Home » other animals » Anemia in a dog: symptoms, diet, treatment [Lek wet Piotr Smentek

Anemia in a dog: symptoms, diet, treatment [Lek wet Piotr Smentek

Anemia in a dog (anemia) - in this article you will find practical information about this important and common disease symptom related to the blood of our patients.

Anemia in a dog

One of the obvious manifestations of the health and vitality of our pets, with particular emphasis on dogs, is their ability to spontaneously, freely and voluntarily move and play.

Many people associate the dog with a running, wagging tail, an individual showing joy at the sight of his handler.

Movement is an indicator of the animal's health, reflecting its general condition, but in order to be efficiently performed, our dog must have a properly functioning not only the entire bone and joint system with all muscles, but also, which many forget about other organs and systems.

One of them is the circulatory system with the heart muscle at the forefront.

The heart, which is a pump that sets in motion, constantly circulating in the blood vessels, determines the adequate supply of nutrients and oxygen to all cells in the body.

However, it would not be possible without the extremely important, even key body tissue, which is blood. It is the cells contained in it, called erythrocytes, that determine the transport functions and thus the life of the system.

So the question is - are we aware that certain diseases are common to us and animals?? Healthy blood is life, and without it no one can function, which probably does not require too much convincing. Blood can affect various pathologies causing systemic disorders and malaise of the whole organism.

So let's try to bring this topic a little closer, stopping at the problem anemia called anemia in our dogs.

Knowledge of these issues is extremely important, because this condition occurs quite often in animals and manifests itself, among others, with exercise intolerance and avoidance of movement, which certainly causes concern for many caregivers.

First, a short introduction, a bit about blood.

  • Why is blood so important?
  • What is anemia?
  • Dog anemia causes
  • Dog anemia symptoms
  • Diagnosing Canine Anemia
  • Types of anemia and their treatment
    • Disturbance of blood cell formation processes as the cause of anemia, i.e. impaired erythropoiesis
    • Anemia caused by blood loss
    • Erythropoietin deficiency
    • Deficiency anemia
    • Hemolytic anemia
    • Anemia in the course of inflammatory diseases
  • Blood transfusion
  • Diet for dog anemia

Why is blood so important?

Blood (lat. sanguis) is a body fluid that, through the circulatory system, performs transport functions and conditions communication between individual systems that make up the entire system. Blood is a vital tissue without which no system can function.

A popular definition describes it as connective tissue enclosed in blood vessels and in a liquid state.

The science of blood, its formation and disease is called hematology.

Everyone knows exactly what it looks like macroscopically, because there is probably no person who has ever cut or damaged the skin on the knee, head or elbow.

It consists of cells called erythrocytes, or red blood cells, which are suspended in the plasma. It is there that all morphotic cells are found. Plasma, or plasma, accounts for about 55% of the total blood circulating in the vessels.

Blood circulates through the bloodstream thanks to the heart muscle that sets it in motion.

It is pumped through arteries to all peripheral tissues and returns to the heart through venous vessels.

Due to the degree of oxygen saturation, we can divide it into oxygenated blood containing approx 90 a few percent oxygen and deoxygenated with lower (50-70%) oxygen saturation.

Cellular elements account for approx 44% whole blood.

From the physicochemical point of view, it is a suspension composed of solids, i.e. the aforementioned cellular elements, and liquids, i.e. plasma.

It owes its characteristic color, well-known to all, to the content it contains hemoglobin, more specifically the heme group responsible for oxygen binding and transport.

Here, a huge role is played by hemoglobin contained in it iron.

Always the blood saturated with more oxygen will have a more vivid, brighter color and the darker one is the poorer in this component.

Among blood cells, we can distinguish not only red blood cells but also:

  • leukocytes (white blood cells),
  • thrombocytes or platelets.

Interestingly, erythrocytes do not have a cell nucleus and numerous organelles, which means that they have minimized metabolic activity in order not to consume too much oxygen, which they have to transport. They have the shape of a biconcave disk and are only a few micrometers in size.

The normal structure of the psi erythrocyte is round, biconcave, about 6-7 micrometers in size and 2 micrometers thick around the circumference.

Blood cells are formed in bone marrow in a process called haemopoiesis. The formation of erythrocytes is called erythropoiesis and takes place from stem cells in the transformation and their differentiation.

As we already know, blood plays a key role in the animal's organism as connective tissue.

First of all, it is responsible for supplying all tissues and systems with oxygen and nutrients, as well as collecting unnecessary metabolic products from them, including carbon dioxide or urea.

Blood is also responsible for the transport of hormones to any target cells. Performing its functions, it conditions the maintenance of homeostasis in the body, maintaining water and electrolyte balance, appropriate pH or regulating body temperature.

It is also part of the immune system, ensuring an efficient fight against microorganisms.

The dog is approx 90 ml of blood for every kilogram of your body weight.

This is of course, in a nutshell, basic information about this extremely important, crucial and absolutely necessary for the life of the tissue system presented to you in order to better understand the pathological condition called anemia or anemia.

As you can easily guess, a situation in which the necessary morphotic elements of blood will be missing will result in very serious systemic disorders of the body.

Since we already know the basic information about blood, it is worth considering:

what is anemia?

What is anemia?

What is anemia?

Anemia is a pathological condition described as a drop in hemoglobin below the reference value for a species, i.e. a condition that also includes qualitative changes in the red blood cells themselves.

Until recently for the state anemia hematocrit levels were considered to fall below the normal value. For the uninitiated, hematocrit is it the ratio of the volume of erythrocytes to the volume of whole blood expressed as a percentage.

At the outset, we must say that the decrease in hemoglobin concentration is most often parallel to the decrease in hematocrit (the exception to this rule is iron deficiency anemia).

In other words anemia is a decrease in the number of erythrocytes, hematocrit and hemoglobin concentration below normal values ​​for a given species, sex and age.

In clinical practice, too anemia we consider situations of a decrease in hematocrit, although in fact the simultaneous assessment of hematocrit and hemoglobin concentration is a more reliable and reliable practice. In diagnostics, we should never assess only one parameter and draw far-reaching conclusions on this basis.

Therefore, anemia will be indicated by a reduction in the number of erythrocytes circulating in the blood.

Of course, one should always remember to evaluate these indicators taking into account the total plasma volume. Only then can you avoid errors in interpreting the results.

For example:

an increase in plasma volume (which takes place in the thinning of the blood with a normal number of red blood cells) may suggest anemia similarly to the concentration of blood due to dehydration, mask the symptoms of anemia.

Interpreting the results is therefore not always as easy as it seems.

It is the same with the various states that can cause anemia and divisions or classification.

What is extremely important and important anemia it is not a disease in itself, nor should it be taken as a final diagnosis.

Anemia can occur with many different blood diseases, chronic diseases, inflammations, or be a pathological condition in the course of systemic diseases.

So the most important thing is to recognize not only the state itself anemia but it can first of all determine what it results from, i.e. determine its exact pathogenesis. Only then can we talk about prognosis and possible effective treatment.

It should also be remembered that anemia will develop as a result of an imbalance between the formation of erythrocytes in the bone marrow and the natural processes of their destruction.

There are different types of anemia.

And so, depending on the size of the cells, we can distinguish anemia:

  • microcytic,
  • normocytic,
  • macrocytic.

Their causes may partially overlap and be common, as described below.

Depending on the level of hematocrit, we can determine the severity of anemia, which we are often asked by dog ​​owners who want to know "how severe is anemia ".

For example, in dogs a mild anemia is called hematocrit 30-38%, medium heavy 25-30% and heavy below 25%.

Of course, these are conventional, indicative values, and each organism is different.

We also distinguish:

  • regenerative anemia (when blood cells are rebuilt and the results improve over time, indicating that the bone marrow is working properly),
  • non-regenerative anemia.

What may seem surprising, anemia can also be physiological, which means that it is temporary and passes spontaneously.

This type of anemia occurs in young puppies up to 4-6 months of age and in pregnant bitches (e.g. hematocrit in puppies 2-3 weeks old is 28% and 6-8 weeks of approx 33%).

It is a temporary state that does not give obvious clinical symptoms and passes with age.

So we can see from the very beginning that the state of anemia is not easily defined and may result from many different reasons, which must always be kept in mind.

Dog anemia causes

Perhaps the most reliable and at the same time detailed division of anemia is the one taking into account the etiology and pathogenesis.

And so generally speaking, we distinguish anemia caused by disruption of manufacturing processes that is, the production of red blood cells or theirs increased wear.

The first group includes all causes that interfere with the properly running process of blood cell production in the bone marrow.

These are disorders of erythropoiesis resulting from damage or disappearance of precursor cells in the bone marrow, i.e. those from which blood cells are made.

The process of blood cell formation may be impaired as a consequence of the deficiency of the erythropoietin hormone that occurs in chronic nephritis. Erythropoietin is an essential hormone in the formation of new red blood cells.

It may also result from the deficiency of components needed to build erythrocytes, an example of which is neoplastic erythropoiesis.

This is, of course, a very general division, but taking into account all possible causes of anemia. They will be developed further in the article.

The second huge second group of causes that lead to anemia are those that result from the increased use of red blood cells.

This is what happens in situations acute bleeding if erythrocyte and extra-erythrocyte haemolysis.

In this group of causes, we must not forget about the blood parasites that are very common in us recently Babesia canis, Erhlichia, mycoplasmas at the forefront, which can quickly lead to very serious, life-threatening anemia.

However, to understand how many different diseases can lead to anemia, it is worth tracing its causes based on the size of the cells.

And so mentioned already microcytic anemia may result from:

  • iron deficiency,
  • chronic infections,
  • chronic inflammations.

On the other hand normocytic anemia may be a consequence of:

  • iron deficiency,
  • chronic infections and inflammations,
  • blood loss,
  • hemolysis,
  • renal failure and the accompanying deficiency of the hormone erythropoietin,
  • viral infections (parvoviruses),
  • marrow fibrosis,
  • liver disease,
  • some endocrinopathies (Addison's disease, hypothyroidism),
  • neoplastic processes of the blood and hematopoietic system.

Macrocytic anemia is a consequence of:

  • vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiency,
  • liver disease,
  • hypothyroidism,
  • removal of the spleen (splenectomy),
  • congenital diseases,
  • disorders of DNA synthesis,
  • administration of certain medications.

Certain medications used to treat other comorbidities may clearly contribute to the development of anemia in dogs as an expression of their side effects.

These are for example:

  • acetaminophen,
  • griseofulvin,
  • zinc,
  • sulfonamides,
  • metronidazole,
  • levamisole,
  • gold salts,
  • cimetidine,
  • chloramphenicol,
  • barbiturates,
  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs,
  • anticonvulsants,
  • antiarrhythmic drugs.

So we can see exactly how many causes can cause anemia and how important it is therefore to diagnose as quickly as possible, i.e. to identify and determine as accurately as possible the immediate cause in order to be able to effectively help.

Dog anemia symptoms

What are the most common symptoms of anemia in dogs?

As we already know from the introduction, anemia is not a disease in itself, but an important clinical symptom that appears in the course of a huge number of various pathological conditions,.

It is therefore important to realize at the very beginning that the clinical symptoms (what the dog handler can see with the naked eye) of anemia and the disease causing it often run together, in parallel and may overlap.

In the course of anemia, the processes of oxygen and nutrient transport and the collection of metabolic products from cells are impaired, hence the launch of a number of processes eliminating this state, i.e. compensation.

Clinical symptoms may vary in severity, which depends largely on the time of development of anemia.

If it grows slowly then the body is better able to adapt to the slow decrease in the amount of red blood cells and the associated clinical symptoms may be less severe.

In turn, its rapid course of anemia usually causes more drastic clinical symptoms.

The limited supply of oxygen to the cells causes the development of little characteristic general symptoms:

  • the animal gets tired faster and therefore avoids exercise, which is a sign of health and vitality,
  • he is often weakened, he spends more time in an inactive posture, lying and sleeping,
  • when forced to exercise, they may lose consciousness, simply faint,
  • all mucous membranes available for examination and viewing are pale, white (paleness of mucous membranes may also occur in other pathological conditions, such as hypovolemic shock),
  • an anemic dog may have colder peripheral parts of the body, limbs,
  • the animal breathes faster or shows increased heart activity.

Gradually developing anemia causes a slow build-up of clinical symptoms, which may not be noticed at first, up to a certain hematocrit value.

In chronic conditions, the body copes with the progressive loss of blood cells up to critical values ​​of about a dozen percent (hematocrit 12-15%). Then the clinical symptoms appear suddenly, which is an expression of the lack of possibility of further compensation.

The heart rate increases that is, it appears tachycardia which is an expression of an attempt to cope with the system and to prevent the existing pathology to some extent.

Quiet pathological heart murmurs, changes in heartbeat (e.g. jumping pulse) are also a consequence of anemia.

Symptoms of the underlying disease may also be prominent. And so, for example:

  • External or internal hemorrhages show typical symptoms visible to the naked eye or are found in imaging tests,
  • haemorrhages, hematomas, yellowing of the mucous membranes are also quite easy to spot,
  • we can also find enlargement of the lymph nodes which occurs in infectious anemia.

Generally an anemic dog:

  • avoids movement,
  • he is inactive, apathetic,
  • he does not want to eat, and consequently he also loses weight,
  • has pale accessible mucous membranes, eyeball conjunctiva,
  • has rapid breathing and heart rate,
  • may faint with exertion.

Diagnosing Canine Anemia

Diagnosing anemia only seems simple and obvious.

The first and extremely important activity that should be performed each time is a thorough clinical interview, which can provide very valuable information and guide our further diagnostics.

The veterinarian should therefore ask the pet's guardian:

  • Does he / she constantly give the person any medications, because some of them cause bleeding, bone marrow damage or haemolysis,
  • Has he noticed blood loss, haemorrhage, dark tarry stools in his dog,
  • whether he noticed the presence of parasites, especially fleas, because their strong infestation can cause anemia,
  • whether he saw the presence of feeding ticks, which could be vectors babesiosis and erlihiosis,
  • whether you have administered estrogen-based hormone preparations that may damage the bone marrow.

The interview with the dog's handler often shows information about non-specific clinical signs of concern, such as, for example:

  • pallor of the mucous membranes,
  • jaundice,
  • haemorrhages,
  • petechiae,
  • enlargement of the lymph nodes,
  • hematuria,
  • blood in the stool,
  • exercise intolerance,
  • fainting.

A large proportion of these symptoms, even if not mentioned by the dog handler himself, can be picked up during a routine clinical examination of the patient.

The interview is never a waste of time and therefore we should always start diagnostics from it.

Although, as we remember, the clinical symptoms are very nonspecific and on the basis of them it is impossible to make an accurate diagnosis, but it is worth asking about them in order to know where to start with a more detailed diagnosis.

At the beginning, we conduct a clinical examination as always, which may reveal many symptoms of anemia. It is difficult, when looking at the available mucous membranes, not to notice their inappropriate color, pallor that may indicate a lower number of red blood cells.

For this purpose, we determine the level of hematocrit and the time of filling capillaries, i.e. CRT (capillary refill time).

Their proper interpretation makes it possible to assess whether we are dealing with diseases of the cardiovascular system or with anemia.

When examining a dog with pale mucous membranes, we should establish at the beginning whether their color is due to insufficient blood supply to these structures, or maybe it is a consequence of anemia.

In dogs with pale mucous membranes, we should check for spot ecchymosis, haemorrhages and haemorrhages.

We also assess the available lymph nodes, i.e. the available structures of the lymphatic system.

The next step is always to perform a basic blood test, including the complete blood count and biochemistry. Since, as we know, anemia concerns blood, its laboratory evaluation should be the basic test in diagnosing anemia.

Assessing the severity of anemia based on the hematocrit assessment can be extremely helpful in identifying the cause of this condition.

For example, a mild severity of clinical symptoms and the accompanying advanced anemia indicate rather chronic causes of the disease, acute clinical symptoms and severe anemia may be accompanied hemolysis.

When determining hematocrit, it is also worth looking at the color of the plasma (yellowing, haemolysis) and the obligatory assessment of morphological changes in blood cells, which provide valuable diagnostic tips.

Blood parasites are assessed by taking a smear of venous blood collected from the patient.

After diagnosing the state of anemia, we evaluate whether it is regenerative or not.

This can be determined by determining the number of reticukocytes in a routine blood count and their multicolor, i.e. polychromasia.

The second test is performed while taking a blood smear.

Regenerative anemia points us to extramedullary causes, as the present immature blood cells clearly indicate the proper functions of the bone marrow.

Occurrence regenerative anemia so it is a consequence blood loss or haemolysis.

Non-regenerative anemia and it develops as a result of bone marrow damage, chronic infectious diseases, erythropoiesis or hemorrhage disorders, or haemolysis, but only for the first 48-96 hours!

Of course, this is only an example which is a simplification, because it is not always easy to classify a given anemia, an example of which is iron deficiency.

Currently, the basic examination of morphology should be performed in every clinic with the use of a hematological apparatus or sent to an external laboratory.

Blood smear assessment is a very important diagnostic test in hematology, because it allows to determine not only whether the bone marrow is functioning properly, but also answers questions about the size and morphology of erythrocytes, it determines the approximate number of white blood cells and their structure, and allows to detect current blood parasites in the context of diseases tick-borne infection seems crucial.

When describing diagnostics, it is also worth mentioning red cell markers because they are the routine markings in morphology that we get in a paper lab printout.

And this is how we distinguish among them:

  • MCV or average red blood cell volume,
  • MCH or average hemoglobin content,
  • MCHC- the average concentration of hemoglobin in the blood cell.

These parameters describe the quality of the erythrocyte and are extremely helpful in interpreting the overall morphology score.

It is impossible to describe any changes in the appearance of the blood cells themselves in this article. There are simply too many of them, so let us take just a few of them as an example.

And yes:

  • multi-color indicates regeneration,
  • iron deficiency,
  • microcytosis may be due to iron deficiency, portal collateral anastomosis, or be race-related (e.g. akita, shar pei),
  • Hainz cells may indicate damage to blood cells by oxidizing substances,
  • spherocytosis may suggest immune background anemia, zinc poisoning.

When assessing blood counts, we should never forget about total protein, the decrease of which we will not notice in haemolysis, and it will be lowered in the case of blood loss.

Finally, in the diagnosis of anemia in non-regenerative cases, performance may be indicated bone marrow tests taken during puncture.

Morphology is not the only test helpful in diagnosis, but it should be treated as an important element in the puzzle of diagnosis and, if possible, effective therapy.

It is always complemented by blood chemistry, which can provide valuable information.

For example free unbound bilirubin can testify to hemolysis, total protein concentration about dehydration, urea and creatinine about the work of the kidneys, a liver enzymes about pathologies in this organ.

We carry out other tests depending on the needs and our suspicions - it can be, for example blood test in the stool at suspicion of gastrointestinal bleeding.

Types of anemia and their treatment

Types of anemia and their treatment

Disturbance of blood cell formation processes as the cause of anemia, i.e. impaired erythropoiesis

Red blood cells are formed in the bone marrow from precursor cells, which requires a proper supply of nutrients and oxygen, as well as the participation of other factors regulating these processes.

Most often, impaired haemopathy affects all cells formed in the bone marrow, not just the red blood cells themselves.

Aplastic anemia also called panmyelopathy is a very serious disease of the bone marrow, which shows the features of failure, i.e. it does not produce cells properly, which results in pancytopenia in the peripheral blood.

We can deal with hypoplasia or marrow aplasia.

The reasons

The reasons for this state of affairs include:

  • the action of toxins and chemicals on the bone marrow (eg. heavy metals, DDT),
  • certain medications (e.g. phenylbutazone, chloramphenicol, cytostatics),
  • estrogen hormones (hyperestrogenization caused by a Sertoli cell tumor or iatrogenic estrogens).

In other words, they suffer from hypoxia, because the processes responsible for the red blood cells in the body are disturbed due to the lack of a sufficient number of these cells.


In diagnosing the disease, we must always take into account numerous disorders that affect the process of hemapoiesis, including all bone marrow diseases.

The morphology examination, which is a basic examination and cytology of the bone marrow, turns out to be helpful here.

The prognosis in any case is rather careful or unfortunately unfavorable, because once damaged marrow does not take up its tasks.


Sick dogs show typical symptoms of anemia, including bleeding, as well as:

  • pallor of the mucous membranes,
  • lack of appetite and the resulting weight loss,
  • anorexia,
  • weakness,
  • increased heat demand,
  • increase in heart rate.


Treatment includes exercise blood transfusion, administration glucocorticosteroids and anabolics, antibiotics, and sometimes administration of immunosuppressive drugs (e.g. cyclosporine).

We very rarely encounter a situation where bone marrow failure can be limited only to erythropoiesis, i.e. to the production of red blood cells.

This condition is known as erythroblastopenia.

This disease affects only the precursor cells for red blood cells and is based on immunological phenomena from IgG antibodies and T lymphocytes at the forefront.

Treatment of this type of anemia in a dog comes down to the use of immunosuppressive therapy, for which we use e.g. cyclosporine, prednisolone.

Anemia caused by blood loss

It is a relatively common condition accompanying all injuries, accidents, skin cuts, surgeries or bodily injuries with blood vessel interruption.

Bleeding may also occur in the case of disintegrating tumors or severe hemostasis disorders.

In the event of loss 30-40% circulating blood volume develops hypovolemic shock, which untreated, as well as loss over 45% blood volume leads to death.

Usually in healthy dogs over time 48-96 hours from the event, there are features indicative of regeneration, i.e. the production of blood cells.


As a result of blood loss, circulatory failure will develop, with symptoms such as:

  • drop in blood pressure,
  • faint pulse,
  • pallor of the mucous membranes,
  • cool limbs,
  • increasing the number of breaths,
  • lowering body temperature.

As soon as possible, we should identify the source of the bleeding and try to stop the bleeding using appropriate surgical methods.

Sudden blood loss in a short time can be life-threatening. It is imperative that you act on fluid treatment as soon as possible, hence fluid therapy crystalloids or colloids, or transfusions of blood or blood products.

In all cases of large blood loss, we should implement a life-saving anti-shock treatment.

Such anemia is usually easy to recognize due to obvious clinical symptoms (haemorrhage). Just remember that it is extremely difficult to estimate the amount of blood lost.

The haemorrhages do not have to be visible to the naked eye and involve body cavities (internal haemorrhages). Then, imaging tests such as ultrasound, X-ray or tomography can be very helpful.

In the absence of such, coagulation disorders can be suspected, and internal hemorrhages can be diagnosed using imaging diagnostics (e.g. ultrasound) or abdominal puncture. After the bleeding is stopped, the anemia will go away within a short period of time several weeks.

In recognition acute hemorrhagic anemia Laboratory diagnostics turns out to be inseparable.

Erythropoietin deficiency

It is quite a common pathology that directly affects the process hematopoiesis in the bone marrow and leading to development non-regenerative anemia.

The reasons

It occurs not only in chronic renal failure but also in the course of some hormonal disorders, i.e

  • hypothyroidism,
  • overactive adrenal cortex,
  • hypopituitarism,
  • states of hyperestrogenism.

Erythropoietin deficiency is a textbook example of course anemia chronic kidney disease, accompanied by very serious systemic disorders, e.g.:

  • gastrointestinal bleeding,
  • haemolysis,
  • reduction of iron in plasma,
  • secondary hyperparathyroidism and the effects of parathyroid hormone,
  • shorter life of red blood cells.


The clinical symptoms of this type of anemia are associated with the typical symptoms of renal failure and therefore accompany the state of advanced uremia. We can observe:

  • pale mucous membranes,
  • depression,
  • apathy,
  • lack of appetite,
  • increased heart rate,
  • increased number of breaths.


In laboratory research, we must always remember the present one dehydration of the patient which may mask your anemia in some way. We will prove in them increased levels of urea and creatinine, anemia without features of regeneration.


The prognosis in such cases for long-term survival is badly, because, unfortunately, the underlying disease, which is renal failure, is progressing.

We should strive to compensate for the hematocrit by performing blood transfusions or administering erythropoietin in various doses (e.g. 100 j.m. / kg m. c. 3 times a week with subsequent dose reduction).

The basis is always treatment not only of itself anemia, but also existing kidney failure, by which we reduce, for example, blood loss as a result gastrointestinal ulcers.

Deficiency anemia

An example of this type of anemia is iron deficiency, which leads to a disturbance of hemoglobin synthesis.

Deficiencies may also apply to other components necessary for synthesis, viz copper if vitamin B6, but they are found sporadically.

The reasons

Iron deficiency anemia results most often in dogs from chronic blood loss accompanied by a shortage of components for its production.

Such pathological conditions occur in dogs with:

  • the presence of intestinal parasites, e.g. hookworms,
  • stomach ulcers,
  • high degree of flea,
  • urinary tract tumors bleeding,
  • inflammatory conditions of the digestive tract,
  • pregnancy,
  • iron malabsorption.

We must remember that the highest percentage of iron in the body is found in hemoglobin, and not forget about the fact of very sparing iron management (a small percentage of it is lost and the vast majority is recovered from decaying erythrocytes).


The clinical symptoms of this type of anemia are:

  • bloody stools,
  • hematuria,
  • traces of ectoparasites,
  • dermatitis caused by them,
  • common symptoms of anemia.


Diagnosis is based on a statement iron deficiency, accompanied by microcytic anemia, hypochromatic anemia, reduction of red cell markers MCV and MCH and MCHC.

As a rule, we do not test serum iron in routine diagnostics, as its low level is also present in other disease states (e.g. acute and chronic inflammation, kidney and thyroid diseases).


There is a prognosis for this type of condition good on condition that the source of the bleeding and iron loss are removed.

The iron level can be compensated by administering it orally, although this method may cause various disorders of the gastrointestinal tract (vomiting, abdominal pain).

Anemia also occurs with deficiency of folic acid and vitamin B 12.

Such conditions, however, almost never occur in animals in nature.

This can only happen in cases of treatment:

  • preparations that are folic acid antagonists (methotrexate),
  • antiepileptic drugs,
  • sulfonamides.

Of course, I mean cases long-term administration.

Hemolytic anemia

In most cases, anemia in dogs is due to an excessive, exaggerated use of red blood cells in the blood and the entire system served by macrophages.

In other words, the survival time of these cells is shortened for various reasons, which simply results in anemia in the dog.

The reasons

This may be due to defects in the structure of erythrocytes and then we are talking about intra-erythrocyte causes, but these situations are quite rare. They are caused by genetic diseases that lead to faster cell death, during which we deal with:

  • the wrong shape of the cells,
  • an abnormally constructed cell membrane,
  • enzyme deficiencies.

These types of lesions do not necessarily reflect anemia.

The main group of haemolytic anemia is caused by causes outside the red blood cells called extracellular or extra-red blood cells.

Many different reasons can cause them, which I would like us to remember at the beginning.

Potential causes of hemolytic anemia in dogs include:

  • antibodies against erythrocyte cell membrane antigens that arise during:
    • haemolytic post-blood transfusion reactions,
    • autoimmune diseases,
    • viral diseases,
    • administration of certain medications, e.g.:
      • levamisole,
      • phenylbutazone,
      • penicillins,
      • cephalosporins,
  • biochemical disorders, e.g. hypophosphatemia,
  • parasitic infections with Babesia canis and Erlichiosis at the forefront,
  • enlargement of the spleen leading to increased destruction of red blood cells and their premature death,
  • bacterial infections, e.g. Leptpspira icterohaemorrhagica,
  • chemical poisoning caused by heavy metals, such as:
    • lead,
    • zinc,
    • silver,
    • high doses of copper,
  • mechanical damage with microangiopathies (vasculitis, glomerulonephritis), disseminated intravascular coagulation, cancerous tumors and uremic syndrome at the forefront,
  • thermal causes,
  • osmotic disorders (long treatment with oxidants).

Therefore, there are many potential causes of hemolysis.

Hemolysis can take place extravascularly (spleen and liver macrophages, bone marrow) and intravascularly.

The latter is very dangerous because it can cause disseminated intravascular coagulation, and free hemoglobin damages tissues (e.g. kidneys).


In the case of severe intravascular haemolysis, we can note:

  • fever,
  • apathy,
  • weakness,
  • lack of food intake,
  • shock symptoms.

The mucous membranes become pale and may be slightly yellowish, the liver becomes enlarged and the urine is dark red-brown.

In detailed diagnostics, the interview with the guardian of the dog turns out to be extremely important (e.g. administered drugs) and a thorough clinical examination (X-ray, laboratory tests, morphology with biochemistry and Coombs test).

The latter allows to detect agglutination of red blood cells on the glass slide and thus confirms immunohemolytic anemia.


The prognosis for haemolytic anemia depends on its cause, but generally it is cautious to evil. The exception may be babesiosis and hewmobartonellosis, detected early and subjected to intensive treatment.


In autohemolytic anemia, indications are immunosuppressive therapy based on administration of glucocorticosteroids and other suppressive drugs (e.g. cyclophosphamide, azathioprine).

Anemia in the course of inflammatory diseases

It is a very common type of anemia in companion animals.

The reasons

It can develop from acute and chronic inflammations, in the course of which there are disorders caused by cytokines With tumor necrosis factor and interleukin 1 at the forefront.

These substances, released by macrophages, inhibit erythropoiesis and set the body to fight the pathogen (by stimulating granulocytes).

The changes also concern the availability of iron itself (it becomes more difficult for erythrocytes). The lifetime of the red blood cells themselves is also shortened, which may translate into anemia in the dog.

Blood transfusion

Sometimes we have to resort to more sophisticated treatments to treat anemia. One of them is definitely blood transfusion, which is a vital tissue.

Such action only on the surface seems to be a simple procedure and does not entail any threats. Incompetent blood transfusion can have lethal consequences, which we must make clear at the outset.

We can roll the animal whole blood and individual her fractions depending on the demand, i.e.:

  • only platelets - platelet-rich plasma,
  • red blood cells - red cell concentrate.

Most often we give whole blood, of course, previously collected from a healthy and tested donor, skillfully prepared and processed.

The indications for a blood transfusion will be:

  • sudden blood loss (over 30 ml / kg m. c.),
  • significant drop in hematocrit (below twenty %),
  • chronic blood loss with erythropoiesis disorder (below 15%),
  • some surgical procedures in the presence of anemia,
  • coagulopathies,
  • thrombocytopathies,
  • hypoproteins in many diseases, e.g.:
    • parvovirosis,
    • nephrotic syndrome,
    • peritonitis.

It is good to determine the blood type in advance, if possible, and carry out a cross-check, which ensures the comfort of this procedure and eliminates possible post-transfusion reactions.

The blood is transfused with great caution by administering it to the cannula placed in the vein, all the time observing the recipient.

We consider possible post-transfusion reactions, which are not frequent, but may have serious consequences.

We divide them into immunological (acute hemolysis, fever, urticaria, anaphylaxis) caused by blood group incompatibility and non-immunological (fever, vomiting, hypothermia, infections, heart failure).

In the event of post-transfusion reactions, immediately discontinue further blood administration and institute appropriate anti-shock treatment (fluid therapy, steroids, adrenaline, antipyretics, antihistamines).

Treatment with transfusion to reduce anemia gives the body time to produce its own red blood cells and allows it to survive the most difficult times associated with anemia.

Diet for dog anemia

An important issue related to anemia is to support its treatment through skilfully conducted nutrition. It is also undoubtedly an extremely interesting topic for caregivers, who are wondering what to do in order to facilitate the recovery of a dog with anemia at home.

In the course of anemia, as we know well, the animal very often does not want to eat, loses its appetite, and in the long run, eating less food may lose weight. This is the case, for example, in chronic renal failure. In addition, very often we also have various degrees of damage to the gastrointestinal mucosa and associated symptoms, which can significantly impair the absorption of nutrients. Hence, skilfully selected food plays a very important, even crucial, matter.

Adequate diet will have the greatest impact in treating anemia in cases of food deficiencies and food poisoning. Nutritional deficiencies occur in our dogs either in a situation of malabsorption or excessive bacterial overgrowth. Then you may also find that the concentration vitamin B 12 and folic acid that is, the components necessary for blood formation drop significantly.

Admittedly, anemia caused by malnutrition is not very common because dogs are fed ready-made, balanced foods that are appropriate for their age and physiological condition, which contain all the necessary nutrients in the right doses. We deal with deficiency anemia when the ingredients necessary for the body (e.g. iron, vitamin B12) are not supplied to him in sufficient amounts.

Diet can be a great support for the treatment process, but it must always be matched to a specific disease problem. As we remember, we have many types of anemia, so the basis of nutrition will always be to identify the background of anemia, i.e. the factor causing it. Therefore, the diet should always be tailored to the specific disease entity in which anemia occurs, because nutrition will be different in each case, which is worth remembering. Hence, it is difficult to clearly define such a universal diet for dogs with anemia.

By treating a given pathology through proper nutrition (e.g. kidney failure) we support the body a bit and eliminate anemia.

In general, with anemia, we should support the blood formation process by giving dog food and supplements rich in:

  • iron,
  • vitamin C,
  • copper,
  • B vitamins.

Their presence is essential for the formation of red blood cells in the bone marrow.

It is also important to balance the diet, because even high doses of substances that have a beneficial effect on the blood formation process, administered in the wrong proportions, may not bring about an improvement that is beneficial for us.

Many dog ​​owners try to supplement the ingredients needed for the production of red blood cells at home by feeding their dogs with products that are high in beneficial ingredients. So they supplement the diet with raw animal products from:

  • liver,
  • red blood meat,
  • kidneys,
  • heart,
  • eggs.

Such a method, although it has its advantages, may also pose certain threats related to, for example, parasites present in the raw parts of animals. The meat must therefore, as always, come from a reliable source and be tested, and thus safe for the animal.

An excellent source of copper and B vitamins is mentioned already yolk if brewer's yeast supplements.

In any case, due to the reduced appetite, the served food must be of good quality, have high digestibility and digestibility. The diet must therefore be easily digestible and very appetizing so that sick animals eat it more willingly.

And finally, we have numerous dietary supplements available to support the blood formation process, which are worth using in the dog's recovery.


I am aware that in the article it is impossible to describe in detail all issues related to anemia in our dogs, and there may be a kind of insufficient knowledge.

However, I would like to clearly convey to you how complicated sometimes are the topics related to only one disease symptom, which can be the state of anemia in a dog.

Anemia is not a disease in itself, but is associated with a number of diseases affecting various systems and organs. Therefore, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment and management regimen. Extensive caution and an individual clinical approach are required.

In many situations, after removing the immediate cause, it is possible to significantly improve the patient's quality of life, I will say more about curing him of the disease.

The basic blood test is invaluable here morphology, which is worth doing for a while, even in a seemingly healthy animal.

Pathology detected early always gives a better chance of a full and lasting recovery.

Sources used >>

Leave Your Comment