Causes of Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs

Anemia in dogs occurs when red blood cells within the body are destroyed, causing a shortage of these important cells. Hemolytic anemia can be a very serious condition, depending on how severe it is in your pet. This illness can affect dogs of any size, age, weight or breed, and is somewhat uncommon in canines. If your pet does have hemolytic anemia, it is important to seek proper treatment for the condition as soon as possible.

Causes of Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs

There are various possible causes for hemolytic anemia in canines. The following are the most common causes for this condition:

  • Heredity. Your pet may inherit the genes associated with developing hemolytic anemia. If this is the case, your pet will show symptoms of the condition very early in life, most likely.
  • Diseases that cause defective membranes in the red blood cells, including hereditary elliptocytosis and sickle cell anemia.
  • Hemoglobin that is unstable in the cells.
  • Autoimmune conditions that cause the body to attack its own red blood cells within the body. This causes a severe red blood cell deficiency and can be quite serious.
  • Certain rare infections that lead to a red blood cell deficiency.

Symptoms of Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs

There can be several different symptoms and signs of hemolytic anemia in your pet, including the following most common signs:

  • Severe lack of energy or fatigue. Because your pet is not getting the correct amount of oxygen to the body, he will likely show signs of fatigue, weakness, and lethargy. Usually, this is one of the first and most important signs associated with hemolytic anemia in dogs.
  • Panting while running or walking. Lack of oxygen can cause fatigue during physical exertion.
  • Rapid or heaving breathing, even while remaining inactive.
  • Enlarged spleen. Because the spleen is affected when red blood cell count is low, your pet may show signs of hypertrophy of the spleen.
  • Jaundice. The destruction of red blood cells can make bilirubin levels rise within the body, causing jaundice in most cases. 
  • Dark yellow or orange urine. The level of bilirubin rising at a rapid rate can also accumulate in the urine, causing a darker color.
  • Low folate levels. Hemolysis eventually leads to the loss of folate in the body.
  • Fever
  • Bloody or foul smelling urine
  • Seizures. This symptom usually does not occur until the condition is very severe. It is a serious situation and should be dealt with as soon as possible.

Hemolytic Anemia Diagnosis

Your veterinarian will likely conduct one or more of the following tests on your pet to diagnose hemolytic anemia:

  • Cell Volume Testing
  • Blood tests and peripheral blood smearing
  • Autoimmune tests
  • Radiographs
  • Hemoglobin electrophoresis tests
  • Enzyme and pigment testing

If your pet is diagnosed with hemolytic anemia, it is important to follow all instructions for treatment. This condition can be fatal if not treated quickly and in the correct manner.

Treatment Options for Hemolytic Anemia

The best treatment option for your pet will depend on the severity of his condition and the underlying cause. Most commonly, treatments include the use of Corticosteroids, blood transfusions, folic acid treatments, surgery to the spleen, intravenous immunoglobulin, and treatment of the initial cause of the anemia.