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Anemia in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Anemia in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

There are a number of underlying health conditions that can lie at the root of anemia in your dog. Today, our veterinarians in Plains will provide you with information about the types of anemia in dogs, their symptoms and their treatments. 

What is anemia in dogs?

If you dog has anemia, it could possibly indicate that you pet is suffering from an underlying condition which its cause.

Anemia happens when your pet’s body does not produce enough haemoglobin or red blood cells, or when your dog suffers severe blood loss as a result of conditions such as stomach ulcers or cancer. A serious injury or accident can also lead to anemia.

What are the different types of anemia?

Blood Loss Anemia

If your dog suffers severe blood loss caused by physical trauma, accident, injury, cancer, or ulcers, they can experience blood loss anemia. This condition can also be caused by internal parasites as well as other serious health issues. 

Aplastic or Non-Regenerative Anemia

Dogs can develop aplastic or non-regenerative anemia as a result of insufficient production of red blood cells. Bone marrow disease, kidney disease, exposure to toxins, parvovirus, chemotherapy drugs and other certain medications can also cause this form of anemia.


Certain genetic disorders in dogs can cause an overproduction of methemoglobin in the blood, which is called methemoglobinemia. This condition can also be spurred on by many toxins, including some medications which are meant for human consumption such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen and benzocaine. 

Hemolytic Anemia

The breakdown or destruction of red blood cells in your dog’s body can lead to hemolytic anemia. This kind of anemia can often be the result of IMHA (or immune-mediated hemolytic anemia), but may also be cause by the non-immune-mediated form of the condition. This variation of the condition can be caused by toxins hereditary diseases, or low phosphorus levels. 

What are symptoms of anemia in dogs?

If your dog is suffering from anemia, you may notice one or more symptoms, which will vary depending on the underlying cause of your dog’s condition.

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

What causes anemia in dogs?

Numerous conditions can result in your dog developing anemia. A few of the most common causes of anemia in dogs include:

  • Cushing’s disease
  • Infectious diseases (including canine distemper)
  • Bleeding from the intestines
  • Chronic diseases that suppress red blood cell production
  • Medications which interfere with production of red blood cells
  • Severe blood loss due to injury or accident
  • Tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Blood loss caused by parasites
  • Poor nutrition
  • Bone marrow disease
  • Poisons or toxins
  • Cancer

How is anemia in dogs treated?

If your pooch is diagnosed with anemia, your vet will advise a treatment depending on what is the root cause of the condition. Some treatments that your vet recommends could include:

  • Intravenous fluids
  • Deworming or parasite medications
  • Gastrointestinal medication
  • Chemotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Change in existing medications
  • Antibiotics or immunosuppressive drugs
  • Blood transfusion
  • Bone marrow transfusion
  • Potassium phosphate supplements

Depending on how available the effective treatment will be for your dog's underlying illness, your dog's prognosis will vary. Sadly, anemia can be an indication of a very serious or fatal condition such as an autoimmune condition, poisoning or cancer.

If your pet is displaying signs of anemia, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to schedule an examination.

Can I prevent my dog from developing anemia?

Whenever it is possible for you to do so, make sure you prevent anemia from appearing in your dog by keeping an eye out for the conditions which can cause it. Keep substances that are toxic to dogs (such as human food and medications) far away from your curious pup, and provide him with a healthy diet. These actions may help prevent your dog from developing anemia.

Protect your dog against parasites all year long with prevention medications to eliminate a possible cause of anemia. 

If you’ve got a breed of dog that’s susceptible to developing anemia (Shih Tzus, Labrador Retrievers, American Cocker Spaniels, and Miniature Schnauzers), regularly scheduled wellness exams - every six months - at your primary care veterinarian may help to detect early signs of anemia, so your dog can receive a diagnosis and get treatment before the condition gets more severe.

Do you suspect your dog is showing signs of anemia? At Northeast Veterinary Referral Hospital, our Plains vets are experienced with treating a wide range of conditions which can cause anemia in dogs. For more information, or to inquire about a referral, contact us today.

From Happy Pet Owners

  • Prompt and honest service. They didn't claim our dog's issue was any more or less severe that it was. Payment can be difficult to discuss in the moment but they were upfront about what was being done and what possible procedures would cost, asking for our approval before moving forward. Our boy ended up only needing minor care but we'll be using their service again in the future if we need emergency care.
    Blake B.

Contact (570) 208-8877