Anemia is the condition of having a less than normal number or percentage of red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the various organs in the body. Organs can be damaged or cease to function if not provided with enough oxygen. Anemia can be life threatening.
Anemia may be caused by any one of multiple causes. The bone marrow may not be producing the cells. They may be being destroyed. Hemolysis is destruction of red blood cells. The cells may be lost from internal or external hemorrhage. They may be lost to blood sucking parasites such as fleas. Or the cells may be sequestered in the spleen. Certain toxic reactions (zinc from pennies, onions, Tylenol) can cause anemia. Ingestion of many types of rat and mouse poisons can cause bleeding and anemia. Anemia can be seen in chronic kidney disease. Cancer can cause anemia.
To help determine the cause of the anemia testing must be completed. Radiographs help rule out ingestion of pennies, as well as helps determine if there is any irregular organ size or shape, or internal hemorrhage. A urinalysis will help determine if blood is being lost into the urinary tract. Various blood tests are used to determine your pet's current status, as well as to help determine a cause if possible. A fecal sample can help detect internal parasitism. A bone marrow sample may be needed to assist in diagnosis.
Immune mediated hemolytic anemia is common. Your pet's immune system provides the ability to resist and recover from disease and injury. This defense system regulates production of antibodies that aid in destruction of disease agents, such as bacteria and viruses. In autoimmune hemolytic anemia, this defense system goes astray and attacks the animal's own red blood cells, causing severe, life-threatening anemia. While infection, cancer or other diseases may cause such disruption of the immune system, in many cases the cause is unknown. Certain drug reactions may cause autoimmune hemolytic anemia. In newborns, the disease may result from antibodies found in the first milk (colostrum) of the mother. Immune mediated anemia may be part of a larger immune mediated disease. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) will eventually cause problems in multiple systems of the body. SLE is diagnosed with either a positive Lupus Erythematosus (LE) preparation or a positive Anti-Nuclear Antibody (ANA) test together with evidence of clinical disease of at least two other body systems.
Important Points in Treatment
1. Anemia can be a serious, life-threatening disease. Many times hospitalization is the first step in treatment until the pet is over the crisis. This may be several days or possibly a week or more.
2. Your pet may need cardiovascular support to prevent or correct shock. This involves intravenous catheterization and fluids.
3. A blood transfusion may be needed. In some cases, a fluid/blood product called Oxyglobin' may be given to improve your pet's blood oxygen carrying capacity and sustain life.
4. Steroid treatment is used to try to suppress immune mediated anemia. The steroid dose will gradually be decreased over the treatment time to prevent side effects of sharply ending steroid use. Be sure to follow your prescription instructions. Marking the recommended treatment on a calendar may be of assistance to you. However, since treatment may be changed based on monitoring labwork, make your marks in pencil.
5. More severe cases of immune mediated anemia are treated with a variety of medications including chemotherapeutic medications.
6. Please be sure to notify your veterinarian if your pet has had a previous blood transfusion.
7. In some patients, surgical removal of the spleen or treatment with anti-cancer drugs is necessary.
8. Various laboratory tests are necessary to diagnose the condition and monitor the response to treatment.
9. Once your pet is healthy enough to be eating and drinking, and shows significant replacement of red blood cells, he/she may be allowed to go home on continued treatment.
10. Relapses can occur from immune mediated disease, but are less likely if your pet is monitored and treated as directed.
11. Medication must be given as directed. Call the doctor if you cannot give the medication.
12. Your pet may be placed on a special diet.
13. Activity and exercise may be restricted until your pet is healthy enough for exercise. Allow only walking in the house and outside to go to the bathroom for 2-3 weeks. Over the next 2 months a daily routine of gradually increased walks should be taken.
Notify the Doctor if Any of the Following Occur:
* Your pet's signs recur after an apparent recovery.
* Your pet seems short of breath or weak.
* Your pet's gums and tongue seem pale.
* Your pet's stool or urine are dark or blood-tinged.
* Your pet has nosebleeds or hemorrhages of the gums, eyes or skin.
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