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Anemia in Cats is a serious condition that is typically caused by an underlying health problem that requires urgent treatment. Anemia in our feline friends occurs when a cats red blood count drops lower than normal.

Red blood cells are produced in the bone marrow and are released into the blood where they circulate for approximately two months. As they age or become damaged, they are removed from the bloodstream. Their components are then recycled to form new red blood cells. The number of red blood cells may become reduced because of decreased production or increased loss of red blood cells.

Anemia is symptom of another illness. It occurs when there are not enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin in the blood. Hemoglobin is the main component of red blood cells and its job is to carry oxygen. An anemic patient will suffer from symptoms related to a lack of oxygen.

Untreated, anaemia can be a debilitating disease, and if severe can be life-threatening. Unfortunately, cats are particularly prone to the development of anaemia.

Classifying Anemia

Anemia is classified as regenerative or nonregenerative.

Regenerative Anemia

In a regenerative anemia, the bone marrow responds appropriately to the decreased number of red blood cells by increasing red blood cell production. Anemias due to bleeding or the destruction of existing red blood cells are usually regenerative.

Non regenerative

In a non-regenerative anemia, the bone marrow responds inadequately to the increased need for red blood cells. Anemias that are caused by a decrease in the hormone that stimulates red blood cell production or an abnormality in the bone marrow are non-regenerative.

Causes of Anemia in Cats

There are several different causes of anemia in cats. They include:

  • Kidney disease
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Infections
  • Trauma/blood loss

The term “trauma/blood loss” may bring to mind situations when blood is pooling from a wound or other trauma. However, two of the most common causes of anemia from blood loss in cats are due to flea and/or tick infestations and hookworm infections.

Signs of Anemia in Cats

If your cat is suffering from anemia, the symptoms he or she displays will depend upon the severity, duration and the underlying cause of the illness. Some of the most common symptoms of anemia in cats are: 

  • Lethargy or lack of energy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Rapid breathing
  • Shortness of breath 

In more severe cases your cat may show one or more of the following symptoms:

  • White or pale gums
  • Weakness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Jaundice (yellow skin, gums or eyes)

If your cat is showing any of the symptoms listed above it is essential to visit your vet as soon as possible for an assessment.

Treating Anemia in Cats

If the feline is in a severe stage of anemia, the veterinarian may request a blood transfusion to stabilize the cat before treating the underlying cause for the low red blood cell levels.

If the anemia is caused by an infection, toxic substance, organ failure, hormone deficiency, nutrient deficiency, or feline viral infection, the veterinarian will prescribe treatment based on the specific cause

Preventing Anemia in Cats

The most important tool at our disposal is simply to keep them safe. Keep them indoors and keep them clear of fleas and gastro-intestinal parasites.

The best line of defense for anemia from age-related conditions or chronic illness is to take your cat in for regular wellness exams, where your vet can stay on top of potential disease risks.


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