5 Types of Anemia in Dogs and Their Causes and Symptoms

A dog becomes anemic when a large number of red blood cells in their body are lost or destroyed as a result of excessive bleeding, reaction to a chemical or medication, or a serious health condition. The most common symptoms of anemia are fatigue, inability to do physical activity, unexplained tiredness, loss of appetite, joint pains, diarrhea, vomiting, and pale gums. Not all dogs, however, will show these symptoms, and mild anemia generally goes unnoticed for lack of any major physical signs.

Dogs that are living with a parasite infection are particularly prone to developing anemia. Fleas, ticks and lice survive by sucking the animal’s blood and an unchecked infestation can cause a number of health problems for your pet, including anemia. However, fleas and ticks are not the sole cause of pets getting anemic. Here is a lowdown on 5 different types of anemia in dogs.

Anemia due to poor immunity (immune-mediated hemolytic anemia)

Anemia induced by an immunity-related disorder occurs when the body’s immune system starts attacking the red cells in the bloodstream mistaking them to be antigens (infection-causing organisms). This results in rapid depletion of red blood cell count, which can lead to jaundice and anemia.

Causes of this type of anemia include lupus, vaccination, heartworm disease, bacterial infections, antibiotics and tumors.

Anemia due to iron deficiency

Iron deficiency anemia occurs when the body is not getting enough iron, which leads to poorly developed red blood cells that cannot efficiently carry oxygen to various parts of the body. Adult dogs are prone to iron deficiency anemia occurring from blood loss in the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms of this form of anemia include fatigue, weakness, poor physical growth, fast breathing and even depression.

Some causes of this anemia in dogs include external or internal blood loss, flea or tick infestation and urinary tract infection.

Anemia due to impaired regeneration of red blood cells

This type of anemia occurs when the body is not producing new blood at the same rate as it is losing blood. This leads to a low count of red blood cells, which leads to anemia. Symptoms of regenerative anemia include weakness, poor appetite, yellow gums, pale eyes, rapid breathing, excessive sleep and depression.

Causes of this type of anemia in dogs include fleas, blood parasites, worms, certain drugs, injury and infections.

Anemia due to non-regeneration of red blood cells

Low RBC count may be caused by blood loss from injury, reaction to a drug or chemical or poor red cell production. Impaired RBC production can lead to no regenerative anemia, which occurs when a dog has low RBC count and their bone marrow is unable to produce enough new red blood cells to fight the deficiency. Symptoms of this type of anemia are no different from those of others and include loss of appetite, weakness and fatigue, excessive sleep, rapid breathing and depression.

Common causes of non regenerative anemia include bone marrow disease, drug toxicity, lead poisoning, infections, tick infestation, kidney failure and some types of cancer.


Hemoglobin, a protein that gives blood its red color, transports oxygen from lungs to each and every cell in the body. This process produces methemoglobin, which is also a type of hemoglobin but does not transport oxygen. It is naturally converted into hemoglobin by the body. If this system does not work properly, the blood has excess methemoglobin, leading to an impaired oxygenation process.

This condition gradually turns the blood’s color from a deep red to a dull brown, which is impossible to detect unless the pet has an injury and you notice that their blood is not its normal color. Methemoglobinemia can be genetic or may be caused by exposure to certain chemicals.

To conclude, if you suspect that your dog is anemic, take them to the vet for a complete health check-up that will include physical examination as well as extensive blood work. Anemia is a treatable condition, provided your dog gets timely medical attention to treat the underlying health problem that’s causing them to lose red blood cells.

If your dog has been diagnosed with anemia caused by fleas, ticks or chew lice, you must start with a pest control treatment at the earliest. According to pet care experts at Pet-Action.com, a flea and tick control product should be chosen based on your pet’s species, age, weight and general health. You can choose from a wide range of pest control formulations, from spot-on drops and sprays to dusting powders and flea/tick collars.

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