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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Inadequate Red Blood Cell Production




Condition Overview

When the metabolic activity of the bone marrow is depressed, new red blood cells are not manufactured as fast as old ones are destroyed. This results in anemia due to inadequate red blood cell production.


Anemia is a common symptom.


A common cause of bone marrow depression is chronic illness, especially associated with kidney and liver disease.

Iron, trace minerals, vitamins, and fatty acids are all incorporated into red blood cells. Thus a deficiency of one or more of these nutrients could slow down or stop cell production. This is an unusual cause of anemia in dogs, because commercial dog foods contain more than adequate amounts of essential vitamins and minerals.

Iron deficiency is an exception. It occurs when iron is lost from the body faster than it can be replaced through the diet. The two situations in which this is most likely to happen are chronic gastrointestinal bleeding and a heavy infestation of blood-sucking insects (such as fleas, ticks, or lice).

Red blood cell production can be depressed by certain drugs. Estrogen is an important cause of bone marrow depression. This includes estrogens given for medical purposes as well as those produced by testicular and ovarian tumors. Other drugs that depress the bone marrow include chemotherapy agents, chloramphenicol, butasolidin, thiacetarsamide, quinidine, and trimethoprimsulfadiazine.

Primary and metastatic cancer can invade the bone marrow and crowd out normal cells, also depressing red blood cell production.


The diagnosis of inadequate red cell production is made by bone marrow biopsy.


Treatment is directed toward eliminating the cause of the bone marrow deficiency. The dog should be screened for kidney and liver disease. Iron deficiency anemia warrants stool examination and a further medical workup. Estrogen-producing tumors of the ovary or testicle should be sought and treated. Many drug-related causes of bone marrow depression reverse when the drug is stopped.

Erythropoietin is a substance that stimulates red blood cell production. It is normally manufactured by the kidneys and, to a much lesser extent, by the liver. Recombinant erythropoietin has been used for the most part, but the dog eventually develops antibodies against it. A new canine recombinant version will be available soon.


Information needed.


Please contact your veterinarian if you suspect your pet may be afflicted with this condition.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

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