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Symptoms, Causes & Treatment of Anemia in Dogs

Symptoms, Causes & Treatment of Anemia in Dogs

Many health issues can cause anemia in dogs. In this article, our vets in Diamond Bar will explain the symptoms of anemia in dogs, along with their symptoms and treatments.

What is anemia in dogs?

Anemia in dogs is when a pet does not have enough red blood cells or hemoglobin in their body, which can be caused by various factors. These factors include not producing enough red blood cells, severe blood loss from issues like ulcers or injuries, or even certain illnesses like cancer. 

What are the different types of anemia?

Blood Loss Anemia

This type of anemia occurs when a dog loses a significant amount of blood due to injuries, surgery, bleeding disorders, or internal bleeding caused by conditions like parasites, cancer, or ulcers. 

Aplastic or Non-Regenerative Anemia

Dogs can develop this form of anemia when their body doesn't produce enough new red blood cells. Factors like bone marrow disease, kidney problems, exposure to toxins, infections like parvovirus, certain medications, or chemotherapy can trigger it. Bone marrow disease, kidney disease, exposure to toxins, parvovirus, chemotherapy drugs, and other certain medications can also cause this form of anemia.


In dogs, certain genetic disorders can lead to too much methemoglobin in the blood and result in methemoglobinemia. This condition could also be due to exposure to toxins, including some medications meant for exclusively human use, such as benzocaine, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen.

Hemolytic Anemia

The breakdown or destruction of red blood cells in your dog's body can lead to hemolytic anemia. This form of anemia often results from immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) or the non-immune mediated form of the condition (caused by toxins, parasites, low phosphorus levels, or hereditary disease).

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 the 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?

Take steps to keep your dog healthy. Avoid things that can make them sick, like harmful food and medicines. Feed them well. This helps prevent anemia, a blood problem. 

Also, give your dog medicine to protect against bugs like worms, fleas, and ticks all year. This will stop another cause of anemia. 

If you've got a breed of dog that's susceptible to developing anemia (Shih Tzus, Labrador Retrievers, American Cocker Spaniels, and Miniature Schnauzers), regularly scheduled wellness exams - every six months - at your primary care veterinarian may help to detect early signs of anemia, so your dog can receive a diagnosis and get treatment before the condition gets more severe.

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 Diamond Bar Veterinary Clinic, our vets can diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions. Book an appointment today.

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