Definition of AIHA
Autoimmune hemolytic anemia – also called immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, IMHA and AIHA - is a common, sometimes manageable but potentially fatal disease where a dog’s red blood cells (RBCs) are killed prematurely. Normal RBCs live for about 110 to 120 days. Old ones are broken down and removed from circulation. Healthy RBCs distribute oxygen throughout the body. The immune system of dogs with IMHA destroys its own RBCs, because it mistakenly identifies them as being dangerous. When RBCs are destroyed faster than they are regenerated, the dog becomes weak, lethargic, depressed and disinterested in food and normal activities. Its gums and tongue will get pale, its heart rate will elevate and it can collapse with mild exertion. The dog’s, skin, ears and eyes may become yellow, called jaundice. Survival rates for dogs with IMHA are fairly low. However, if diagnosed early, treatment and management can be effective.