Why did my cocker spaniel die from Immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA)?


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Our question this week was:

Dr. Debra - My Sierra, an American Cocker Spaniel, eight years of age, just recently passed on from IMHA (her brother died 10 months earlier). We had her to the vet less than a month ago for vaccines and blood work. Everything was fine and then all of a sudden she didn't appear to be herself. We thought it was from the vaccine and low and behold, it was IMHA. I know it comes on quickly but what is the time frame? Had we known what it was upon the onset, we might have been able to save her. The other side of the question is why is it more prevalent in the months of May and June? It just seems so strange. Could this be hereditary?

Teresa Clifford


Hi – thanks for your email. You wrote that your 8-year-old Cocker Spaniel recently died from Immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA). I'm so sorry. You dog fit the most common demographic that gets this disease – right down the line – common in cocker spaniels, female, between 3 and 8 years of age and most common in May or June.

This condition does not appear to be hereditary but no one really knows. We do know that cockers are over represented as a breed but we see this disease in many other breeds as well. There are several theories as to why it is more common in May or June – some thing it could be associated with a viral disease but again, no one really knows.

I'm so sorry for your loss. This disease is devastating. I hate it. We have an article on this disease that explains it a bit but I don't think there is anything else you could have done.


Dr. Debra

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About The Author

debra-primovic Dr. Debra Primovic

Debra A. Primovic, BSN, DVM, Editor-in-Chief, is a graduate of the Ohio State University School of Nursing and the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine. Following her veterinary medical training, Dr. Primovic practiced in general small animal practices as well as veterinary emergency practices. She was staff veterinarian at the Animal Emergency Clinic of St. Louis, Missouri, one of the busiest emergency/critical care practices in the United States as well as MedVet Columbus, winner of the AAHA Hospital of the year in 2014. She also spends time in general practice at the Granville Veterinary Clinic. Dr. Primovic divides her time among veterinary emergency and general practice, editing, writing, and updating articles for PetPlace.com, and editing and indexing for veterinary publications. She loves both dogs and cats but has had extraordinary cats in her life, all of which have died over the past couple years. Special cats in her life were Kali, Sammy, Pepper and Beanie.