Petsecure Pet Heath Insurance
| Jan 17, 2011
Does your pup have low energy? Have they fainted or had a nose bleed? If so, they could be suffering from Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA).
AIHA is a blood disorder that reduces the number of red blood cells and platelets in the blood, causing serious danger to a dog’s health.
Red blood cells and platelets: Two contributors to AIHA
In a healthy pup, the immune system attacks viruses and bacteria to keep them healthy. When a dog has AIHA, their immune system doesn’t work properly -it attacks the red blood cells, thinking they’re foreign. Low levels of red blood cells can cause many issues such as lethargy and fainting.
Platelets also play a role in AIHA. Platelets help clot the blood should an injury occur. When platelet levels are low in the blood it’s called Thrombocytopenia. With low levels of platelets, the blood will not clot and a dog will bleed uncontrollably which in turn reduces the number of red blood cells.
When it comes to this blood disease there are many important symptoms to look for.
Common symptoms of AIHA
AIHA is similar to human anemia and therefore the symptoms are also similar. A dog’s lips, gums and eyes will appear pale due to the low level of red blood cells. The pale or yellowish look is called jaundice, which occurs when the immune system is attacking, reducing and breaking down the red blood cells. In breaking down red blood cells, the hemoglobin (which carries the oxygen in the blood) is reduced. The effects of hemoglobin can also affect the colour of a pup’s urine by making it appear dark or tea-coloured.
Reduced red blood cells means less oxygen in the blood and reduced oxygen can cause low energy levels or lethargy and can result in fainting episodes.
Low platelets, on the other hand, cause nose bleeds or bleeding in the stool.
These visual symptoms are serious and should be reported to your veterinarian immediately. If left untreated, AIHA can cause death. The harder the heart has to work, the higher the risk of heart failure. With low platelets and no blood clotting it will take longer for a dog to heal from any cuts.
The most common way to manage AIHA is through steroid therapy. Prednisone is most commonly used as it suppresses the immune system which helps to prevent the destruction of red blood cells. In some severe cases, a blood transfusion may be required.
Managing AIHA can take months. Although recovery is possible, the condition often reoccurs.
For more information about AIHA and other illnesses, visit Petsecure’s Pet Healthipedia at: www.pethealthipedia.com