What is anaemia in dogs?

Anaemia in dogs occurs when there is a decrease in the number of red blood cells in the body.

These cells carry oxygen around your dog’s body, which is essential for all basic bodily functions, so a reduction can lead to dogs becoming extremely unwell.

I’m worried that my dog is anaemic, what should I do?

Severe anaemia in dogs can be life-threatening and requires urgent treatment. Milder cases may be treatable but quick action is still essential. If you suspect your dog is suffering from anaemia, contact your vet, or out of hours, your nearest Vets Now immediately.

Image of a dog's face for Vets Now article on anaemia in dogs and symptoms of anemia in dogs

What causes anaemia in dogs?

There are many causes and types of anaemia. The condition can result from blood loss, the destruction of red blood cells with the body, or inadequate production of new cells, and is typically caused by an underlying condition.

Specific conditions which can cause anaemia include:

  • Excessive blood loss (as a result of trauma)
  • Bone marrow disease
  • Infections
  • Immune-mediated diseases (when the body attacks its own cells or organs)
  • Abscesses
  • Cancer
  • Kidney disease
  • Drugs
  • Toxic chemicals
  • Toxic foods (such as onions)
  • Inherited disorders

What are the symptoms of anaemia in dogs?

Signs of anaemia in dogs, or that your dog could be developing anaemia, can vary widely depending on the underlying condition and can range from mild to severe.

Symptoms can include pale gums, tiredness, lethargy, exercise intolerance and decreased appetite. Other possible signs include sleeping more than normal, stopping grooming themselves, increased breathing and heart rate and passing black stools.

In some milder cases, your dog may not display any symptoms and the condition can only be detected through blood testing.

Is my dog at risk of anaemia?

Due to the numerous possible underlying causes of anaemia in dogs, any dog could, in effect, suffer from the condition.

How will the vet diagnose anaemia in dogs?

Anaemia in dogs is generally a symptom of another disease, therefore your vet will want to know your dog’s symptoms and health history in order to diagnose the underlying problem. In order to establish a diagnosis your vet may perform a variety of tests which could include a physical examination, complete blood counts, urine analysis, iron testing, evaluations of liver, kidney, and pancreatic functions, electrolyte testing and bone marrow testing.

How is anaemia in dogs treated?

The treatment for anaemia varies widely depending on the underlying cause. Some examples of treatment options your vet could opt for could include fluids, gastrointestinal medication, antibiotics, changing medications, parasite/deworming medication or, in severe cases, blood transfusions.

How can I prevent my dog getting anaemia?

There is no definitive protection against anaemia due to the variety of possible underlying causes, but there are a number of general steps you can take to keep your dog safe and minimise their risk. These include ensuring your dog is up to date with flea and tick repellent treatment and parasite prevention medication and keeping any substances that could do them harm — such as rat poison, toxic foods or medication — well out of their reach. Keeping them safe from major injuries, as a result of car accidents, for example, will also prevent them suffering trauma.