Hemolytic Anemia

It’s fatal in 50% of dogs who have it. It must be treated quickly & aggressively



What is done to treat Hemolytic Anemia?  My 9 year old Airedale- Shepherd mix Dog has been diagnosed with Hemolytic Anemia and I searching for treatment options.  Thank you in advance for your help.


Dr. Nichol:

The problem that has beset your dog is complex and quite delicate to treat. The full name for this disease is Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA). It means that your dog’s immune system is building antibodies against the surfaces of her red blood cells and thus destroying them. The resulting anemia (low numbers of red blood cells) means that she has fewer of these cells to carry oxygen to her tissues. Translated into symptoms this girl will be weak and breathing fast. You may notice pale or jaundiced (yellow) gums. She’ll be doing everything she can to get oxygen into her body. It’s scary.


So how does all of this happen? Possible causes include blood parasites, infectious organisms, and sometimes certain drugs. But in many cases we just don’t know how it starts. What’s important is that IMHA is fatal in 50% of cases-sometimes rapidly so.


Treatment: The first priority is often a blood transfusion or the use if the newer blood substitutes. Next we stop the immune system’s runaway attacks on the red cells using corticosteroids like prednisone. Some resistant cases also require more potent immune suppressives like cyclophosphamide or azathioprine. Cyclosporine with ketoconazole have also been used. In addition we support these patients with IV fluids and careful monitoring in the hospital. These are tough cases.


I’ve seen many IMHA cases go well. But while we gradually decrease the dosages of the prednisone and other drugs we can never be sure which pets will need lifelong treatment. My best advice is to observe your dog’s gums and her behavior carefully during treatment. Follow the doctor’s orders and say a prayer every night. Good luck.