Feline Anemia Treatment with Erythropoietin

Feline anemia is a symptom of underlying diseases and medical conditions, but it can have lasting and potentially fatal effects on your cat's health. Anemia refers to an abnormal red blood cell level in your cat's blood, and occurs either when his body is unable to produce red blood cells as fast as they are depleted, or if he is unable to produce new red blood cells at all.

Depending on the severity of his condition as well as the cause of the anemia, you may need to make an emergency blood transfusion as a treatment procedure. For chronic anemia, however, most veterinarians prescribe drug regimens and lifestyle changes to help address the issue.

Erythropoietin Overview

Erythropoietin is a naturally occurring hormone that dictates the production of red blood cells in your pet's body. In some cases, artificial erythropoietin supplementation is helpful in stimulating the creation of additional red blood cells, which effectively reduces anemia.

Artificial erythropoietin is available under brand names Procrit, Eprex and Epogen. These drugs are proteins that encourage the production of red blood cells. However, human erythropoietin is different from the feline version of the hormone, and it may cause a negative reaction. In any case, your pet will likely develop antibodies to the human type of the hormone, and it will lose its effectiveness over time. For this reason, erythropoietin should only be used in severe cases of anemia, not during the initial stages of the condition.

Treatment with Erythropoietin

Erythropoietin is not effective at treating anemia in every case. Specifically, it is designed to help address this condition when your cat has lost kidney function due to a disease like chronic renal failure. The kidney is responsible for producing natural erythropoietin, and a disabled kidney may not be able to regulate the creation of red blood cells as normal. In other types of anemia, such as those caused by blood loss, iron depletion or other problems, you may experience mixed results.

Typically, veterinarians prescribe routine erythropoietin injections subcutaneously. In most cases, you will be able to administer the drug at home about three times per week. It is often helpful to supplement the hormone treatment with an oral iron pill as well. Because it takes about five days for an injection of erythropoietin to produce fully functional red blood cells, there is a certain degree of uncertainty as to the dosage of the medicine at first.

For the first few weeks of treatment, your vet will closely monitor your pet's red blood cell levels via a packed cell volume test. This is a simple blood test that can be done in a brief period of time at the veterinarian's office. He will then adjust the dosage accordingly.

It is important to consider that a large number of cats develop antibodies against the hormone supplement over time. Consequently, their anemia may diminish upon initial treatment and then resurge again a few months later. Speak with your veterinarian if a treatment program involving erythropoietin will be helpful as part of a broader solution for your pet's anemia.