Anemia isn’t a disease, but it is an indication that something is wrong with your pet. It’s caused by a drop in the number of red blood cells and can be a result of a medical issue, parasites, or from eating certain human foods. It’s important for pet owners to know the signs of anemia, because it is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that needs immediate attention.
Red blood cells are produced in the bone marrow, and their primary function is to transport oxygen throughout the body and collect carbon dioxide. When the number of red blood cells drop, the kidneys detect a decrease in oxygen and secrete a hormone called erythropoietin which sends a signal to the bone marrow to produce more red blood cells. If there is a lack of certain vitamins and minerals, such as copper, iron and B12, the bone marrow doesn’t have all of the ingredients it needs to produce new red blood cells and can’t provide enough of them, which can result in a pet becoming anemic.
What Causes Anemia?
When a pet is anemic, there is an underlying issue causing it. It could be from blood loss caused by trauma (hit by a car, from a fall, physical abuse) or other injuries and bites. Anemia could be caused by bone marrow disease, immune-mediated disease (when there’s a short circuit in the immune system causing it to attack the body’s normal cells and organs), infectious diseases, genetic defects, cancer, disease of major organs, kidney disease, or a bleeding tumor located in the kidneys, intestine, spleen or nose.
Parasites like worms and fleas can also cause blood loss in pets resulting in anemia, which is why it’s so important to be proactive when it comes to battling these pests. Both can be deadly for your pet if left untreated. A dog that ingests pennies can also become anemic.
Medications (both human and pet), onions, chives and garlic can damage red blood cells, causing anemia in dogs and cats if they consume it too often. A small amount isn’t likely to cause harm, but larger amounts can cause digestive issues and anemia. The best way to prevent unnecessary medical issues for your dog or cat is to never feed them human food unless you’ve checked it out first to make sure it isn’t toxic for them to eat. If you aren’t sure, don’t give it to them. Drugs used to treat cancer, and anti-inflammatory drugs for dogs and cats can increase their risk of developing anemia.
Symptoms of Anemia
Symptoms in dogs and cats can vary depending on your pet and what the medical issue is that’s causing red blood cell damage. Symptoms include pale gums, lack of appetite, loss of weight, lethargy, staggering, an abnormal fast pulse, tarry black stools, eating dirt, ears or toes that are cooler than normal, no interest in playing, and lack of grooming.
Anemia can be fatal, especially if left untreated. If you suspect your pet may be anemic, it’s crucial to get him to a vet immediately. Tests can be done to find out what is causing damage to your pet’s red blood cell count.
Anemia is a common health issue found in dogs and cats, but it can be treated. The treatment will depend on what is causing your pet to be anemic and how severe it is.
Read more articles by Linda Cole