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How to Identify and Treat Canine Anemia

How to Identify and Treat Canine Anemia

Usually your dog has more energy than he knows what to do with, but lately he’s been dragging around as if he was up all night watching reruns and infomercials. He doesn’t even rouse himself at dinnertime.

Your vet says it’s anemia, a condition in which red blood cells aren’t carrying enough oxygen to keep your dog energized. Often a result of blood loss, canine anemia can be caused by conditions ranging from severe flea or hookworm infestations to stomach ulcers.

Since anemia in dogs is a symptom of an underlying problem, a pup with this condition needs to be under a veterinarian’s care. In addition, there are things you can do to help get his energy up to full speed.

Dogs and Anemia 101: Check for Parasites

Young puppies can be infested with fleas or born with hookworms, which suck blood, causing anemia. In severe cases, dogs can lose up to one-quarter of their blood to parasites, so getting rid of the pests is a priority. Some parasites, like fleas, are easy to eliminate, while for others your pooch will need a veterinarian’s care. Ask your vet for advice on how to handle the creepy crawlers.

Anemic Dog? Check his RX

A multitude of prescription and non-prescription medications, including widely used drugs such as aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs, can potentially lead to complications in your dog’s health, such as causing bleeding within the digestive tract. This bleeding can significantly contribute to the development of anemia, a condition marked by a reduced number of red blood cells or a lower level of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen.

Anemia in dogs can manifest in various ways. It may cause your dog to seem more lethargic or weaker than usual, and can lead to a pale coloration of the gums and inner eyelids, decreased appetite, increased heart rate, or even collapse in severe cases.

Certain medications can not only induce bleeding but also trigger the immune system to erroneously identify healthy blood cells as harmful, leading it to attack and destroy them. This auto-immune response can result in a reduction of the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity, as it’s the red blood cells that transport oxygen to the body’s tissues. This can have a direct impact on your dog’s overall health and vitality, as adequate oxygen is essential for the normal functioning of all bodily tissues and organs.

If your dog is currently taking medications and you’ve noticed a change in their health, such as seeming generally unwell or displaying symptoms of anemia, it is crucial to consult your veterinarian. They can evaluate whether the medication could be contributing to your dog’s symptoms and adjust the treatment regimen as needed.

Do remember that even over-the-counter medications intended for humans can pose serious risks to dogs. Therefore, always consult with your veterinarian before administering any new medication to your pet. In fact, many common human medications, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, can be toxic to dogs.

Your vet is the best resource to ensure that your pet’s medications are safe and suitable for them, taking into account their breed, age, size, and overall health status. Regular check-ups and vigilant observation of any changes in your dog’s behavior or physical condition are key in maintaining their health, especially when they are on medication.

Dogs with Anemia Need a Beefed Up Diet

Addressing anemia in your canine companion calls for swift action to enhance the oxygen-carrying capacity of their blood. This is typically accomplished by increasing the production of red blood cells, which necessitates certain essential nutrients, notably iron and B vitamins.

Iron is a critical component of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen, while B vitamins are essential for the formation of red blood cells. Foods rich in both these nutrients can potentially help improve the anemic condition in dogs.

One such food is liver, a nutrient-dense organ meat, which is exceptionally high in iron and B vitamins. Offering cooked liver to your dog can be an effective way to provide these vital nutrients. But remember, moderation is key. Too much of liver can lead to vitamin A toxicity. It’s recommended that a small dog should consume no more than two ounces per day, while a larger dog can be given up to four ounces.

While liver can be beneficial, it’s important to ensure that it is thoroughly cooked before serving it to your pet to eliminate any potential pathogens. Also, the liver should be offered as a supplement to your dog’s regular diet, not as a replacement for balanced, commercial dog food.

However, it’s critical to remember that while diet can aid in recovery, anemia can be a symptom of various underlying health conditions, such as internal bleeding, certain diseases, or a reaction to medication. Therefore, if you suspect your dog is suffering from anemia, it’s essential to seek veterinary care promptly. They can provide a definitive diagnosis and guide you on the best course of treatment, which may involve more than dietary adjustments.

In some severe cases, dogs with anemia may require hospitalization, blood transfusions, or specific medications to stimulate the production of red blood cells. Always consult with your vet and follow their guidance to ensure your furry friend gets back to his robust, energetic self.

Slip Him a Supplement

Another way to beef up your dog’s  blood is to give a daily dose of this over-the-counter supplement, which is high in iron and B vitamins. Ask your vet to recommend a safe dose for your pup. Then just crush the pills—or if you’re using capsules, take them apart—and mix the powder with his food.

Select Good Dog Chows

While the type of anemia caused by insufficient iron in the diet usually occurs only in very young dogs, it’s still a good idea to play it safe by sticking to name-brand dog foods–dry, canned or semi-moist. Nutrients in generic or supermarket-brand foods may be difficult for dogs to absorb.

Encourage R and R

Physical activity indeed elevates the body’s demand for oxygen, as the muscles work harder and need more oxygen to function efficiently. However, for dogs suffering from anemia, oxygen supply is already at a premium, as the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity is compromised due to a lower than normal count of red blood cells or hemoglobin.

As such, dogs with anemia often need to adopt a more sedate lifestyle during their recovery period. It’s crucial that their physical activity is significantly reduced to avoid exerting further strain on their bodies. Anemic dogs can struggle to meet the heightened oxygen requirements that come with physical activity, which can potentially worsen their symptoms and slow their recovery.

The symptoms of anemia, such as lethargy, weakness, and shortness of breath, can make even routine activities, like walking or playing, strenuous for the dog. Therefore, it’s important to allow anemic dogs plenty of rest and avoid activities that may induce unnecessary strain or exhaustion.

Caring for an anemic dog means taking extra care in managing their energy levels. Limit their exercise and encourage periods of rest and relaxation. Remember, an anemic dog’s energy reserves are precious and must be conserved as much as possible, to allow their body to use available resources to replenish the red blood cell count and restore their health.

Once again, it’s essential to consult with a vet when managing a dog with anemia. They can provide guidance on the appropriate level of activity for your dog, depending on the severity of the anemia and the dog’s overall health condition. Recovery from anemia can take time and should be approached with patience, understanding, and professional guidance.

When to See the Vet

While the symptoms of dog anemia can sometimes be relieved temporarily with home treatment, the underlying problem must be treated by a vet.

If you suspect that your dog is anemic, take a look in his mouth—it should be a healthy pink (although some dogs’ mouths are naturally brown or black). If your pooch has anemia, the inside of his mouth may be quite pale. If you can’t see any pink in the gums, make an appointment with the vet.

Another way to spot anemia is to examine your pup’s eyes. Pull down the lower eyelid and look at the conjunctiva, the membrane that lines the eyelid. While some dogs have dark pigment there, usually the conjunctiva is bright pink. If your pup has anemia, however, the conjunctiva will looked washed-out and pale.

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