Anemia is a serious condition in dogs that can be caused by a variety of underlying health issues. Our Rochester veterinarians explain the various types of severe anemia seen in dogs, as well as their symptoms and treatment options.

Anemia in Dogs

Anemia is a condition that occurs in dogs and indicates that your pet is suffering from an underlying disease or illness. Anemia occurs when your pet's body fails to produce enough red blood cells or hemoglobin after your dog suffers from severe blood loss due to conditions such as cancer or stomach ulcers, or if your dog has been in a serious accident or injury.

Types of Anemia Seen in Dogs

Blood Loss Anemia

Blood loss anemia occurs when a dog has severe loss of blood due to an injury, surgery, or a bleeding disorder. This form of anemia could also be caused by internal bleeding due to cancer, ulcers, parasites, or other health conditions.

Hemolytic Anemia

Hemolytic anemia is caused by the destruction or breakdown of red blood cells in your dog's body. This anemia is often the result of immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) or autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA), or non-immune mediated caused by a hereditary disease, parasites, toxins, or low phosphorous levels.

Aplastic or Non-Regenerative Anemia

Aplastic or non-regenerative anemia develops in dogs due to insufficient production of red blood cells. This form of anemia can occur due to toxin exposure, bone marrow disease, kidney disease, certain medications, chemotherapy drugs, or parvovirus.


Methemoglobinemia in dogs is caused by an excess of methemoglobin in the blood, which can occur as a result of genetic disorders or exposure to toxins such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or benzocaine.

Signs That Your Dog May Be Anemic

If your pooch is suffering from anemia you may notice one or more of the following symptoms. Your dog's anemia symptoms will vary based upon the underlying cause of your pup's condition.

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

Causes of Anemia in Dogs

Several conditions can result in your pup developing anemia. Some of the most common causes of anemia in dogs include:

  • Medications that interfere with red blood cell production
  • Blood loss caused by parasites 
  • Cancer
  • Kidney disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Infectious diseases including canine distemper
  • Severe blood loss as a result of accident or injury
  • Toxins or poisons
  • Tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease
  • Poor nutrition
  • Bone marrow disease
  • Intestinal bleeding
  • Chronic diseases that suppress red blood cell production

Treatment for Dogs with Anemia

If your dog is diagnosed with anemia, your veterinarian will recommend treatment based on the underlying cause of the condition. Your veterinarian may recommend the following treatments:

  • Surgery
  • Blood transfusion
  • Bone marrow transfusion
  • Chemotherapy
  • Intravenous fluids
  • Change of existing medications
  • Antibiotics or immunosuppressive drugs
  • Potassium phosphate supplements
  • Gastrointestinal medication
  • Parasite or de-worming medications

The prognosis for dogs suffering from anemia is determined by the availability of effective treatment for the underlying illness. Unfortunately, anemia can indicate that your dog is suffering from a potentially fatal condition such as poisoning, cancer, or an autoimmune disorder. If your dog exhibits any of the symptoms of anemia, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to schedule an examination.

Preventing Anemia in Dogs

Preventing anemia in your dog comes down to preventing the conditions that cause anemia (whenever possible). Year-round parasite prevention medications to protect your dog against ticks, fleas, and worms are one way to help your dog avoid developing anemia.

Keeping toxic substances out of your dog's reach, such as human medications and foods, as well as providing your dog with a healthy diet, may also help to prevent your dog from developing anemia.

If your canine companion is of a breed that is prone to anemia (Shih Tzus, Labrador Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, and American Cocker Spaniels), regular wellness examinations at your primary care veterinarian twice a year may help detect the signs of anemia early and provide treatment before the condition worsens.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog displaying the symptoms of anemia? Contact our Rochester vets today to book an examination for your dog.