Home

Back to Info Index

Immune-mediated Anemia

What is immune-mediated anemia?

Anemia is a decrease in the number of red blood cells. The red blood cells (RBCs) normally carry oxygen to the body. Immune-mediated anemia occurs when the red blood cells are destroyed or removed by antibodies (immune proteins produced to attack "foreign" materials) directed against the body's own red blood cells. Dogs are affected with immune-mediated anemia more frequently than are cats. Some dogs are more likely to develop immune-mediated anemia than others. The breeds most frequently affected are the Old English sheepdog, cocker spaniel, poodle, Irish setter, English springer spaniel, and collie.

What causes immune-mediated anemia?

Some causes of immune-mediated anemia include:

What are the signs of immune-mediated anemia?

The signs of immune-mediated anemia are weakness, lethargy, poor appetite, exercise intolerance, vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory distress, fever, collapse, and occasionally excessive thirst or excessive urination. Joint pain may be present. In addition, the animal may have signs related to the underlying cause of the immune-mediated anemia.

How is immune-mediated anemia diagnosed?

Immune-mediated anemia is diagnosed through a good medical history and thorough physical examination. In addition, a diagnostic work up will be performed to evaluate the animal's general health status and the immune system's effect on the red blood cells. On physical examination, the veterinarian may find that the spleen, liver, or lymph nodes are enlarged. The heart may be beating rapidly. The skin and gums may be yellow (from jaundice or icterus). Bruising or bleeding may be seen. The veterinarian will attempt to differentiate immune-mediated anemia from other conditions with similar signs. Laboratory tests including complete blood counts (CBCs), blood chemistries, clotting times, and antibody concentrations may be performed. Radiographs (X-rays) may be taken of the abdomen (to evaluate the spleen and liver) and the chest (to evaluate the heart and lungs). An echocardiogram (a graphic recording of the heart) and abdominal ultrasound (visualization of deep body structures by recording the ultrasonic waves) may be required. Aspiration and examination of the bone marrow also may be needed to assess red blood cell development.

How is immune-mediated anemia treated?

Immune-mediated anemia is treated medically. Any underlying disease should be treated appropriately. Initially, the pet may require hospitalization, especially if it is having a sudden (acute) crisis where the body is destroying red blood cells rapidly. Serious cases may be treated carefully with blood transfusions or intravenous fluids (through the vein). When the pet has been stabilized, it can be treated at home. Medications include steroids and drugs used for chemotherapy. The veterinarian will determine which medications are appropriate for each case. These medications can have serious side effects. Life-long medications may be needed to control the disease process. If medical management fails to control the disease after four-to-six weeks of therapy, surgical removal of the spleen may be considered.

What is the prognosis for animals with immune-mediated anemia?

The prognosis (outcome) for animals with immune-mediated anemia is guarded. Immune-mediated anemia often is fatal. It can lead to serious damage in the heart, lungs, liver, and kidney. However, with rapid and aggressive treatment, many pets can survive, although response to treatment may take weeks to months. The condition can recur despite prior or current therapy.

The majority of the information in this page is has been taken from VetMedCenter.com. For further information about this useful source of informtion follow the link or look, on the internet, at www.vetmedcenter.com.