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Types of Anemia in Dogs

While anemia is typically not a condition itself, it is a symptom that can be caused by a variety of conditions. In this post, our Turlock vets explain the different types of anemia seen in dogs, as well as their symptoms of anemia and how they can be treated.

Anemia in Dogs: What is it?

In dogs, anemia is a condition that indicates that your pet is suffering from an underlying disease or illness. Anemia occurs when your pet's body isn't producing enough red blood cells or hemoglobin, or when your dog suffers severe blood loss due to conditions such as cancer, or stomach ulcers, or if your dog has experienced trauma such as a serious accident or injury.

What are the different types of anemia seen in dogs?

Blood Loss Anemia

Blood loss anemia occurs when your dog has experienced severe loss of blood due to an injury, surgery, or a bleeding disorder. This form of anemia could also be caused by internal bleeding due to cancer, ulcers, parasites, or other health conditions.  Anemia caused by blood loss is a form of regenerative anemia. This is because although the bone marrow responds appropriately to the decreased number of red blood cells by increasing production it is unable to meet the demand.

Hemolytic Anemia

Hemolytic anemia is caused by the destruction or breakdown of red blood cells in your dog's body. This form of anemia is often the result of immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA), autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA), or non-immune mediated caused by a hereditary disease, parasites, toxins, or low phosphorous levels.

Aplastic or Non-Regenerative Anemia

Aplastic or non-regenerative anemia develops in dogs due to insufficient production of red blood cells. This form of anemia can occur due to toxin exposure, bone marrow disease, kidney disease, certain medications, chemotherapy drugs, or parvovirus.


Methemoglobinemia in dogs is caused by too much methemoglobin in the blood due to certain genetic disorders, or exposure to toxins including several different medications meant for human use only such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or benzocaine.

Signs & Symptoms of Anemia in Dogs

Some symptoms are prevalent with anemia in dogs. Your dog's anemia symptoms will vary based on the underlying cause of your pup's condition.

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

What are the causes of anemia in dogs?

Many different types of medical conditions can result in anemia. Some of the most common causes of anemia in dogs include:

  • Medications that interfere with red blood cell production
  • Blood loss caused by parasites 
  • Cancer
  • Kidney disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Infectious diseases including canine distemper
  • Severe blood loss as a result of accident or injury
  • Toxins or poisons
  • Tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease
  • Poor nutrition
  • Bone marrow disease
  • Intestinal bleeding
  • Chronic diseases that suppress red blood cell production

What are the treatment options for anemia in dogs?

Once diagnosed with anemia, your vet will also need to diagnose the underlying condition. Once this condition causing the anemia has been diagnosed, your vet will be able to recommend and begin the appropriate treatment. Some of the treatments that your vet may recommend include:

  • Surgery
  • Blood transfusion
  • Bone marrow transfusion
  • Chemotherapy
  • Intravenous fluids
  • Change of existing medications
  • Antibiotics or immunosuppressive drugs
  • Potassium phosphate supplements
  • Gastrointestinal medication
  • Parasite or de-worming medications

The outlook for dogs affected by anemia depends on the underlying condition and the treatment options for that specific illness or disease. Severe anemia in dogs can indicate a very serious or possibly fatal condition such as poisoning, cancer, or an autoimmune condition. If your pooch is showing any signs of anemia you should reach out to our vets and schedule an examination.

How can you prevent anemia in dogs?

When it comes to preventing anemia in dogs, it all begins with preventing the conditions that anemia is a common symptom of. Year-round parasite prevention medications to protect your dog against ticks, fleas, and worms are one way to help your dog avoid developing anemia.

Keeping toxic substances such as human medications and foods far out of your dog's reach as well as providing your dog with a healthy diet, may also help to prevent your dog from developing anemia.

If your canine companion is a breed that is susceptible to developing anemia (Shih Tzus, Labrador Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, and American Cocker Spaniels) regular wellness examinations twice yearly may help to detect the signs of anemia early, and provide treatment before the condition becomes 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.

If your dog is experiencing symptoms that indicate a medical condition, please contact our vets at Community Veterinary Clinic right away to schedule an examination.

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Community Veterinary Clinic is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Turlock companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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