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Symptoms, Causes & Treatment of Anemia in Dogs

Symptoms, Causes & Treatment of Anemia in Dogs

Anemia in dogs can be caused by a range of health conditions. In this article, our veterinary experts from Clovis will explain the various types of anemia that affect dogs, their associated symptoms, and the treatments available. By the end of this article, you'll better understand how to identify and manage anemia in your furry friend.

What is anemia in dogs?

Anemia in dogs is a medical condition that could signify an underlying illness or injury. This occurs when your furry friend's body fails to produce sufficient red blood cells or hemoglobin, which could be a result of severe blood loss caused by ailments like cancer or stomach ulcers. Additionally, injuries or accidents can also cause anemia. Therefore, it's crucial to keep a close eye on your dog's health and take them to a vet if you notice any signs of anemia.

What are the different types of anemia?

Blood Loss Anemia

If your dog has experienced severe blood loss due to an injury, surgery, or a bleeding disorder, they may develop a condition called blood loss anemia. Other underlying health conditions, such as parasites, cancer, or ulcers, can also cause internal bleeding and lead to blood loss anemia in dogs. It is important to seek immediate veterinary care if you suspect your dog suffers from these conditions.

Aplastic or Non-Regenerative Anemia

Dogs may suffer from aplastic or non-regenerative anemia when their bodies don't produce enough red blood cells. Various factors, such as bone marrow disease, kidney disease, exposure to harmful substances, parvovirus, chemotherapy drugs, and certain medications can cause this type of anemia. It is essential to take prompt action if your furry friend displays symptoms of anemia, such as lethargy, pale gums, and breathing difficulties, as it can be a life-threatening condition.


Dogs can develop a condition called methemoglobinemia due to certain genetic disorders or exposure to toxins like benzocaine, acetaminophen or ibuprofen, which are medications made only for human use. This leads to the buildup of excessive amounts of methemoglobin in their blood, causing harm to their health. So, keeping these harmful substances away from your furry friend is important to prevent such conditions.

Hemolytic Anemia

Hemolytic anemia is a medical condition that occurs when your dog's body breaks down or destroys red blood cells, which can be caused by immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) or non-immune-mediated factors such as toxins, parasites, low phosphorus levels, or hereditary disease. This condition can be very serious and can lead to a number of health complications for your furry friend. If you suspect your dog may be suffering from hemolytic anemia, it's important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

What are the symptoms of anemia in dogs?

If your dog is suffering from anemia, you may notice one or more symptoms, which will vary depending on the underlying cause of your dog’s condition.

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

What causes anemia in dogs?

Numerous conditions can result in your dog developing anemia. A few of the most common causes of anemia in dogs include:

  • Chronic diseases that suppress red blood cell production
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Infectious diseases (including canine distemper)
  • Bleeding from the intestines
  • Medications that interfere with production of red blood cells
  • Severe blood loss due to injury or accident
  • Blood loss caused by parasites
  • Poisons or toxins
  • Cancer
  • Tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease
  • Poor nutrition
  • Bone marrow disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Hypothyroidism

How is anemia in dogs treated?

If your dog is diagnosed with anemia, your veterinarian will recommend a treatment based on what’s causing the condition. Some treatments that your vet recommends could include:

  • Intravenous fluids
  • Deworming or parasite medications
  • Gastrointestinal medication
  • Chemotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Change in existing medications
  • Antibiotics or immunosuppressive drugs
  • Blood transfusion
  • Bone marrow transfusion
  • Potassium phosphate supplements

Depending on the availability of effective treatment for the underlying illness, the prognosis for dogs with anemia may vary. Sadly, anemia can be an indication of a very serious or fatal condition such as an autoimmune condition, poisoning or cancer.

If your pet is displaying signs of anemia, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to schedule an examination.

Can I prevent my dog from developing anemia?

Anemia can be prevented by avoiding the conditions that lead to it, such as feeding your dog toxic human food and medication. Providing your dog with a healthy diet can also help prevent anemia.

Additionally, protecting your dog from parasites like worms, fleas, and ticks with year-round prevention medication can reduce the risk of anemia. If you own a breed that's prone to anemia, consider scheduling regular checkups with your vet every six months to detect early signs and get prompt treatment.

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. 

Is your dog showing symptoms of anemia? At Family Pet Hospital, our Clovis vets can diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions. Book an appointment today.

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