Hemolytic Anemia in Cats

Overview of Feline Hemolytic Anemia

Hemolytic anemia is a disease process in which the red blood cells, the cells that carry oxygen and impart a red color to blood, are destroyed, resulting in a decreased number in the bloodstream. Red blood cells supply the body with oxygen, so when there are fewer of them, the animal lacks energy and tires quickly. Hemolytic anemia is often a rapidly life-threatening condition.

General Causes

What to Watch For

Diagnosis of Hemolytic Anemia in Cats

Treatment of Hemolytic Anemia in Cats

Home Care

If the gums are noted to be pale or white and the animal appears weak, seek emergency veterinary assistance. Minimize exercise and exertion while the pet is anemic. Administer prescribed medications exactly as directed, for the length of time specified.

Return your pet promptly for any recommended follow-up examinations and blood tests.

In-depth Information on Feline Hemolytic Anemia

Hemolytic anemia is a rapidly life-threatening condition. Many of the causes of red blood cell destruction progress quickly. After oxygen is inhaled into the lungs during breathing, it is transferred from the air to the red blood cells. These red cells then carry the oxygen through out the body to all the tissues. Because red blood cells carry oxygen to the tissues, when red cells are depleted the body is basically starved for oxygen.

In addition to oxygen starvation, the destruction of the red cells (hemolysis) releases products from inside of the cells. In large quantities, these products cause some of the signs associated with hemolytic anemia, like jaundiced gums and eyes and discolored urine, which can cause damage to the pet.

There are many causes of anemia other than hemolytic anemia. For instance, an animal may become anemic due to bleeding, or may become anemic when the body makes insufficient quantities of new red blood cells.

Appropriate treatment depends on an accurate diagnosis as to cause. The success rate for the treatment of hemolytic anemia depends on the cause. Some types respond very well to treatment, while others respond poorly even with appropriate treatment.


As mentioned, there are many causes of anemia. The veterinarian’s first task after identifying anemia is to determine if the cause is blood loss, insufficient production of blood cells, or hemolysis. Hemolytic anemia refers specifically to those causes of anemia which are due to destruction of the red blood cells.

In-depth Information on Diagnosis of Hemolytic Anemia in Cats

Some diagnostic tests are considered essential to the evaluation of hemolytic anemia. Other tests may be essential to an individual animal, as indicated by the results of the animal’s history, the physical examination, or preliminary test results. Expect the following to be performed in all cases of hemolytic anemia.

The following tests are indicated in many, but not all, cases identified as having a hemolytic anemia.

In-depth Information on Treatment of Hemolytic Anemia in Cats

One or more of the diagnostic tests described above may be recommended by your veterinarian. In the meantime, treatment of the symptoms might be needed, especially if the problem is severe. The following nonspecific (symptomatic) treatments may be applicable to some, but not all pets with hemolytic anemia. These treatments may reduce severity of symptoms or provide relief for your pet. However, nonspecific therapy is not a substitute for definite treatment of the underlying disease responsible for your pet’s condition.