Anemia in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Our veterinarians at Seattle will shed light on the various types of anemia in dogs, their symptoms, and treatments. Anemia can stem from various underlying health conditions, which we will discuss in detail.

What is anemia in dogs?

If your dog has anemia, it may indicate an underlying condition causing it. Anemia occurs when your pet's body fails to produce enough haemoglobin or red blood cells, or when your dog experiences severe blood loss due to conditions like stomach ulcers or cancer. Additionally, serious injuries or accidents can also lead to anemia.

What are the different types of anemia?

Blood Loss Anemia

If your dog experiences significant blood loss due to physical trauma, accidents, injuries, cancer, or ulcers, they may develop blood loss anemia. This condition can also arise from internal parasites and other severe health problems.

Aplastic or Non-Regenerative Anemia

Dogs can develop aplastic or non-regenerative anemia as a result of insufficient production of red blood cells. Bone marrow disease, kidney disease, exposure to toxins, parvovirus, chemotherapy drugs and other certain medications can also cause this form of anemia.


In dogs, certain genetic disorders can lead to methemoglobinemia, an overproduction of methemoglobin in the blood. This condition can also be triggered by various toxins, including some medications intended for human use like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and benzocaine.

Hemolytic Anemia

If your dog's red blood cells break down or are destroyed, it may lead to hemolytic anemia. This type of anemia can be caused by immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) or non-immune-mediated forms. The latter can arise from toxins, hereditary diseases, or low phosphorus levels.

What are symptoms of anemia in dogs?

If your dog is suffering from anemia, you may notice one or more symptoms, which will vary depending on the underlying cause of your dog's condition.

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

What causes anemia in dogs?

Numerous conditions can result in your dog developing anemia. A few of the most common causes of anemia in dogs include:

  • Cushing's disease
  • Infectious diseases (including canine distemper)
  • Bleeding from the intestines
  • Chronic diseases that suppress red blood cell production
  • Medications which interfere with production of red blood cells
  • Severe blood loss due to injury or accident
  • Tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Blood loss caused by parasites
  • Poor nutrition
  • Bone marrow disease
  • Poisons or toxins
  • Cancer

How is anemia in dogs treated?

If your pooch is diagnosed with anemia, your vet will advise a treatment depending on what is the root cause of the condition. Some treatments that your vet recommends could include:

  • Intravenous fluids
  • Deworming or parasite medications
  • Gastrointestinal medication
  • Chemotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Change in existing medications
  • Antibiotics or immunosuppressive drugs
  • Blood transfusion
  • Bone marrow transfusion
  • Potassium phosphate supplements

Depending on how available the effective treatment will be for your dog's underlying illness, your dog's prognosis will vary. Sadly, anemia can be an indication of a very serious or fatal condition such as an autoimmune condition, poisoning or cancer.

If your pet is displaying signs of anemia, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to schedule an examination.

Can I prevent my dog from developing anemia?

To keep your furry friend healthy, it's important to be vigilant and prevent anemia from occurring. You can achieve this by avoiding toxic substances like human food and medications, and providing your dog with a balanced diet. Additionally, it's crucial to protect your pup against parasites throughout the year by administering prevention medications.

If you own a breed that is prone to anemia, such as Shih Tzus, Labrador Retrievers, American Cocker Spaniels, and Miniature Schnauzers, consider scheduling wellness exams with your primary care veterinarian every six months. These regular check-ups can help detect early signs of anemia, allowing for prompt treatment and management.

Concerned about your dog's anemia? Our vet team at Madison Park Veterinary Hospital in Seattle can help diagnose and treat various conditions that may cause anemia. Contact us for more info or a referral.