Regenerative and Non-Regenerative Anemia in Cats

Anemia in cats is when a feline has a reduced number of red blood cells and/or hemoglobin, due to a reduction in the ability of blood to carry oxygen. Cat anemia is a common problem and can be classified as regenerative or non-regenerative.

Anemia Explained

Anemia is most often the result of a cat’s body not being able to produce red blood cells or iron fast enough to replace those lost as a result of an underlying cause. A cat can become anemic if he has a parasite, has been bleeding internally, has an autoimmune disease or has cancer. An injury that has caused excessive bleeding, fleas and ticks, hypothyroidism or a condition that prevents a cat’s blood from clotting can also lead to anemia.

Regenerative Anemia in Cats

Regenerative anemia is when a cat is still able to make red blood cells in his bone marrow, but is bleeding excessively either internally or externally. Some of the most common causes of feline regenerative anemia are parasites, worms, fleas and ticks. These parasites can live in or on a cat and survive by sucking his blood, reducing the amount of blood that would circulate throughout the body.

An injury that causes a lot of blood loss can result in regenerative anemia. Internal bleeding caused by cancers, certain medications and other medical conditions can also result in this form of anemia.

Non-Regenerative Anemia in Cats

Non-regenerative anemia in a cat is when new red blood cells are not produced in the bone marrow. This condition is most often seen in cats with feline leukemia virus (FeLV) or the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Non-regenerative anemia is one of the first symptoms of FeLV, as this virus affects how blood is formed in the marrow. FIV affects the bone marrow and causes a cat to become anemic.  Treatment of non-regenerative anemia in cats often includes erythropoeitin hormone treatment if the cat has chronic liver or kidney problems.

Symptoms of Regenerative and Non-Regenerative Anemia in Cats

A cat has a nose, gums, and tongue that are usually pink in color. Anemia, however, will cause these parts of the body to look pale in color. This loss in color is one of the classic signs of anemia.

An anemic cat will lack energy and will be tired. He can also become jaundiced and have a yellow tint in the gums and whites of the eyes. In some cases, a red mass can be found in the cat’s urine, indicating there may be a deficiency of reticulocytes in the blood. A cat may go into shock if a lot of blood has been lost, especially in the event of a recent injury.

Red blood cells are one of the most essential components of a cat’s blood. Once anemia in a cat is diagnosed and your veterinarian knows if it’s regenerative or non-regenerative, proper treatment can begin. Treatment options include treating the underlying problem, blood transfusions, prescribing medicines to rid a cat of parasites, antibiotics, surgery and hormone or antiviral therapy.