A Few Words About Anaemia

Acquired Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anaemia (IMHA)

This is the most common form of anaemia we diagnose at the London Veterinary Clinic. Frustratingly, the cause is rarely discovered. All dog breeds are susceptible but some, including the Cocker Spaniel, Irish Setter, Old English Sheepdog and Poodle are more predisposed than others.

Diagnosis Of Anaemia

Lethargy and weakness are common signs of all forms of anaemia. Your pet is simply not itself. A seriously affected pet's gums become pale and its pulse quickens. It pants more. Sudden hemolytic anaemia results in a rapid accumulation of red blood cell contents, bile and hemoglobin, in the blood stream. This may cause jaundice, a yellow colouring to the gums and conjunctiva. Hemoglobin-containing urine is dark-brown in colour. On examination the spleen is usually enlarged, sometimes dramatically so. The liver and lymph nodes may also be enlarged and we may hear a heart murmur. A red blood cell count confirms anaemia while microscopic examination of blood indicates how your pet is responding to the problem. Further blood tests tell us whether the condition is immune-mediated, important to know because this is vital when determining treatment.

Treatment Of Anaemia

For IMHA, priority is given to suppressing the immune system's destruction of its own red blood cells. This is done with high doses of corticosteroids and other immune-suppressing drugs. Oxygen-carrying blood replacer fluid, rather than donated canine blood is available for transfusion. Removing the spleen (splenectomy) is sometimes useful but only when it is confirmed that the spleen is a centre of red blood cell destruction. Even with rapid diagnosis, treatment and clinical improvement, relapses are frustratingly common, often within the following eight weeks. Up to half of affected individuals have relapses. Some of these are fatal.

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