Top Ten Dog Health Guides
Anemia in Dogs
Definition of Anemia
Anemia is defined as a reduction in the normal number of circulating red blood cells, which are called RBCs or erythrocytes. Red blood cells deliver oxygen throughout an animal’s body. Dogs can become anemic when they lose blood, have an abnormality that causes their body to destroy red blood cells (hemolytic anemia), or don’t produce enough RBCs (aplastic anemia). Red blood cells normally are made by healthy bone marrow. When the bone marrow doesn’t produce enough red blood cells, the circulating number of RBCs is reduced. There is no way to categorically prevent anemia in domestic dogs. The causes of anemia are so varied and so fundamentally different from one another that prevention must be considered on a case by case basis.
There are three general categories of anemia in companion animals: anemia due to blood loss (hemorrhagic or iron-deficiency anemia), anemia due to destruction of red blood cells (hemolytic anemia), and anemia due to insufficient production of red blood cells (aplastic anemia).Acute blood loss, such as from trauma, surgery or other sudden bleeding disorders, causes anemia because there is a reduction in the overall number of circulating erythrocytes. Anemia can also be caused by slower, more
Within red blood cells is a protein called “hemoglobin,” which functions to transport molecular oxygen in the blood to all body tissues. Normally, as red blood cells age or are damaged, they are broken down by other cells, called “macrophages.” Part of the hemoglobin molecule is recycled to the bone marrow to be incorporated into new red blood cells (also called erythrocytes or RBCs). Other parts of the old or damaged RBCs are processed and
Canine anemia is not particularly difficult to diagnose. Initially, the veterinarian will draw blood for a complete blood count (CBC), a packed cell volume (PCV) and a serum biochemistry panel, and probably will perform an analysis of the dog’s urine as well. She also will evaluate a blood smear under the microscope to look closely at the structure of the red blood cells. A separate test is available to detect the presence of Ehrlicia canis,
The goals of treating anemia are to provide supportive care while waiting for the bone marrow to kick back in (in cases of regenerative anemia); to control bleeding and restore blood volume and red blood cell numbers (in cases of blood loss anemia); to identify and resolve the underlying causes of chronic blood loss (iron deficiency, parasites, ulcers); and to provide good supportive care throughout the treatment process.Of course, no one treatment protocol can be