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Anemia in Dogs; Types, Treatment and Prevention

Anemia happens when your pet’s body does not produce enough haemoglobin or red blood cells, or when your dog suffers severe blood loss as a result of conditions such as stomach ulcers or cancer. A serious injury or accident can also lead to anemia.

Red blood cells are essential to life – they provide oxygen to the rest of your dog’s body and eliminate carbon dioxide. Hemoglobin is the protein inside these cells, and it is a carrier of oxygen.

But with an insufficient number of red blood cells, less oxygen is carried to the tissues, which leads to fatigue and weakness.

Types of Anemia in Dogs

Blood Loss Anemia

Sudden and severe blood loss can lead to shock and even death if more than 30 to 40% of the total blood volume is lost and the condition is not treated quickly with intravenous fluids or blood transfusions, or both. Obvious causes of severe loss include major injury or surgery.

If the reason for blood loss is not apparent, your veterinarian will look for other causes, such as conditions affecting the blood’s ability to clot, bleeding tumors, stomach ulcers, or parasites. Internal parasites, such as hookworms in dogs, can lead to severe blood loss, especially in puppies.

Non-regenerative Anemia

Nonregenerative anemias can be caused by nutritional deficiencies, chronic disease, kidney disease, or bone marrow diseases.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Nutritional deficiency anemias develop when the nutrients needed for red blood cell formation are not present in adequate amounts.

Anemia of Chronic Disease

Anemia caused by a long-term (chronic) disease is usually classified as mild to moderate and non-regenerative. It is the most common form of anemia seen in animals. 

Kidney Disease

Long-term kidney disease is a common cause of non-regenerative anemia in animals. Animals with kidney disease produce less of a kidney hormone called erythropoietin that stimulates development of red blood cells in the bone marrow, leading to anemia. 

Bone Marrow Diseases

Bone marrow disease or failure from any cause can lead to non-regenerative anemia and a reduction in the number of all types of blood cells—red, white, and platelets. With widespread marrow involvement, white blood cells are affected first, followed by platelets, and finally red blood cells.


Certain genetic disorders in dogs can cause an overproduction of methemoglobin in the blood, which is called methemoglobinemia. This condition can also be spurred on by many toxins, including some medications which are meant for human consumption such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen and benzocaine.

Hemolytic Anemia

This form of anemia is caused by the destruction or breakdown of red blood cells. Often the result of immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) or autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA), or non-immune mediated caused by hereditary disease, parasites, toxins, or low phosphorous levels.

Treatment and Prevention of Anemia in Dogs

Treatment or management of canine anaemia may include:

  • Intravenous fluid
  • Antibiotics in the case of bacterial infection
  • Blood transfusion in the case of severe blood loss
  • Bone marrow transfusion
  • Gastrointestinal medicine
  • Medication to remove parasites.

Infections spread by fleas and ticks is one of the most common causes of anaemia in dogs. So that’s one more reason to keep up regular treatments against pests and parasites. You can also help by keeping your dog away from human medications. Finally, avoiding exposure to toxic substances and human foods, such as onions.


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