Diagnosing Canine Anemia

Canine anemia is a symptom rather than a disease. Canine anemia means that there is not a sufficient amount of red blood cells being produced by the body. However, it can also mean that the body is losing too much blood, and therefore depleting the necessary amount of red blood cells.

Causes of Canine Anemia

Because canine anemia is not a disease or condition by itself, its development can be attributed to an underlying condition which has affected the bone marrow or the normal clotting of the blood.

Anemia can be caused when there is serious trauma to your dog. If the amount of blood that is lost is too great, it's likely that the bone marrow will not be able to reproduce the red blood cells as quickly as they're being lost. This results in an anemic condition.

Parasites such as fleas, ticks and worms can cause a significant loss of blood. All of these parasites feast on the blood from your dog's body. If the infestation is great enough, it can lead to a severe loss of blood and result in an anemic condition.

Likewise, there are diseases and illnesses which can lead to the development of canine anemia. They include:

  • Autoimmune disease
  • Cancer
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Leukemia

Symptoms of Canine Anemia

When a dog becomes anemic, the loss of blood and red blood cells can induce a very fatigued state. It is likely that your dog will no longer have any desire for his normal activities, and he will probably sleep more often than usual.

In addition to that, you will also notice a lack of appetite in your dog. With the loss of red blood cells, your dog will find it very hard to partake in any activity that requires his energy. Eating is no exception.

One of the most noticeable signs of anemia is the whitened color of your dog's gums and ears. Extremities of the body are always the first portion to lose blood flow when there is not a sufficient amount. The body does not consider extremities a necessity, and it will redirect the flow of the blood to vital organs, such as the heart and lungs.

Diagnosis of Canine Anemia

It first needs to be determined if your dog is anemic. The true diagnosis will be of the condition which caused the development of anemia.

A test known as a PCV, or packed cell volume, is used to determine the count of red blood cells in the blood. Under normal conditions, approximately 50% of the blood should consist of red blood cells. If your dog has less than a sufficient amount of red blood cells, he is diagnosed anemic.

After your dog has been diagnosed as anemic, the task is to determine the cause. A series of tests will be completed, such as a biopsy of the bone marrow to check for leukemia, a fecal sample to check for the presence of worms and a blood test to check complete thyroid function.

Additional testing may be required if cancer is suspected.

Treatment and Prognosis of Canine Anemia

There are treatments available for canine anemia. However, the prognosis is only about 50%. Because most dogs don't respond well to treatment, the prognosis is not that great.

In extreme cases, your dog may need daily or weekly blood transfusions to keep the red blood cells at an adequate amount. However, in less severe cases, a blood transfusion won't be necessary.

Prednisone can be given to your dog if the cause is determined to be due to an autoimmune disorder. Prednisone can help to suppress the immune system, by not allowing it to attack the red blood cells.