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Treatment and Prognosis for Anemia in Dogs

Source: PetWave, Updated on July 16, 2015

Goals of Treating Canine Anemia

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.

Treatment Options

Of course, no one treatment protocol can be described for anemic animals, because the reasons for anemia are so varied. Speaking generally, veterinarians have a number of treatment options at their disposal depending upon the cause of anemia in the particular patient, including:

  • Intravenous fluid therapy to increase blood volume
  • Transfusions, with packed red blood cells, whole blood, platelets, fresh frozen plasma
  • Transfusion, bone marrow
  • Antibiotics, if infection is suspected; caution: trimethoprim sulfa has been known to cause aplastic anemia
  • Discontinue medications that may be contributing to aplastic anemia
  • Immunusuppressive drugs
  • Vitamin K1, for coagulation disorders
  • Gastrointestinal protectants
  • Dewormers/other antiparasitic medications
  • Iron dextran supplementation; ferrous sulfate administration
  • Potassium phosphate supplementation
  • Supportive care
  • Surgical intervention


Careful monitoring and follow-up are critical when managing anemic animals. However, depending on the underlying cause, the prognosis following treatment can be quite good. Cases of acute-onset aplastic anemia typically can be reversed within 3 to 4 weeks, once the causative agent is removed. Chronic aplastic anemia usually is more severe and can be more difficult to resolve, often taking months, after which recovery still may not happen. Younger dogs tend to have a better prognosis. Blood loss anemia carries a very good prognosis, once the bleeding (from surgery, trauma, parasites or otherwise) is stopped. Dogs with gastrointestinal ulcers have a fair prognosis, as do dogs with bleeding disorders, called coagulopathies. Anemia caused by cancer unfortunately carries a guarded to grave prognosis, depending on the patient’s response to chemotherapy and/or surgical intervention. Dogs with hemolytic anemia – where something is damaging or destroying their red blood cells – usually recover well once the cause of hemolysis is removed and the dog is stabilized medically.

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