Dog Hemolytic Anemia
Dog Hemolytic Anemia
The diagnosis of hemolytic anemia in your dog can be devastating. This is a type of anemia that directly affects the immune system. The red blood cells become covered with antibody proteins, which mark them for destruction.
When an excessive amount of red blood cells are destroyed, the patient becomes anemic.
Your dog will be weak. They will feel cold and will take on a yellowish tint to the gums and eyes. This is due to the fact that the cells are being destroyed within the body, rather than other forms of anemia which result from bleeding.
There will also be a loss of interest in food and a Dog Loss of Appetite.
Urine becomes dark, presenting as an orange or brown color.
As soon as you notice these symptoms, you must get your dog to the veterinarian as quickly as possible.
When your vet sees your dog and notices its obvious pallor or yellow tinge (jaundice) the first test that will be run is a packed cell volume. This blood test will indicate the red blood count. It will also show the serum, which has been separated from the red cells to be orange rather than the normal color, which is off-white.
An additional blood panel may also be done. It measures the same thing as the packed cell test, but is more complete. Anemia can be mild or severe and due to the destruction of the cells or inadequate production of red blood cells.
What will the tests tell you?
The blood tests performed will tell the veterinarian whether the anemia is caused by the destruction of red blood cells or internal bleeding. The internal bleeding will not be as obvious and for this the tests are necessary.
Not only will the red blood count be low, but due to the stimulation within the bone marrow due to the disease process, the white count will be alarmingly high.
When the definitive diagnosis is made, the cause is the next information that needs to be obtained.
Treatment during the crisis
Most dogs with hemolytic anemia are unstable. If the hematocrit (red blood cell count) is very low, a blood transfusion will be necessary. Often there will be more than one transfusion to work towards the hopeful improvement in the dog’s condition.
During this time it is necessary that the dog’s nutritional needs and fluid levels are maintained. This is not always easy without further intravenous administration, due to the dog not having an appetite.
Initially a type of artificial blood may be transfused. This is harvested from cow’s blood. Since actual blood is not being used, the immune system will not be stimulated and will help the anemia. The down side is that the artificial blood does not last as long in the dogs body as real blood. Its duration is about forty eight hours.
A transfusion of matched pack cells or whole blood may last longer. This type of transfusion will last for three to four weeks. The process does not stop, however. Often many transfusions are necessary.
Administration of dexamethasone, which is a corticosteroid, will suppress the immune system and consequently slow down the destruction of the red cells. Often this is the only medication needed. It is not however a cure all.
This type of Dog Anemia can be caused by toxins that destroy a dog’s red blood cells, such as in Dog Tylenol Poisoning, Dog Zinc Poisoning (such as found in pennies), and Dog Food Poisoning such as in onion toxicity.