Anemia in Cats

Anemia in cats, like anemia in humans, is a condition in which the body lacks hemoglobin. Anemia is not a disease in and of itself, but is rather a symptom of several other diseases. It is a serious condition that may be life threatening to your pet, and it may indicate an equally serious underlying medical condition or disease.

If you are able to recognize the signs and causes of anemia in your pet, you will be well prepared to address the condition and to determine the medical cause.

Signs of Anemia in Your Cat

Anemia is usually readily identifiable at sight. An anemic cat will have unusually pale gums, and may also have a pale tongue and nose as well. Typically, these body parts will have a faint pink hue. However, anemic cats' tongues, noses and gums may appear very light pink or even white. Anemia may also contribute to overall tiredness or lethargy in your cat as well, although this symptom may be indicated by a wide variety of diseases or conditions.

The Most Common Underlying Causes of Anemia in Your Cat

Anemia is due in insufficient red blood cell counts in the blood. As such, anemia may be caused by diseases that limit the production of red blood cells, diseases that break down red blood cells, or diseases and conditions that result in the loss of large amounts of blood.

Cats that have suffered traumatic injuries or wounds may experience anemia due to excessive blood loss. However, cats with certain parasites like ticks and hookworms may be anemic as well. Additionally, some tumors and other internal conditions can prevent adequate blood clotting, which in turn may lead to anemia.

Some chronic conditions may contribute to feline anemia as well. Specifically, feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus are frequently responsible for anemia in cats. Chronic malnutrition, cancer and other autoimmune diseases may also contribute to feline anemia.

Feline anemia is, in itself, not a strong indicator of any particular disease over another. The potential causes of feline anemia are wide-ranging, both in severity and in type. As such, it is best to take a cat suffering from anemia to a veterinarian for further examination and diagnosis.

Diagnosing and Treating Feline Anemia

Depending upon your cat's condition, age and gender, your veterinarian will perform one or more tests in an attempt to determine the underlying causes of your pet's anemia. The most common diagnostic test is a blood smear, which provides important information about the body's production of red blood cells. Bone marrow biopsies, urine tests and fecal exams may also be helpful in isolating the reason that your pet is producing insufficient hemoglobin. Once this information can be determined, your veterinarian will conduct any further tests as necessary to determine the nature of the underlying cause of the anemia.

In emergency situations, feline anemia may be treated with a blood transfusion. Otherwise, addressing the anemia itself will not adequately treat the condition. Rather, it is necessary to isolate and treat the cause of the anemia. Consult with your veterinarian for further information regarding your pet's condition.