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Types of Anemia in Dogs - Symptoms & Treatments

Anemia in dogs is a serious condition that a number of underlying health issues can cause. In this post, our Clearlake emergency and specialist vets explain the different types of anemia seen in dogs, their symptoms, and how they can be treated.

Anemia in Dogs

Anemia in dogs is a medical condition that suggests an underlying disease or illness. This condition arises when your pet's body fails to produce an adequate amount of red blood cells or hemoglobin, or when your dog suffers severe blood loss due to conditions such as cancer or stomach ulcers. Additionally, your dog may develop anemia after experiencing trauma such as a serious accident or injury.

Types of Anemia Seen in Dogs

Blood Loss Anemia

Blood loss anemia is a type of anemia that occurs when your dog experiences severe blood loss due to different reasons, such as an injury, surgery, or a bleeding disorder. This type of anemia can also be caused by internal bleeding due to cancer, ulcers, parasites, or other health conditions. Blood loss anemia is a form of regenerative anemia because although the bone marrow responds appropriately to the decreased number of red blood cells by increasing production, it cannot meet the body's demands.

Hemolytic Anemia

Hemolytic anemia is caused by the destruction or breakdown of red blood cells in your dog's body. This form of anemia is often the result of immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA), or non-immune mediated caused by a hereditary disease, parasites, toxins, or low phosphorous levels.

Aplastic or Non-Regenerative Anemia

Aplastic or non-regenerative anemia develops in dogs due to insufficient production of red blood cells. This form of anemia can occur due to toxin exposure, bone marrow disease, kidney disease, certain medications, chemotherapy drugs, or parvovirus.


Methemoglobinemia in dogs is caused by too much methemoglobin in the blood due to certain genetic disorders or exposure to toxins, including a number of different medications meant for human use only, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or benzocaine.

Signs That Your Dog May Be Anemic

If your dog is anemic, it may display one or more symptoms that vary depending on the underlying cause.

  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swelling of the face or jaw
  • Black stools
  • Weight loss
  • Fast pulse or rapid breathing
  • Pale gums, ears, or eyes
  • Lethargy or weakness

Causes of Anemia in Dogs

There are several reasons for anemia in dogs, some of the most common being:

  • Medications that interfere with red blood cell production
  • Blood loss caused by parasites 
  • Cancer
  • Kidney disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Cushing's disease
  • Infectious diseases, including canine distemper
  • Severe blood loss as a result of accident or injury
  • Toxins or poisons
  • Tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease
  • Poor nutrition
  • Bone marrow disease
  • Intestinal bleeding
  • Chronic diseases that suppress red blood cell production

Treatment for Dogs with Anemia

If your dog has anemia, the treatment will depend on the underlying cause.

Treatment options may include:

  • Surgery
  • Blood transfusion
  • Bone marrow transfusion
  • Chemotherapy
  • Intravenous fluids
  • Change of existing medications
  • Antibiotics or immunosuppressive drugs
  • Potassium phosphate supplements
  • Gastrointestinal medication
  • Parasite or de-worming medications

The prognosis for dogs with anemia depends upon the availability of effective treatment for the underlying illness. Severe anemia in dogs can indicate a very serious or possibly fatal condition such as poisoning, cancer or an autoimmune condition. If your pup shows any signs of anemia, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to book an examination.

Preventing Anemia in Dogs

Preventing anemia in your dog involves avoiding the conditions that cause it, whenever possible. One way to help your dog avoid developing anemia is by providing year-round parasite prevention medication to protect them against ticks, fleas, and worms. Additionally, keeping toxic substances such as human medications and foods out of your dog's reach and providing them with a healthy diet can also aid in preventing anemia.

If your canine companion belongs to a breed that is prone to anemia, such as Shih Tzus, Labrador Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, and American Cocker Spaniels, regular wellness examinations twice a year with your primary care veterinarian may help detect the signs of anemia early on and provide treatment before the condition worsens.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog is experiencing a veterinary emergency in the Clearlake area, contact us right away. Our vets are available to provide urgent care 24/7.

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