Anemia can be defined as a deficiency of red blood cells and hemoglobin, which is the hemoprotein responsible for binding with oxygen, and then transporting it to every cell of the body. Like humans, a dog can also suffer from this condition. In humans, this disorder is often caused by nutritional deficiencies, like a deficiency of iron and vitamin B12.
But iron deficiency is rarely a cause of anemia in dogs. Rather, canine anemia can be a symptom of certain conditions, some of which can be quite serious. It can be an indicator that the body is losing a large number of red blood cells, or the bone marrow cells are failing to produce enough new red blood cells to replace the old ones.
More commonly, anemia in dogs is caused by the loss of blood, which can happen due to an injury and a worm or flea infestation. Parasites like hookworms can reside in their intestinal tract, and suck blood and other nutrients from there. This can eventually cause the loss of a significant amount of blood.
Sometimes, the immune system of a dog can produce certain antibodies that can attack and destroy the red blood cells. This condition is referred to as autoimmune hemolytic anemia. Some other important causes include, toxicity developed due to the intake of certain medications, hypothyroidism, ulcers, tumors of the intestinal tract and kidneys, bleeding disorders, and cancer. Rarely, a deficiency of iron can also cause this condition.
Signs and Symptoms
A low count of red blood cells can manifest in weakness and excessive tiredness. As a result, the animal can experience more fatigue even with a little exertion. The activity level of the dog can reduce significantly, and it may tend to sleep more than usual. Additionally, you can observe that the gums, tongue, and the eyes of the animal are noticeably pale.
Apart from these, an increase in heart rate, listlessness, and loss of appetite are some other signs that you can observe in your pet, if it is suffering from anemia. The signs and symptoms that may indicate a serious condition are, vomiting, weight loss, an enlarged spleen, the presence of blood in the stool or urine, and seizures.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Several tests and examinations can be required to diagnose this condition. Generally, it is diagnosed with the help of blood tests that can measure the count of red blood cells and hemoglobin, along with the number of immature red blood cells. To find out the exact causes, a bone marrow biopsy can be carried out. The cells of the bone marrow are concerned with the production of red blood cells, and hence, a biopsy of these cells can help detect if any condition is impairing the production of red blood cells. Leukemia and bone marrow cancer are some conditions that can inhibit the production of healthy red blood cells.
The treatment of this condition depends on its severity and the underlying causes. Severe cases may require blood transfusions. If the red blood cells are being attacked by the immune system of the dog, then immunosuppressant medications can be required. If the condition is caused by nutritional deficiencies, then it can be treated with supplementation. Vitamin B12 supplements can prove very effective in this regard, as this vitamin is crucial for strengthening the bone marrow cells, and facilitating the production of red blood cells. Similarly, vitamin C can promote iron absorption.
In addition to nutritional supplementation, it is very important to give your dog a balanced diet that includes food rich in proteins, iron, and vitamins. Equally important is to understand and recognize the signs and symptoms of this condition. So, if your dog looks unusually weak and tired, consider to consult a veterinarian. This can help ensure proper diagnosis and treatment, and increase the possibility of an early recovery.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of a veterinarian.