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Anemia In Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment



Reviewed By: Dr. Joel Robertson

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Dogs, like humans, can suffer from a variety of health conditions, one of which is anemia.

Anemia in dogs is a serious condition that requires immediate attention and appropriate treatment.

It is characterized by a decrease in the number of red blood cells or the amount of hemoglobin in the blood, leading to a lack of oxygen being delivered to the body’s tissues and organs.

This comprehensive guide aims to provide a detailed understanding of anemia in dogs, its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

It also provides guidance on diet and home care for anemic dogs, and when it is crucial to seek veterinary care.

Understanding Anemia in Dogs

Anemia In Dogs Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Anemia is a medical condition that occurs when the number of red blood cells or the amount of hemoglobin (the protein that carries oxygen) in the blood is lower than normal.

Red blood cells are produced in the bone marrow and live for about two months. They are responsible for delivering oxygen to the body’s tissues and organs.

When a dog is anemic, it means that the body is not getting enough oxygen, which can lead to a variety of health problems.

Anemia is not a disease in itself, but rather a symptom of an underlying condition. It can be caused by a wide range of factors such as blood loss, destruction of red blood cells, or inadequate red blood cell production.

Understanding the cause of anemia is crucial for effective treatment and management of the condition.

Symptoms of Anemia in Dogs

1. Fatigue

An anemic dog may appear tired or lethargic due to a lack of oxygen in the body. They may be less active than usual and may not show interest in activities they usually enjoy.

2. Weakness

Weakness is another common symptom of anemia in dogs. This can manifest as difficulty standing or walking, or a general lack of strength.

3. Pale Gums

The gums of an anemic dog may appear paler than usual. This is due to a decrease in the number of red blood cells, which gives the gums their normal pink color.

4. Rapid Breathing

An anemic dog may breathe more rapidly than usual. This is the body’s attempt to get more oxygen to the tissues.

5. Loss of Appetite

An anemic dog may show a decrease in appetite or may refuse to eat altogether. This can lead to weight loss over time.

6. Dark-Colored Urine

In some cases, anemia can cause a dog’s urine to become darker than usual. This can be a sign of hemolysis or the destruction of red blood cells.

Causes of Anemia in Dogs

1. Blood Loss

Blood loss due to injury, surgery, or a heavy infestation of parasites like fleas or ticks can lead to anemia. The loss of red blood cells can be acute (sudden) or chronic (over time).

2. Destruction of Red Blood Cells

Certain diseases or conditions can cause the body to destroy its own red blood cells, a condition known as hemolytic anemia. This can be caused by autoimmune diseases, certain types of cancer, or exposure to toxins or certain medications.

3. Inadequate Red Blood Cell Production

In some cases, the body may not produce enough red blood cells to replace those that are lost naturally. This can be due to chronic diseases, such as kidney disease, or nutritional deficiencies.

Diagnosing Anemia in Dogs

Diagnosing anemia in dogs involves a thorough physical examination and a series of tests. The vet will likely start by asking about your dog’s medical history and symptoms.

They will then perform a physical examination, which may include checking your dog’s gums for paleness and listening to their heart and lungs.

If anemia is suspected, the vet will likely order a complete blood count (CBC). This test measures the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in a sample of blood.

It can also measure the amount of hemoglobin in the red blood cells and the percentage of the blood that is made up of red blood cells (hematocrit). If the CBC shows that your dog is anemic, further tests may be needed to determine the cause.

These could include a blood chemistry panel, which can provide information about your dog’s liver and kidney function and electrolyte levels; a urinalysis, which can help detect urinary tract infections and kidney disease; and a fecal examination, which can identify parasites.

In some cases, the vet may also recommend imaging tests like X-rays or an ultrasound, or more specialized tests like a bone marrow biopsy.

Treatment for Anemia in Dogs

1. Identifying and Treating the Underlying Cause

The first step in treating anemia in dogs is to identify and treat the underlying cause. This could involve treating a disease, stopping a medication, or addressing a nutritional deficiency. The specific treatment will depend on the cause of the anemia.

2. Blood Transfusion

In severe cases of anemia, a blood transfusion may be necessary. This involves giving the dog blood from a donor dog. The transfused blood provides the dog with the red blood cells it needs to carry oxygen to its tissues.

3. Medications

In some cases, medications may be used to stimulate the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow, reduce the destruction of red blood cells, or treat the underlying cause of the anemia.

4. Monitoring

After treatment has begun, the vet will need to monitor your dog’s condition closely. This will likely involve regular blood tests to check the number of red blood cells and the level of hemoglobin in your dog’s blood.

Diet for Anemic Dogs


The liver is a good source of iron, which is needed to produce red blood cells. It can be cooked and added to your dog’s regular food.

2. Red Meat

Red meat, such as beef, is another good source of iron. It also provides protein, which is necessary for the production of red blood cells.

3. Fish

Fish is a good source of iron and omega-3 fatty acids, which can help to improve blood flow and reduce inflammation.

4. Poultry

Poultry, such as chicken and turkey, is a good source of iron and protein. It’s also generally easy for dogs to digest.

5. Beans

Beans are a good source of iron and other important nutrients. However, they should be cooked and served in moderation, as they can cause digestive upset in some dogs.

6. Dark Leafy Green Vegetables

Dark leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and kale, are high in iron and other important nutrients. They can be cooked and added to your dog’s regular food.

Prevention of Anemia in Dogs

1. Regular Vet Check-ups

Regular vet check-ups can help to catch any potential health problems early before they lead to anemia.

2. Balanced Diet

Feeding your dog a balanced diet that is rich in iron and other essential nutrients can help to prevent anemia.

3. Parasite Prevention

Keeping your dog free from parasites, such as fleas and ticks, can help to prevent anemia caused by blood loss.

4. Regular Vaccinations

Regular vaccinations can help to protect your dog from diseases that can cause anemia.

In Conclusion

Anemia in dogs is a condition that can be caused by various factors and can manifest through several symptoms.

Understanding these symptoms and causes is the first step towards ensuring the health and well-being of your pet.

While this guide provides a comprehensive overview of anemia in dogs, it is important to remember that each dog is unique and may require different care or treatment.

Therefore, regular vet check-ups are essential for early detection and treatment of any health issues. If your dog shows any signs of anemia, seek veterinary care immediately.

With proper care and treatment, anemic dogs can lead a healthy and fulfilling life. Always remember, your pet’s health is in your hands, and your love and care are the best medicine.

Please take the time and leave a comment below if this article helped you, or you have any additional questions.

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