Symptoms, Causes & Treatment of Anemia in Dogs

There are a number of health conditions which can cause anemia in dogs. Today, our Ventura vets will walk you through the different types of anemia you can expect to see in dogs as well as their symptoms and treatments. 

What is anemia in dogs?

If you dog has anemia, this condition could indicate that your pup is struggling with another different underlying condition or illness. 

Anemia happens when your pet’s body does not produce enough hemoglobin or red blood cells, or has recently suffered from severe blood loss caused by an injury, physical trauma, ulcers, or cancer. 

What are the different types of anemia?

Hemolytic Anemia

Hemolytic anemia is caused by the breakdown in the destruction of red blood cells in your dogs body. This variety of anemia often results in immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, or the non-immune mediated form of the condition. This can be caused by toxins, hereditary disease, parasites and low phosphorus levels. 


In dogs, some genetic disorders can cause too much methemoglobin and can cause methemoglobinemia. This condition can also result from exposure to toxins, some medications meant to treat humans only: like acetaminophen, benzocaine and ibuprofen. 

Blood Loss Anemia

If your dog is suffering from serious loss of blood caused by an injury, surgery, or a bleeding disorder, this can cause blood loss anemia. Anemia can also be caused by cancer, ulcers, parasites, or other health conditions. 

Aplastic or Non-Regenerative Anemia

Dogs can also develop non-regenerative or aplastic anemia when they aren't able to produce enough red blood cells. Kidney diseases, toxin exposure, bone marrow diseases, chemotherapy drugs, parvovirus along with a number of medications can cause these kinds of anemia. 

What are symptoms of anemia in dogs?

If your dog suffers from anemia, your might notice  one or more of the following symptoms. These symptoms will vary depending on the underlying cause of your dog's condition. 

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

What causes anemia in dogs?

Numerous conditions can cause anemia in your dog. Some of the most common causes of anemia found in dogs include:

  • 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
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Infectious diseases (including canine distemper)
  • Bleeding from the intestines
  • Poisons or toxins
  • Poor nutrition
  • Bone marrow disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Cancer
  • Tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Blood loss caused by parasites

How is anemia in dogs treated?

If your dog has been diagnosed with anemia, your veterinarian will recommend you a treatment based on what is causing the condition. You vet may recommend one of the following treatments:

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

Depending on the availability of effective treatment for your pup's underlying illness, your dog's prognosis will vary. Anemia can, unfortunately, indicate a very serious or fatal condition like poisoning, cancer, or autoimmune disease. 

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, the best way to prevent anemia is by preventing the conditions which cause it. Ensure that you keep toxic substances away from your dog (like medications or food for humans) and make sure you are regularly giving them a healthy diet. These actions may help prevent your dog from developing anemia.

Protect your dog against worms, fleas and ticks with year-round parasite prevention medications, and you’ll eliminate another potential cause.

If you have a breed of dog that is susceptible to developing anemia like Labrador Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, Shih Tzus and American Cocker Spaniels, schedule regular wellness exams every six months or so. If you do this, it is more likely that your vet can detect early signs of anemia so your pooch can receive diagnosis and treatment before the condition become more severe.  

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet. 

Is your dog showing signs of anemia? At VMSG Ventura, our vets can diagnose and treat a wide array of the underlying conditions which may be causing it. Contact us for more information and to ask about a referral today.

Symptoms, Treatments and Causes of Anemia in Dogs | Ventura Animal Hospital

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