Low Red Blood Cell Count in Dogs

A low red blood cell count can be indicative of a medical condition. The red blood cell count is measured when a complete blood count is performed. The red blood cells carry the oxygen to the tissues. If the red blood count is extremely low, the dog may be lethargic and have pale gums.

Red Blood Cells

The red blood cells, also known as RBCs carry the oxygen to the tissues in the dog’s organism and will return with carbon dioxide to the lungs.The red blood cells are produced in the bone marrow and will be constant, as the bone marrow will produce new red blood cells as soon as the old ones are exhausted. If the dog’s body requires a high amount of new red blood cells, the bone marrow will send immature red blood cells (also known as reticulocytes). The normal values of RBC count in canines are between 5.6 and 8.7 x 106 per microliter of blood.

Causes of Low Red Blood Cell Count

In dogs, the low red blood cell count may be caused by:

  • Anemia, which is due to decreased levels of iron or poor nutrition
  • Autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA), which is often associated with the consumption of garlic or poisonous substances such as rat poison
  • Kidney failure may also cause a low RBC, due to the fact that the kidneys produce erythropoietin, which is a hormone that stimulates the activity of the bone marrow. If the hormone is no longer produced, the bone marrow may have a reduced activity
  • Injury or trauma to the bone marrow
  • Cancer
  • An infection, which can result in an increased amount of white blood cells
  • May be a side effects of certain drugs

Diagnosing Low RBC

The level of RBC can be measured in a blood test. If the dog will have a RBC count of less than 5.5 x 106 per microliter, the vet will need to perform additional tests to determine the causes of low RBC.

Low Red Blood Count Treatment Options

The treatment for a pet with low red blood cell count will depend on the findings of the vet. An infection can be treated with antibiotics. The dog’s RBC count should be monitored after the treatment. The dog may require IV fluids and liquid therapy, if the red blood cell count is very low.The vet may prescribe a change in diet and supplements if the dog has anemia. If the dog has AIHA due to consumption of garlic or poisoning, the vet will have to remove the garlic or the poisonous substances from the system. Activated charcoal may be administered and the dog should receive IV fluids until his condition is stable. If the dog is found to have poor kidney function, this can be treated with a change in diet. However, if the dog has kidney failure, this may be difficult to manage and the condition may be fatal. The dog may still receive some support therapy, which will improve his life quality.