Symptoms of Hemolytic Anemia in Cats

Anemia in cats can be of 2 types: the regenerative or the non regenerative type.  Anemia is a condition in which red blood cells are in deficit and this can be either due to blood loss or to some other disease affecting the bone marrow's capacity to produce red blood cells. Hemolytic anemia involves the red-cell destruction due to a variety of causes. Hemolytic anemia is a regenerative condition, but may be a quickly evolving and life threatening condition, so diagnosing it right and applying the emergency treatment can save your cat's life.

Causes of Hemolytic Anemia in Cats

Red blood cells are responsible for supplying the body with oxygen. There are various causes which can lead to the destruction of red cells known as hemolytic anemia.

The most common cause of hemolytic anemia is an immune system disease, which will cause the immune system to identify the red blood cells as foreign bodies and will start destroying these. This is known as immune mediated hemolytic anemia.

Infections with germs or parasites which attack directly the red cells also result in hemolytic anemia.

Toxins such as tylenol or zinc can cause hemolytic anemia in cats.

Damage to blood vessels can also result in hemolytic anemia.

There are hereditary diseases which lead to the destruction of red cells.

Symptoms of Hemolytic Anemia in Cats

The symptoms of hemolytic anemia in felines include:    

  • Weakness and the cat is often tired
  • The cat's gums, nose and tongue are white or pale pink
  • Yellow tones to the gums and eyes (the cat is icteric)
  • The urine loses its color, but sometimes you may find blood in the urine
  • Blood in the feces
  • Fever
  • The cat may lick melted snow or rain water, as he lacks minerals
  • The cat is more sensitive to cold
  • The cat is less inclined to grooming than usual
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Loss of appetite

If your cat displays symptoms of anemia, he should be taken to a veterinarian for emergency treatment.

Diagnosing Hemolytic Anemia in Cats

In order to diagnose anemia, the veterinarian will need to run blood tests and tests of the bone marrow as well as urine and fecal exams to check for parasites. These are done after a complete physical exam.

Treatment of Hemolytic Anemia in Cats

Anemia can progress very quickly and lead death if not treated in time.

If your cat is experiencing severe anemia, he might need blood transfusion. This will be performed either with fresh blood or with artificial red blood cells. Artificial blood usually contains elements from cow blood.

For moderate anemia, the veterinarian might prescribe iron supplements, which stimulate the production of healthy red cells.

The veterinarian might prescribe intravenous treatment with liquids as the cat could also be dehydrated.

If the condition is immune mediated corticosteroids can be administered to suppress the immune system.

When dealing with toxic materials ingested by the pet (i.e. the cat swallowed a coin, which contains zinc) surgery will be the solution.