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Symptoms, Causes & Treatment of Anemia in Dogs

Symptoms, Causes & Treatment of Anemia in Dogs

Various underlying health conditions can lead to anemia in dogs. Today, our Turlock vets describe the different types of anemia we see in dogs, in addition to their numerous symptoms and treatments. 

What is anemia in dogs?

Is your dog showing signs of anemia? This condition may suggest an underlying illness or condition, as it occurs when your pet's body doesn't produce enough haemoglobin or red blood cells. Anemia can also result from severe blood loss due to issues like stomach ulcers, cancer, or significant injuries.

What are the different types of anemia?

Blood Loss Anemia

Is your dog experiencing excessive blood loss from a bleeding disorder, injury, or surgery? This may lead to blood loss and anemia. Additionally, internal bleeding caused by parasites, cancer, ulcers, or other health issues can also cause similar problems.

Aplastic or Non-Regenerative Anemia

Dogs can develop aplastic or non-regenerative anemia when their bodies don't produce enough red blood cells. This can be caused by bone marrow disease, kidney disease, exposure to toxins, parvovirus, chemotherapy drugs, or certain medications.


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

Hemolytic anemia in dogs occurs when red blood cells are destroyed, leading to a low count. This can happen due to immune-mediated reasons (IMHA) or non-immune reasons like toxins, parasites, low phosphorus levels, or hereditary diseases.

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 which 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?

Prevent anemia in your dog by avoiding conditions that cause it. Keep toxic substances like human food and medications away from your curious pup and ensure he has a healthy diet. These steps can help keep your dog from developing anemia.

Protect your dog against worms, fleas, and ticks with year-round parasite prevention medications, and you'll eliminate another potential cause.

If you own a dog breed prone to anemia, like Shih Tzus, Labrador Retrievers, American Cocker Spaniels, or Miniature Schnauzers, taking them for regular wellness exams every six months at your primary care veterinarian can aid in spotting early signs of anemia. This early detection allows for prompt diagnosis and treatment, preventing the condition from worsening.

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? Our Turlock vets can diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions. Book an appointment today.

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Monte Vista Small Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Turlock companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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