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Anemia in Dogs

By: Dr. Erika De Papp

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  • Coagulation profile. Tests of clotting function are imperative in animals with evidence of hemorrhage, either external or internal. Animals with hemolytic anemia are also prone to secondary bleeding disorders, so coagulation tests are useful for assessing most cases of regenerative anemia. Additionally, if the tests are abnormal, specific therapy may be indicated.

  • Bone marrow aspirate. This test is performed to obtain a sample of bone marrow cells for microscopic analysis. The bone marrow produces most of the red and white blood cells, as well as the platelets. Bone marrow evaluation is most useful in cases of non regenerative anemia, and in cases in which all cell lines are deficient. This test requires sedation or anesthesia for your pet, and is most commonly done at specialty hospitals.

  • Tests for infectious disease. Depending on the geographic location in which you live, certain infectious diseases may be likely to cause anemia. Infectious diseases implicated in causing anemia in dogs include babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and sometimes heartworm. Additionally, certain fungal and protozoal infections can cause anemia as well.

  • Tests of immune function/dysfunction. A Coombs' test looks for antibodies directed against red blood cells. This test can sometimes be used to confirm a diagnosis of immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, although a negative test result does not rule out the disease. An anti-nuclear antibody test also evaluates for the presence of antibodies aimed at one's own cells and a positive test is another marker of immune-mediated disease.

  • Iron levels. If a patient has chronic blood loss, this can lead to iron deficiency. Iron deficiency is often suspected based on specific abnormalities seen in the CBC. Iron is important in the production of red blood cells, so iron deficiency will eventually cause a non-regenerative anemia. Various tests of iron stores can be evaluated if iron deficiency is suspected.

  • Genetic testing. There are rare genetic disorders documented in several breeds of dog that result in increased fragility of red blood cells, and can cause hemolytic anemia. In these cases, special genetic tests can be done to identify the abnormality. The breeds with known red blood cell defects include the English springer spaniel, West Highland white terrier, cocker spaniel, beagle, Alaskan malamute, and basenji.

  • Blood type. A blood type is not important as a diagnostic tool, but is important information for patients requiring a blood transfusion. Similar to blood types in humans, the type allows the veterinarian to choose the appropriate blood donor so as to avoid an adverse reaction to the transfusion.

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