Anemia is defined as a deficiency of red blood cells (erythrocytes) in the circulatory system. Adult dogs are anemic when the concentration of red blood cells in the whole blood is less than 37% by volume. The normal range is 39 - 60%.
The purpose of red blood cells is to carry oxygen. The symptoms of anemia are caused by insufficient oxygen in the organs and muscles. Signs include lack of appetite, lethargy, and weakness. The mucous membranes of the gums and tongue become pale pink to white. In dogs with severe anemia, the pulse and respiratory rate are rapid and the dog may collapse with exertion. A heart murmur may be heard.
Anemia can be caused by blood loss, hemolysis, or inadequate red blood cell production.
In adult dogs, the most common causes of blood loss are trauma, slow gastrointestinal bleeding associated with stomach and duodenal ulcers, parasites, and tumors in the gastrointestinal tract. Chronic blood loss also occurs through the urinary system. Hookworms and fleas are common causes of chronic blood loss in puppies.
Gastrointestinal bleeding can be detected by checking the stools for microscopic traces of blood. Urinalysis will pick up traces of blood in the urine that may not be visible to the naked eye. Other tests can also be used to determine the cause of microscopic bleeding.
Treatment must be directed toward the cause of the anemia.
There is currently no prevention for this condition.
Please contact your veterinarian if you think your pet may have this condition.
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