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Causes & Symptoms of Anemia in Dogs

Causes & Symptoms of Anemia in Dogs

Our Huntersville North Carolina vets often see anemia in dogs. However, this condition is viewed a symptom of an underlying health issue rather than the actual illness. Here is more about the causes, symptoms and treatments for anemia in dogs.

What is anemia in dogs?

Anemia in dogs is a condition which is typically a symptom of an underlying disease. Anemia occurs if your dog's body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells or haemoglobin, or if they suffer severe blood loss due to condition such as cancer or stomach ulcers, or trauma such as a a serious accident or injury.

What are the types of anemia seen in dogs?

Blood Loss Anemia 

  • Due to severe loss of blood caused by injury, surgery, or a bleeding disorder. This form of anemia may also be caused by internal bleeding due to parasites, cancer, ulcers or other conditions.

Hemolytic Anemia

  • This form of anemia is caused by the destruction or breakdown of red blood cells. Often the result of immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) or autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA), or non-immune mediated caused by hereditary disease, parasites, toxins, or low phosphorous levels.

Aplastic or Non-Regenerative Anemia 

  • Insufficient production of red blood cells is the cause of this form of aplastic or non-regenerative anemia in dogs. This form of anemia may occur due to toxin exposure (poisoning), bone marrow disease, kidney disease, parvovirus, certain medications, or chemotherapy drugs.


  • Too much methemoglobin in the blood caused by certain genetic disorders, or exposure to toxins including some human medications such as benzocaine, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen.

What are the signs or symptoms of anemia in dogs?

The signs and symptoms of anemia in dogs vary based on the underlying cause but may include one or more of the following:

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

What conditions cause anemia in dogs?

There are a number of conditions which can lead to anemia occurring in dogs, such as:

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

Can a dog die from anemia?

Unfortunately, anaemia in dogs can sometimes indicate that your dog is suffering from a very serious or possibly fatal condition such as cancer, autoimmune conditions or poisoning. For that reason, anemia in dogs should always be taken seriously. If your dog is showing any of the signs of anemia contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to schedule an appointment for your dog.

Can anemia in dogs be cured?

The prognosis for anemia in dogs depends on the cause and whether treatment is available for the underlying illness. Once your vet has established the cause of your dog's anemia they will recommend the best possible treatment. Some treatments that may be recommended for your dog include:

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


Preventing the conditions which lead to anemia, whenever possible, is the key to preventing anemia. Year round parasite prevention medications to protect your dog against ticks, fleas, and worms is one way to help your dog avoid developing anemia. Keeping toxic substances far out of your dog's reach, and providing your dog with a healthy diet may also help to prevent your dog from developing anemia.

If your dog is a breed that is susceptible to developing anemia including American Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, and Shih Tzus, regular wellness examinations twice yearly at your primary care veterinarian may help to detect the early signs of anemia, 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 displaying symptoms of anemia contact your primary care veterinarian for advice, and to schedule an appointment. For urgent care, contact Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Huntersville. Our vets are available any time that you are unable to reach your primary care veterinarian - late nights, weekends or holidays - we are here to help your pet. 

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At Carolina Veterinary Specialists, we accept new clients to our specialty services by referral. Our 24/7 emergency service accepts all clients.

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