5 Ways to Treat Anemia in Dogs

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5 Ways to Treat Anemia in Dogs
5 Ways to Treat Anemia in Dogs

Anemia occurs when there is a deficiency of red blood cells (RBCs) or hemoglobin in the circulation. This deficiency means that an animal has less ability to carry oxygen in its blood. The signs of the illness can be quite subtle and come on slowly, but mostly consist of lack of energy and tiredness. If you notice that your puppy is crawling behind you or that he is more sleepy and tired than usual, he may be anemic. Faced with this suspicion, it is crucial to take him to the vet.


Method 1 of 5: Analyzing Your Dog for Anemia

Treat Anemia in Dogs Step 1

Step 1. Assess if your dog has anemia

Has he become extremely tired and lethargic all of a sudden? Are you losing weight for no apparent reason? If you can't find an obvious reason for these problems, anemia may be behind it.

Anemia can be caused by a variety of conditions, from parasites to cancer drugs. Two of the main causes include bleeding from a tumor and autoimmune disease, in which the body attacks its own red blood cells

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Step 2. Check the color of the dog's gums

It should have a pinkish color, just like that of humans. Analyze the color in a place with natural light, as artificial lighting can leave the gums with a yellowish tinge. Gently lift the animal's lips and take a look: a pale pink or white color is a sign of trouble.

  • Another place that indicates signs of anemia is the eyelid, which should also be pink. The inner lining of the eyelid will be light pink or white in case of anemia.
  • If the gums are pale, take the dog to the vet.
Treat Anemia in Dogs Step 3

Step 3. Take the puppy to the vet

The provider will examine the patient carefully, looking for problems such as fleas, lice or other parasites, unusual enlargement of organs or masses in the abdomen that may indicate the presence of a tumor. He will also take a blood sample for laboratory tests.

Laboratory tests look at the biochemistry of the animal's blood to see if the organs are working properly (checking for the source of the problem) and hematology, an examination of the red and white blood cells. Tests can tell the veterinarian whether the puppy does indeed have anemia, the severity of the problem, whether it is recent or long-standing, and whether or not he is producing new red blood cells. All these parameters help the professional to better understand the problem, its severity and what kind of treatment is needed

Method 2 of 5: Treating Anemia Caused by an Autoimmune Disease

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Step 1. Consider the possibility that an autoimmune disease is causing the anemia

Such a disease is when the body turns against its own tissues and the immune system attacks them as if they were foreign bodies. This can happen with red blood cells, resulting in fewer cells, which causes anemia.

Treat Anemia in Dogs Step 5

Step 2. Determine if the dog has anemia due to an autoimmune disease

The veterinarian will do several tests to investigate whether or not this is a possibility. The most common way is to analyze the animal's blood to check for a variety of indicators.

  • The coombs test checks for antigens stuck to the cell membrane of red blood cells. It is against these antigens that the immune system mobilizes. A laboratory test called the coombs test is often done, but the results can be misleading or inconclusive because they can only detect large amounts of antigen on the surface of the cell membrane. It is possible to get a false negative result if the red blood cell is contaminated with an antigen but with insufficient levels to cause a positive result.
  • An alternative test involves adding drops of saline solution to a microscope slide with a few drops of the patient's blood. The slide is shaken to encourage mixing of the solution with the blood and then examined under a microscope. If red blood cells stick together despite being diluted, the phenomenon is called “self-agglutination”, a sign that the cells are covered in stuck antigens, and this is considered a positive result.
  • Another important clue is to check the size and shape of red blood cells under a microscope. Blood cells that have been attacked by the immune system have an atypical appearance (smaller and without an area of ​​central pallor) and are called spherocytes. If the veterinarian sees the spherocytes, it is reasonable to assume that the body is damaging its own red blood cells.
Treat Anemia in Dogs Step 6

Step 3. Treat anemia caused by autoimmune disease

If the veterinarian determines that this is the cause of the puppy's problems, he will treat him with immunosuppressive medications, particularly corticosteroids. These drugs deactivate the immune response, halt the attack, and allow the body to regenerate red blood cells.

It is necessary to use a high dose (called an immunosuppressive dose) to deactivate this harmful mechanism for the animal's health. These high doses can be given twice a week initially. If repeated tests show that the anemia is improving, the dose will be gradually reduced and spread over several months

Method 3 of 5: Treating Anemia Caused by Blood Loss

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Step 1. Remember if your dog has lost blood recently

The animal may lose blood due to an injury (a traffic accident), parasites (fleas and lice), intestinal inflammation or ulcers, or a bleeding tumor. In all these examples, the rate of blood loss is higher than the body's ability to produce new red blood cells, and thus the number of cells in circulation decreases. When it gets below a certain level, the dog becomes anemic.

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Step 2. Stop bleeding from trauma

In the case of trauma, any bleeding sites need to be identified and the blood stopped immediately. If your dog has been in an accident and is actively bleeding, apply a pressure bandage (a tight bandage) or apply pressure to the wound with a clean cotton cloth. Stop bleeding while seeking help from a veterinarian.

The provider can clamp the blood vessel with an arterial clamp and close it securely

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Step 3. Have the veterinarian check for the presence of a bleeding vascular tumor

This is one of the most common causes of blood loss in dogs, in addition to trauma. Older dogs are prone to develop tumors in the spleen, which is an organ with a lot of blood supply. If the bleeding is not severe, the blood will leave the circulation and accumulate in the belly. In more serious cases, bleeding can be severe enough to cause a breakdown, or even death, due to blood loss internally.

  • Signs of blood loss in the belly include vomiting or bloody stools or very dark stools. If in doubt, collect a sample to show the veterinarian.
  • If it is a bleeding tumor, the provider will perform diagnostic imaging tests such as an ultrasound, CT or MRI scan, or an X-ray to identify the tumor and decide the best treatment option.
  • For tumors, the veterinarian will try to stabilize the patient with intravenous fluids to maintain healthy blood pressure. If the bleeding is very severe, a blood transfusion will be needed. When the patient is strong enough to receive anesthesia, the best option is to undergo surgery to remove the spleen.
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Step 4. Look for signs of other internal problems

Others that can cause bleeding include stomach ulcers or severe intestinal inflammation. The veterinarian will instigate treatment to protect the ulcer and let it heal, or start treatment to reduce inflammation.

If the puppy is taking medications, especially nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as meloxicam, discontinue the medication immediately and inform the veterinarian. This type of medicine is associated with the formation of stomach ulcers

Method 4 of 5: Treating Anemia Caused by Parasites

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Step 1. Check if the dog has a parasitic infection

A severe flea or lice infestation can cause anemia, as these parasites suck the animal's blood. Another significant cause of blood loss is lung worms, the parasite Angiostrongylus vasorum. The mechanism by which such an infection causes bleeding is unknown, but it can be a serious, life-threatening condition. For all parasitic infections, the treatment is to kill the parasite, removing it from the system and allowing the dog to regenerate the lost red blood cells.

It is also important to consider blood-borne parasites such as Babesia or Haemobartonella, which can damage and destroy red blood cells. It is crucial to seek the help of a veterinarian for those conditions that need specific medications such as primaquine or quinine and clindamycin for Babesia and the antibiotic tetracycline for Haemobartonella

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Step 2. Give preventive medications

There are many excellent flea control remedies. It is important to check if they are authorized for use in dogs and if they are effective, such as fipronil or selamectin. There are also other options available.

Lungworms are quite common and are contracted by contact with infected feces or through slugs or snails. In these cases, monthly preventive treatment is better than cure. If the dog has a lungworm, these same preventative treatments are used to kill the organisms, but the dog may also need antibiotics to prevent pneumonia and steroids to prevent inflammation and a possible allergic reaction to the deteriorating worms

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Step 3. Follow your veterinarian's recommendations regarding treatments

In case of severe blood loss, a transfusion may be necessary. There are canine blood banks that can transport and send blood urgently. Ideally, the veterinarian should test the animal's blood type and apply for a blood sample from a bank.

This solution is most useful when planning surgery, such as removing a bleeding spleen, but a delay or waiting a few hours for blood to be sent can be too much for a patient with severe bleeding

Method 5 of 5: Treating Anemia Caused by Kidney Disease

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Step 1. Look for less likely reasons for anemia

If you've eliminated all the common causes of anemia in puppies, don't give up and don't stop looking. A less common cause is kidney disease, which is less prevalent in dogs than in other species such as cats. For dogs with kidney disease, anemia arises because the kidney produces a hormone called erythropoietin, which stimulates the spinal cord to produce new red blood cells. However, in dogs with kidney failure, when active kidney tissue is replaced by scar tissue, there is a drop in the amount of cells available to produce the hormone.

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Step 2. Take home treatments for anemia

An effective treatment is to give the dog iron supplements and B vitamins. Many dogs with kidney failure have poor appetite and may be deficient in the vital building blocks of hemoglobin (the molecule that carries oxygen) in their red blood cells. However, the benefits of such supplements are limited due to the scale of the problem.

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Step 3. Treat the pre-existing cause of anemia

In this case, it is necessary to treat the lack of erythropoietin. In theory, the regular injection of the synthetic hormone should stimulate the production of new red blood cells, but unfortunately, this solution, despite looking quite simple, is fraught with problems. First, synthetic erythropoietin can be difficult to obtain and is very expensive. In addition, there is a high rate of allergic reaction to the artificial hormone, which can end up activating the body's own erythropoietin rejection, making the problem even worse rather than solving it.

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