Anemia in Dogs

Anemia is a serious medical condition in dogs. The disorder results from a low red blood cell count or a low hemoglobin level in the red blood cells, which can lead to oxygen starvation of your dog’s tissues. If left untreated, anemia can be serious and even deadly. Take some time to familiarize yourself with anemia—what it is and how you can prevent it—so that you’re prepared if your dog ever gets sick.

What Is Anemia?

Anemia is a condition in which there is a low number of red blood cells or hemoglobin. It’s one of the most common chronic conditions in dogs, and can affect all breeds and sizes. There are many causes for anemia, but it’s important to note that not all types of anemia require medical intervention—some can be treated through diet alone.

The first step to treating your dog’s anemia is determining what type it is so you know how to proceed with treatment. If your vet suspects that your dog has some form of anemia, she will run tests on his blood to determine if he has:

  • Cooley’s anemia (a deficiency in red blood cells)
  • Cobalamin deficiency (cobalamin being vitamin B12)

Causes Of Anemia

Anemia can be caused by a lack of red blood cells, iron and vitamin B12. This may result in low levels of hemoglobin and hematocrit.

Anemia can be caused by a lack of red blood cells, iron and vitamin B12. This is because these three substances are essential for red blood cell production. Low levels of these substances lead to fewer red blood cells being produced in the bone marrow (the soft inner part inside bones).

Symptoms of Anemia

If your dog is anemic, you may see the following symptoms:

  • Pale gums. Your dog’s gums should be pink, but if they’re pale, it could mean that he or she has anemia.
  • Lack of energy. If your dog seems to lack energy or is less active than usual, this could be a sign of anemia.
  • Breathing problems. If your dog has difficulty breathing and shows signs like gasping for breath and rapid panting, he or she may have anemia and needs to see a veterinarian right away!

Treating Anemia

Anemia is one of the most common diseases in dogs and cats, as well as horses, birds and fish. Anemia can be caused by parasites or bacteria, but it’s usually the result of a deficiency in protein. The most common cause for this deficiency is an inadequate diet—either because your pet isn’t eating enough food or because what you’re feeding him doesn’t have enough nutritional value.

If you suspect that your pet has anemia, take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible. If severe enough, anemia can be fatal if left untreated; prompt treatment is essential to ensuring your dog’s survival.

Preventing Anemia

  • Feed your dog a balanced diet
  • Feed your dog a high-quality food that contains iron, vitamin C, vitamin E and copper.
  • Feed your dog foods that are rich in beta carotene (vitamin A) and lutein.
  • Avoid feeding your dog foods that are high in fat content or salt.


Anemia is a serious health condition that can be life-threatening if it is not treated promptly. Although most cases of anemia are caused by conditions such as cancer, heart disease or chronic infection, there are many factors that can lead to this condition including diet and genetics. As always, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian before starting any new treatment plan or making changes in your pet’s lifestyle.