Canine Anemia
Pet Health

Wake Up, Pup! How to Identify and Treat Canine Anemia

Usually your dog has more energy than he knows what to do with, but lately he’s been dragging around as if he was up all night watching reruns and infomercials. He doesn’t even rouse himself at dinnertime.

Your vet says it’s anemia, a condition in which red blood cells aren’t carrying enough oxygen to keep your dog energized. Often a result of blood loss, canine anemia can be caused by conditions ranging from severe flea or hookworm infestations to stomach ulcers.

Since anemia in dogs is a symptom of an underlying problem, a pup with this condition needs to be under a veterinarian’s care. In addition, there are things you can do to help get his energy up to full speed.

Dogs and Anemia 101: Check for Parasites

Young puppies can be infested with fleas or born with hookworms, which suck blood, causing anemia. In severe cases, dogs can lose up to one-quarter of their blood to parasites, so getting rid of the pests is a priority. Some parasites, like fleas, are easy to eliminate, while for others your pooch will need a veterinarian’s care. Ask your vet for advice on how to handle the creepy crawlers.

Anemic Dog? Check his RX

There are a number of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, including aspirin and other anti-inflammatory medications, that can cause bleeding in your dog’s digestive tract that can lead to anemia. Some drugs may also cause the immune system to “attack” otherwise healthy blood cells, reducing the blood’s oxygen-carrying capability. If your dog seems under the weather and is also taking medications, ask your vet if they might be causing the condition.

Dogs with Anemia Need a Beefed Up Diet

For quick relief from anemia, your pooch needs to boost the oxygen-carrying capacity of his blood as quickly as possible. Giving him foods rich in iron and B vitamins, such as cooked liver can help. A small dog should get two ounces, and a large dog will happily gobble up to four ounces of liver a day.

Slip Him a Supplement

Another way to beef up your dog’s  blood is to give a daily dose of this over-the-counter supplement, which is high in iron and B vitamins. Ask your vet to recommend a safe dose for your pup. Then just crush the pills—or if you’re using capsules, take them apart—and mix the powder with his food.

Select Good Dog Chows

While the type of anemia caused by insufficient iron in the diet usually occurs only in very young dogs, it’s still a good idea to play it safe by sticking to name-brand dog foods–dry, canned or semi-moist. Nutrients in generic or supermarket-brand foods may be difficult for dogs to absorb.

Encourage R and R

Physical activity increases the body’s demand for oxygen, which in dogs with anemia is already in short supply. Animals need to stay pretty quiet if they’re anemic.

When to See the Vet

While the symptoms of dog anemia can sometimes be relieved temporarily with home treatment, the underlying problem must be treated by a vet.

If you suspect that your dog is anemic, take a look in his mouth—it should be a healthy pink (although some dogs’ mouths are naturally brown or black). If your pooch has anemia, the inside of his mouth may be quite pale. If you can’t see any pink in the gums, make an appointment with the vet.

Another way to spot anemia is to examine your pup’s eyes. Pull down the lower eyelid and look at the conjunctiva, the membrane that lines the eyelid. While some dogs have dark pigment there, usually the conjunctiva is bright pink. If your pup has anemia, however, the conjunctiva will looked washed-out and pale.

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Andy Bannister
Andy is a nutrition and fitness expert, media personality, personal trainer, writer, life coach, and overall health enthusiast.