmune anemia, your vet will begin the process of diagnosing and treating the underlying illness that is causing your pup's condition. Autoimmune anemia is a sign that your dog is suffering from an underlying health condition that requires immediate attention. 

What is anemia in dogs?

Anemia is a condition that indicates that your dog is suffering from an underlying disease or condition. Anemia in dogs occurs in four different ways:
  1. The animal's body does not produce enough red blood cells (aplastic or non-regenerative anemia).
  2. Your pet's body produces the correct number of red blood cells, but other systems within the body attack and destroy those cells (immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA), autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA), or non-immune-mediated).
  3. When your pup suffers severe blood loss due to conditions such as cancer or stomach ulcers or trauma such as an injury or accident (blood loss anemia),.
  4. Too much methemoglobin is in the blood due to a genetic disorder or exposure to toxins such as some human medications, including ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and benzocaine.

Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs

There are two unique types of autoimmune anemia seen in dogs, primary and secondary.

Primary Autoimmune Anemia

Primary autoimmune anemia in dogs occurs when your pup's immune system creates antibodies to incorrectly fight off and destroy its own red blood cells. This form of anemia occurs due to a problem with your pet's immune system.

Secondary Autoimmune Anemia

Secondary autoimmune anemia in dogs happens if the structure of your dog's red blood cells is changed in such a way that your pup's own immune system believes that the red blood cells are a foreign invader that needs to be destroyed. Secondary autoimmune anemia can occur in dogs due to an underlying condition or the ingestion of a toxin.

Conditions that can lead to secondary autoimmune anemia in dogs include cancer, infections such as Ehrlichiosis or Leptospirosis, parasitic infections including Babesiosis, snakebites, drug reactions, toxins, or even bee stings.

Signs of Autoimmune Anemia in Dogs

Typically dogs with autoimmune anemia show more severe symptoms than other forms of anemia. If your dog has autoimmune anemia you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Very pale gums
  • Lethargy
  • Easily tired
  • Fainting
  • Disorientation
  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Dark urine
  • Yellowish skin or mucous membranes
  • Vomiting
  • Reduced appetite

If your pooch is displaying any of the symptoms listed above it's time to head to the vet. 

Diagnosing Autoimmune Anemia in Dogs

If your veterinarian suspects that your dog has anemia, they will run a series of blood tests, including a complete blood count (CBC) and packed cell volume (PCV), to determine the type of anemia causing your pet's symptoms.

If autoimmune anemia is suspected, your veterinarian will conduct additional diagnostic testing to help determine the cause of the anemia. Chest and abdomen X-rays or ultrasounds may be performed, as well as additional blood tests to look for parasites or toxins and a urinalysis to check kidney function.

Treatment for Autoimmune Anemia in Dogs

If your veterinarian is unable to identify the underlying cause of your dog's anemia, or if your dog has primary or idiopathic autoimmune anemia, immunosuppressive therapy will be prescribed. This type of treatment usually includes immunosuppressive corticosteroids (prednisone). In more complex cases, a combination of immunosuppressive medications like cyclosporine or azathioprine may be required to control the condition.

Treatment for secondary autoimmune anemia in dogs will focus on addressing the underlying cause of the condition. Depending on the cause, treatment may include toxin antidotes, heartworm medication, or antibiotics.

If your dog has severe, life-threatening autoimmune anemia, a blood transfusion may be required to stabilize his condition while other treatments are administered.

Is autoimmune anemia in dogs curable?

Autoimmune anemia in dogs can be managed with treatment, such as those listed above. However, the prognosis for each individual dog can vary depending on the severity of the condition and how well they respond to treatment.

How long can dogs live with autoimmune anemia?

The lifespan of a dog with autoimmune anemia can vary depending on the severity of the condition and how well it responds to treatment. With proper care and management, some dogs can live for several years after being diagnosed with autoimmune anemia. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you suspect your dog may have autoimmune anemia based on the symptoms listed above, contact our Murfreesboro veterinarians for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Your furry friend's health and well-being are worth it!

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Animal Medical Center is happy to welcome new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about improving the health of Murfreesboro companion animals. Contact us today to book your pet's first appointment.

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