Anemia is a potentially serious condition caused by a sudden or severe decrease in red blood cells (hemoglobin). Here, our Madison vets discuss the signs and symptoms of anemia in dogs and share some common causes and what to expect from treatment.

What is anemia in dogs?

Anemia is not typically a condition on its own and is typically caused by an underlying condition. Anemia in dogs occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells or hemoglobin, or when they suffer severe blood loss due to conditions such as cancer or stomach ulcers, or trauma such as an injury or accident.

Signs & Symptoms of Anemia in Dogs

When anemia develops in dogs, some of the symptoms they experience may include:

  • Black stools
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Pale gums, eyes, or ears
  • Fast pulse or rapid breathing
  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Swelling in the face or jaw

What causes anemia in dogs?

Because anemia is a symptom rather than a disease, there are many conditions which can lead to anemia in dogs, including:

  • Cancer
  • Kidney disease
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Medications that interfere with red blood cell production
  • Infectious diseases including canine distemper
  • Severe blood loss as a result of trauma (accident or injury)
  • Poor nutrition
  • Intestinal bleeding caused by medications or disease
  • Blood loss caused by parasitic infections such as hookworms, whipworms, or fleas 
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Chronic diseases that affect or suppress red blood cell production
  • Bone marrow disease
  • Toxins or poisons including rat poison or lead poisoning
  • Tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease

Is anemia in dogs treatable?

The prognosis for anemia in dogs depends on the cause and whether treatment is available for the underlying condition causing the anemia. Once your vet has diagnosed your dog's anemia they will recommend the best possible treatment. Some treatments that may be recommended by your vet include:

  • Blood transfusion
  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Intravenous fluids
  • Bone marrow transfusion

What can I give my dog for anemia?

You can boost the amount of iron in your dog’s system by supplementing his diet with fresh foods containing this important mineral. You can start with green vegetables, beef liver, raw egg yok (from local or organic eggs), and/or add canned sardines to their regular food.

Depending on your dog’s size, you’ll want to aim to add anywhere from 500 to 2,000 milligrams of Vitamin C (which can help the body absorb iron from the intestinal tract) per day.

Don’t forget to check with your vet before starting your dog on any new diet, medication or other treatment. Because liver is a rich food, ask how much your dog should be given–you don’t want to cause a case of diarrhea while trying to treat anemia.

Can dogs recover from anemia?

If the vet does diagnose your dog with anemia, the prognosis will depend on the cause and whether the underlying condition causing the anemia can be treated. Once the cause has been determined through diagnostic testing, your veterinarian can recommend an effective course of treatment.

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 showing any concerning symptoms, including those listed above, please contact our Madison vets at Gluckstadt Animal Hospital to schedule an examination.