What is anaemia?

If your dog or cat has been diagnosed it can be scary and confusing. Anaemia is a reduced number of red blood cells circulating in the blood stream. Anaemia is not a disease itself but rather a symptom of a disease.

Red blood cells carry oxygen around your pet’s body, while removing carbon dioxide. Red blood cells are made in your dog’s bone marrow, and they circulate for about three months before they break down and need to be replaced.

Signs of anaemia in pets:

  • Pale Gums: Instead of a healthy pink colour gums will appear pale pink or white
  • Tiredness: anaemia causes fatigue, pets may appear listless or tired and won’t want to play
  • Other clinical signs may be present from the disease causing anaemia: drinking lots and peeing lot or dark tarry stools.

Causes of Anaemia

Tests carried out

Packed Cell Volume: This will establish if there is anaemia present. This is a measure of the percentage of red blood cells present in the blood. Anything less than 35% is considered anaemic

Complete blood cell count: takes a look at the make-up of your dog’s blood, evaluating the individual components to give us a better idea of what is going on.

Blood smear: is where the blood is examined under the microscope and may reveal any blood parasites or abnormal cells, such as a high white blood cell count, which could indicate leukemia. Blood smears also help establish if anaemia is responsive (ie the bone marrow is producing more red blood cells) or non-responsive (ie the bone marrow is not responding and producing more cells)

More tests will need to be carried out after to help figure out the cause of the anaemia like kidney tests, ultrasound scans etc

Treating Anaemia

First step with treating anaemia is to assess whether the anaemia is life threatening or not. If severe enough patient may need blood transfusion while a plan is made for diagnosing and treating.

Treatment of the anaemia after this depends on the underlying conditions.