Anemia can be defined as a lack or deficiency of red blood cells or hemoglobin, which is the hemoprotein responsible for binding with oxygen, and then transporting it to every cell of the body. Like humans, a dog can also have anemia. In humans, the disease is often caused by nutritional deficiency, like deficiency of iron and vitamin B12. But, iron deficiency is rarely the cause of anemia in your canine companions. Instead, it can be a symptom of certain conditions, some of which can be really serious. It can be an indicator that the body is losing too much of red blood cells, or the bone marrow cells are failing to produce enough new red blood cells to replace the dead ones. What Causes Anemia in Dogs?
More commonly, anemia in dog is caused by loss of blood, which can happen due to injury or worm and flea infestation. Parasites like, hookworms reside in the intestinal tract of the dogs, and suck blood and other nutrients from there. However, in many times, conditions that impair the normal process of blood clotting can also cause anemia. Sometimes, the immune system of the dog can produce certain antibodies, that attack and destroy the red blood cells. This condition is referred as autoimmune hemolytic anemia. Some other important causes include, toxicity developed due to the intake of certain medications, hypothyroidism, ulcers, tumors of the intestinal tract and kidneys, and cancer. Rarely, the lack of iron in the diet can also cause anemia in these animals. Anemia Symptoms in Dogs
A decrease in the red blood cell count usually weakens the dogs, for which the animal would experience more fatigue even with little exertion. Additionally, loss of appetite, pale gum, tongue and eyes, increased heart rate and listlessness can also be observed in the affected animal. The activity level of the dog can reduce significantly, and it may tend to sleep more than it usually does. The symptoms, which can indicate a serious condition are, vomiting, weight loss, an enlarged spleen, presence of blood in the stool or urine, and seizures. Diagnosis and Treatment for Anemia in Dogs
Diagnosis of this condition can involve several tests and examinations. Generally, the condition is diagnosed with blood tests, to find out the complete red blood cell and hemoglobin count, and also the number of immature red blood cells. To find out the exact causes of decreased red blood cells, bone marrow biopsy is carried out. The cells of the bone marrow are concerned with the production of red blood cells and hence, a biopsy of bone marrow helps to detect the conditions, that can impair red blood cell production. Such conditions may include serious diseases like, leukemia and bone marrow cancer.
The treatment would depend on the underlying causes, and how severe the condition is. Severe cases may require blood transfusion. In the meantime, different treatment options can be required to treat the root causes of anemia. As for example, if the red blood cells are being attacked by the immune system of the dog, then immunosuppressant medications would be required. If nutritional deficiency is the main cause for red blood cell or hemoglobin deficiency, then it can be treated with supplementation. Vitamin B12 supplements can prove very effective in this regard, as this is a crucial vitamin required for strengthening the bone marrow, and facilitating the production of red blood cells. Similarly, vitamin C can also help, particularly in iron absorption.
In addition to nutritional supplementation, it is very important to give your dog a nutritious or balanced diet with dog foods rich in protein, iron and vitamins. Equally important is to understand and recognize its symptoms on time. So, if your dog looks very weak or it exhibits a low activity level for some time, along with other symptoms of anemia, be sure to consult a veterinarian. This would ensure timely diagnosis and treatment, and increased possibility for early recovery.
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