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Anemia in Dogs

Anemia is not a disease but rather a symptom related to a number of possible underlying conditions. Today our Statesboro vets share more about the causes, symptoms and treatments for anemia in dogs.

What is anemia?

Anemia is a disorder that is usually a sign of another disease. Anemia in dogs happens when the body can not create enough red blood cells or hemoglobin, or when they suffer excessive blood loss as a result of a condition like cancer or stomach ulcers, or trauma such an injury or accident.

What are the types of anemia in dogs?

  • Blood loss anemia - Due to severe loss of blood caused by injury, surgery, or a bleeding disorder. This form of anemia may also be caused by internal bleeding due to parasites, cancer, ulcers or other conditions.
  • Hemolytic anemia - Caused by the destruction or breakdown of red blood cells. Often the result of immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) or autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA), or non-immune mediated caused by hereditary disease, toxins, low phosphorous levels or parasites.
  • Aplastic or non-regenerative anemia - Insufficient production of red blood cells is the cause of this form of anemia. This may occur due to toxin exposure (poisoning), bone marrow disease, kidney disease, parvovirus, chemotherapy drugs, or certain medications.
  • Methemoglobinemia - Too much methemoglobin in the blood caused by certain genetic disorders, or exposure to toxins including some human medications such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and benzocaine.

What are the symptoms of anemia in dogs?

The signs of anemia in dogs vary based on the underlying cause but can include:

  • Black stools
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Pale gums, eyes or ears
  • Fast pulse or rapid breathing
  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Swelling in the face or jaw

What causes anemia in dogs?

Because anemia is a symptom rather than a disease, there are a number of conditions which can lead to anemia in dogs, including:

  • Cancer
  • Kidney disease
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Medications that interfere with red blood cell production
  • Infectious diseases including canine distemper
  • Severe blood loss as a result of trauma (accident or injury)
  • Poor nutrition
  • Intestinal bleeding caused by medications or disease
  • Blood loss cause by parasitic infection such as hookworms, whipworms, or fleas 
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Chronic diseases that affect or suppress red blood cell production
  • Bone marrow disease
  • Toxins or poisons including rat poison or lead poisoning
  • Tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease

Can a dog die from anemia?

Unfortunately, anemia in dogs can sometimes suggest that your dog is suffering from a potentially lethal condition such as poisoning, cancer, or autoimmune disorders. As a result, canine anemia should always be addressed seriously. If your dog exhibits any of the signs or symptoms of anemia, make an appointment with your veterinarian right once.

What is the treatment for anemia in dogs?

The prognosis for canine anemia is dependent on the cause and whether treatment for the underlying illness is available. Once your veterinarian has determined the source of your dog's anemia, he or she will propose the best treatment option. Your veterinarian may recommend the following treatments:

  • Blood transfusion
  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Intravenous fluids
  • Bone marrow transfusion
  • Antibiotics
  • Change of existing medications
  • Immunusuppressive drugs
  • Gastrointestinal medication
  • Parasite or de-worming medications
  • Potassium phosphate supplements


Because anemia in dogs is caused by various underlying illnesses, it is critical to prevent those conditions wherever feasible. One strategy to help protect your dog from acquiring anemia is to use tick, flea, and worm prevention. Keeping hazardous chemicals out of your dog's reach and feeding your dog a nutritious food may also assist.

If your dog is a breed that is susceptible to developing anemia including American Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, and Shih Tzus, regular wellness examinations twice yearly at your primary care veterinarian can help to detect the early signs of anemia and provide treatment before the condition becomes more severe.

If your dog is displaying any of the signs listed above, contact our Statesboro vets at Statesboro Bulloch Regional Veterinary Hospital today to make sure the source of the issues is treated.

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Statesboro Bulloch Regional Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Statesboro companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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