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Hemolytic Anemia In Dogs – Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Hemolytic Anemia In Dogs

What Is Hemolytic Anemia In Dogs?

An anemic dog doesn’t have required red blood cells (Hb or Hgb) or hemoglobin (RBCs) or occasionally both, at any given time in the circulating bloodstream. Hemolytic anemia is a subtype of anemia where there is premature destruction of erythrocytes.

A hemolytic anemia will develop if bone marrow activity cannot replenish the loss of erythrocytes i.e they are destroyed faster than they are produced.

Hemolytic anemia in dogs may be either primary or secondary. Hemolytic Anemia is more intricate than it seems - while it can be one of several symptoms that manifest caused by a condition prowling quietly, there is also a likelihood that it may be the only symptom that surfaces outward or it can be a standalone condition.

Hemolytic anemia is often caused due to autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA) or immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) or non-immune mediated often due to the result of toxins, low phosphorous levels, or hereditary diseases.

Symptoms Of Hemolytic Anemia In Dogs

  • “Tarry” or black stools or bloody stools or urine (hematuria) or vomit.
  • Loss of the normal pink color of the gingiva (whitish or pale pink).
  • Bruises or worse bruises than usual on the skin (purpura).
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Labored breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swelling of the face or jaw.
  • Exercise intolerance

Treatment Options For Hemolytic Anemia In Dogs

Your vet may recommend diagnostic tests depending on your dog’s health, current symptoms, and medical history.

Depending on the underlying cause, vets may recommend one or a combination of these treatments:

  • Antibiotics
  • Gastrointestinal medication
  • Deworming or parasite medications
  • Bone marrow transfusion
  • Intravenous fluids
  • Blood transfusion
  • Immunosuppressive drugs
  • Potassium phosphate supplements
  • Surgery

Home Remedies For Hemolytic Anemia In Dogs

When your dog is fighting hemolytic anemia or if he is having acute blood loss, do not try to use any home remedies.

The home remedies for anemia in dogs start with providing their body with enough nutrients to facilitate the synthesis of iron in their body.

How To Prevent Hemolytic Anemia In Dogs?

  • Keeping toxins like rat poison away from the reach of dogs.
  • Human medications (like acetaminophen and ibuprofen) are away from your dog.
  • Keep allergic foods away from your dog (such as onion, garlic, wheat, and soy).
  • Always feed your dog a complete, balanced food and high-quality food that's certified by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
  • Keeping up with vet visits at least once a year.
  • Get your dog's stool tested once in a while to check for parasites and check with your vet for a broad-spectrum dewormer.

Affected Dog Breeds Of Hemolytic Anemia

Vizsla, Irish Setter, Cocker Spaniel, Scottish Terrier, Old English Sheepdog, Miniature Schnauzer, English Springer Spaniel, Poodle, Doberman Pinscher, Dachshund, German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, Collie

Causes And Types For Hemolytic Anemia In Dogs

  1. Causes:


  • Autoimmune disease.


  • Canine parvovirus, Influenza, and other infectious diseases.
  • Immune-mediated diseases.
  • Parasite infestations (ticks, fleas, hookworms).
  • Reactions to medications such as NSAIDs.
  • Infections: Bacterial infections, viral Infections including canine distemper, and infectious diseases such as Babesiosis.
  • Cushing's disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Chronic diseases suppress red blood cell production.
  • Exposure to toxins or inhalation of chemicals and poisons.
  1. Types:

Inherited Hemolytic Anemias:

  • Thalassemias: Decreased production of certain types of hemoglobin.
  • Hereditary Spherocytosis: Spherical, or ball-shaped RBCs due to a defect in the outer covering (surface membrane) of red blood cells. These blood cells are fragile and have a shortened lifespan.
  • Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA): Dog’s own immune system attacks its RBCs.

Acquired Hemolytic Anemias:

  • Alloimmune Hemolytic Anemia: This happens after a blood transfusion when the transfused blood is different from the dog's blood.
  • Drug-induced Hemolytic Anemia: Certain medications produce antibodies that develop into hemolytic anemia. Levodopa, acetaminophen, antimalarial medicines, quinine, etc.
  • Mechanical Hemolytic Anemias: RBCs are physically damaged in some cases such as Hemodialysis, Preeclampsia, etc.
  1. Mortality:

Sadly, certain hemolytic anemia causes indicate your dog is suffering from a very serious or life-threatening condition (such as cancer, toxins, autoimmune conditions, or severe trauma) and they have a less favorable prognosis.

  1. Diagnosis:
  • Routine hematology, blood smears
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Bone marrow aspirations and core biopsies.
  • Clonality assessment by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing.
  • Immunophenotyping
  1. Prognosis:

Hemolytic anemia affected dogs’ prognosis depending on their health condition at the time of diagnosis. If the dog is in relatively good health at the time of diagnosis of the condition, prompt treatment for the principal illness will yield a good prognosis.

When To See A Vet For Hemolytic Anemia In Dogs?

Contact your vet right away, if you notice any of the following:

  • Black or “tarry” stools, dark blood in feces or urine (hematuria), or vomit.
  • Loss of the normal pink color of the gingiva (whitish or pale pink).

Food Suggestions For Hemolytic Anemia In Dogs

  1. Dog Food High In Iron:
    • Cooked liver: 4 ounces for a large dog; 2 ounces for a smaller dog.
    • Lamb meat and Lean meats like lamb, and ground beef.
    • DHA - Salmon, Tuna, Sardine, Anchovies.
    • Beef stew / Beef balls
  1. Vitamin C: Large dogs (500 - 1500 milligrams), medium dogs (250 -1500 mg).
  2. Vitamin B: Lamb brain, Mackerel, Oats, Rice flour, Sweet potatoes, Watermelon, Banana, etc.
  3. Foods with Vitamin B9: Whole wheat, Carrots, Pumpkin, and Egg yolks.
  4. Green vegetables and leafy produce: Carrots, Beets, Kale, Spinach, Seaweed.
  5. Grains: Barley, Brown rice, Oatmeal.


While certain causes of anemia are not always preventable, there are some measures that pet parents can take to reduce the risk of their dog becoming anemic from preventable causes.

If the anemia is detected so late, or the anemia is due to life-threatening hereditary diseases or toxins, and if the dog is relatively in a poor state of health, then the prognosis is guarded.

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