Anaemia in your pet: how to spot it and when you should worry

  • by DR Roxanne Jones
Anaemia in your pet: how to spot it and when you should worry

Anaemia is a condition in which the blood doesn’t contain enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body. It’s these cells that give blood its red colour.

In humans, it’s a fairly common ailment. Anaemia is not a disease itself, but rather the result of an illness or condition. So, if your pet presents with anaemia, your vet is going to need to look for the cause of it.

While in humans anaemia is somewhat common, in pets it’s rare and an indication that something is seriously wrong. Anaemia, left untreated, can cause serious illness and even death.

How can I tell if my pet is anaemic?

The best thing to do is to know what is normal in your pet when he is healthy. Do this by looking at his mucous membranes – i.e, his gums and the inside of his eyelids. They should have a nice pink colour. Make a mental note of what is normal for your pet.

In most animals, the normal colour is healthy pink. In certain breeds of dogs, the gums are black, which makes it trickier to assess their colour. However, it’s likely the inside of their eyelids will still be pink, so this is a good place to look.

If at any point your pet’s membranes become pale pink or white in colour (i.e, lighter than usual), it means you need to get your pet checked out by your vet as soon as possible.

If your pet’s mucous membranes are pink, they’re normal and healthy. If they’re white, pale pink, yellow, red and/or inflamed, blue or purple, your furbaby requires veterinary attention.

Other physical, clinical symptoms of anaemia 

  • Paleness
  • Lethargy
  • Quick to tire when exercising
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rapid pulse
  • Rapid breathing
  • Weakness
  • Collapse
  • Eating sand

What causes anaemia in animals?

In most instances, anaemia in pets is the results of one of the following:

  • Biliary (tick bite fever/bosluiskoors). This is very common in South Africa but certainly not the only cause of anaemia
  • Severe worm infestation
  • Cancer
  • Organ failure
  • Chronic infection
  • Anything that causes severe blood loss or chronic (ongoing) blood loss
  • Immune mediated diseases (where the body’s own immune system attacks and destroys its own red blood cells)

Any of these causes are potentially serious to critical, so if your pet is anaemic, a diagnostic workup is necessary to get your furbaby the treatment he needs.

Don’t ignore any of these symptoms in your pet. Always be safe rather than sorry, and visit your vet as soon as you can. Anaemia is serious, but it - and its underlying cause - can be treated. The sooner the better!

Disclaimer: Always consult your vet for professional advice. The blog is provided as an educational tool and should not be used to diagnose illness or treat an animal.

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