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Diagnosing anemia in dogs

Updated on February 18, 2012

Dogs are wonderful animals to have around. A pet dog makes a lively playmate of the child, a jogging buddy of dad and an affectionate home companion of mom. Dogs are affectionate and always full of vim and vigor. A sick dog though would not be able to play with the kid, would have no energy to jog with dad and because sick dogs have the tendency to be alone, the pet would not appreciate the loving attention of mom. A dog that has no inclination to participate with the activities of the family, one that gets tired easily may be anemic. Anemia is a condition where the number of the dog’s red blood cells is below the normal level. Red blood cells are responsible for supplying oxygen to the different tissues of the body.

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Symptoms of canine anemia

An anemic dog would be listless and lethargic. The pet would be seen sleeping more than it normally does. Dogs are voracious eaters but an anemic one would have no appetite. An owner that examines the dog will find that the gums, eyes and ears are pale. The dog would also have an increased heart beat.

Causes of canine anemia

There are three major causes of canine anemia. The number of red blood cells in the bloodstream is reduced because of conditions that cause blood loss. Diseases that cause the breakdown of red blood cells and diseases that slows down the production of red blood cells are other causes.

Diagnosing canine anemia

Hematocrit or the packed cell volume (PCV) is one of the tests done to diagnose if the dog has anemia. This test is done by placing the blood sample in a centrifuge to separate the red blood cells from the liquid part of the blood or the plasma. The red blood cells should be 35 to 55 % of the dog’s blood. The dog has anemia if the PVC is below 35 %. A red blood cell count and a hemoglobin count are other tests done to diagnose canine anemia. Normal values for red blood cell count are 5.5 x 106/mm3 and 12 g/dl for hemoglobin. Reading below these normal values means that the dog is anemic. Anemia occurs if the pace of production of red blood cannot cope up with the destruction. The numbers of red blood cells are depleted at a fast rate and the dog’s system cannot adequately replace them because a disease may be slowing down the production. A stained blood smear will determine if there is an increased number of young red blood cells in the blood as this will indicate that the bone marrow is responding to the body’s need for more red blood cells. A bone marrow biopsy will identify the cause of the anemia.

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