Anemia is a fairly common clinical finding in dogs and cats, and by itself is not a diagnosis. Anemia can have many causes in our companion animals. One of the more common causes of anemia is blood loss, which in many cases can be due to either external parasites (i.e. fleas) or internal parasites (i.e. hookworms or whipworms). Autoimmune and infectious diseases where red blood cells are destroyed by an overactive immune system occasionally cause anemia. Ulcers of the digestive tract, as well as tumors in middle age and older pets may also cause bleeding and secondary anemia. In fact, any moderate to severe chronic metabolic disease of any organ may also result in a nonspecific anemia in dogs and cats.
Symptoms of anemia include pale gums, weakness, lethargy and loss of appetite. In severe cases of anemia, respiratory difficulty and collapse may be seen. Treatment of anemia will depend upon the severity and the above underlying causes, and may include transfusions in severe cases, as well as treating the underlying cause of the anemia. Supportive vitamins and minerals including iron supplements and Vitamin B-12 injections also may be helpful in some cases.