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What is Anemia in Dogs?

Anemia in dogs can be caused by a variety of serious underlying health issues. In today's post, our Smyrna veterinarians discuss the various types of anemia seen in dogs, as well as their symptoms and treatment options.

Anemia in Dogs

Anemia is a condition that occurs in dogs and indicates that your pet is suffering from an underlying disease or illness. Anemia occurs when your pet's body fails to produce enough red blood cells or hemoglobin, when your dog suffers from severe blood loss due to conditions such as cancer or stomach ulcers, or if your dog has been in a serious accident or injury.

Types of Anemia Seen in Dogs

Here are the main types of anemia in dogs.

Blood Loss Anemia

Blood loss anemia occurs when your dog has lost a significant amount of blood as a result of an injury, surgery, or a bleeding disorder. Internal bleeding caused by cancer, ulcers, parasites, or other health conditions can also cause this type of anemia.

Hemolytic Anemia

The destruction or breakdown of red blood cells in your dog's body causes hemolytic anemia. This type of anemia is frequently caused by immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) or autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA), or it can be caused by a hereditary disease, parasites, toxins, or low phosphorous levels.

Aplastic or Non-Regenerative Anemia

Aplastic or non-regenerative anemia develops in dogs as a result of insufficient red blood cell production. Toxin exposure, bone marrow disease, kidney disease, certain medications, chemotherapy drugs, or parvovirus can all cause this type of anemia.


Methemoglobinemia in dogs is caused by an excess of methemoglobin in the blood, which can occur as a result of genetic disorders or exposure to toxins such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or benzocaine.

Signs That Your Dog May Be Anemic

If your pooch is suffering from anemia you may notice one or more of the following symptoms. Your dog's anemia symptoms will vary based upon the underlying cause of your pup's condition.

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

Causes of Anemia in Dogs

There are several conditions that can result in your pup developing anemia. Some of the most common causes of anemia in dogs include:

  • Medications that interfere with red blood cell production
  • Blood loss caused by parasites 
  • Cancer
  • Kidney disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Infectious diseases including canine distemper
  • Severe blood loss as a result of accident or injury
  • Toxins or poisons
  • Tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease
  • Poor nutrition
  • Bone marrow disease
  • Intestinal bleeding
  • Chronic diseases that suppress red blood cell production

Treatment for Dogs with Anemia

If your dog is diagnosed with anemia, your veterinarian will recommend treatment based on the underlying cause of the condition. Your veterinarian may recommend the following treatments:

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

The prognosis for dogs suffering from anemia is determined by the availability of effective treatment for the underlying illness. Unfortunately, anemia can indicate that your dog is suffering from a potentially fatal condition such as poisoning, cancer, or an autoimmune disorder. If your dog exhibits any of the symptoms of anemia, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to schedule an examination.

Preventing Anemia in Dogs

When it comes to preventing anemia in your dog, the key is to avoid the conditions that cause anemia as much as possible. One way to help your dog avoid anemia is to use parasite prevention medications all year to protect him from ticks, fleas, and worms.

Keeping toxic substances out of your dog's reach, such as human medications and foods, as well as providing your dog with a healthy diet, may also help to prevent your dog from developing anemia.

If your canine companion is of a breed that is prone to anemia (Shih Tzus, Labrador Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, and American Cocker Spaniels), regular wellness examinations at your primary care veterinarian twice a year may help detect the signs of anemia early and provide treatment before the condition worsens.

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 experiencing symptoms of anemia? Contact us right away or bring your pup straight over to a 24/7 emergency animal clinic for urgent veterinary care.

New Patients Welcome

Are you looking for a vet in Smyrna, Georgia? Cumberland Animal Clinic is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about animal healthcare. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

(770) 433-1414