Anemia in dogs results from various underlying health issues, posing a serious concern. Our Weldon Spring emergency and specialist vets delve into the different types of anemia observed in dogs, outline their symptoms, and detail treatment options.

Anemia in Dogs

Anemia in dogs signals an underlying disease or illness. It arises when your pet's body fails to produce adequate red blood cells or hemoglobin, or when severe blood loss occurs due to conditions like cancer or stomach ulcers. Traumatic events such as serious accidents or injuries can also lead to anemia in dogs.

Types of Anemia Seen in Dogs

Blood Loss Anemia

Blood loss anemia happens when your dog loses a significant amount of blood from an injury, surgery, or a bleeding disorder. Internal bleeding from conditions like cancer, ulcers, parasites, or other health issues can also lead to this type of anemia. It's a regenerative form of anemia, as the bone marrow ramps up red blood cell production in response to the decreased count, but it struggles to keep up with demand.

Hemolytic Anemia

Hemolytic anemia occurs when red blood cells in your dog's body are destroyed or break down. It commonly stems from immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) or autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA). Additionally, it can be caused by hereditary diseases, parasites, toxins, or low phosphorous levels, not involving the immune system.

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.


Dogs develop methemoglobinemia when an excess of methemoglobin accumulates in their blood, either due to specific genetic disorders or exposure to toxins like various medications intended solely for human use, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or benzocaine.

Signs That Your Dog May Be Anemic

If your dog is suffering from anemia you may notice one or more of the following symptoms. 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

Causes of Anemia in Dogs

Your pup can develop anemia due to various conditions. Among the most common causes of anemia in dogs are:

  • 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

Treatment for Dogs with Anemia

If your pup receives a diagnosis of anemia, your vet will base the treatment on the underlying cause of the condition. Your vet may recommend some treatments, including:

  • 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 prognosis for dogs with anemia relies on the availability of effective treatment for the underlying illness. Severe anemia in dogs can signal a very serious or possibly fatal condition such as poisoning, cancer, or an autoimmune condition. If your dog exhibits any signs of anemia, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to schedule an examination.

Preventing Anemia in Dogs

Preventing anemia in your dog involves actively avoiding the conditions that lead to it whenever possible. One method is administering year-round parasite prevention medications to shield your dog from ticks, fleas, and worms.

Additionally, keeping toxic substances like human medications and foods out of your dog's reach and ensuring they have a nutritious diet can also aid in preventing anemia.

For breeds prone to anemia such as Shih Tzus, Labrador Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, and American Cocker Spaniels, scheduling regular wellness examinations twice yearly with your primary care veterinarian can aid in early detection of anemia signs and facilitate prompt treatment before the condition worsens.

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 a veterinary emergency in the Weldon Spring area contact us right away. Our vets are available to provide urgent care 24/7.