Cats can develop anemia as a result of either a sudden blood loss or a potentially serious underlying condition. Our White Settlement veterinarians explain anemia and its symptoms, as well as treatment options.

What is anemia in cats?

While anemia is not a disease in and of itself, it is a sign of another condition or disease. Anemia is a medical term that refers to a deficiency of red blood cells, hemoglobin, or both.

Types of Anemia in Cats

These are the types of anemia cats can experience:

Regenerative Anemia in Cats

In cats, regenerative anemia occurs as a result of acute or unexpected blood loss caused by a serious illness (such as cancer), infection, parasites, toxic poisoning, or an injury. Serious illnesses or conditions can cause red blood cells to be destroyed.

Non-Regenerative in Cats

Anemia in cats with kidney failure, bone marrow disorders, liver disease, and other chronic diseases can suffer from non-regenerative anemia. In healthy cats, the kidneys create a hormone that helps to produce red blood cells. However, malfunctioning kidneys will not replace those cells as quickly as the cat’s body uses them, which leads to anemia.

Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia in Cats

Autoimmune hemolytic anemia in cats is an immune system disorder in which the body destroys red blood cells. While red blood cells are still produced in the bone marrow, their life span and circulation period are limited. Additionally, this condition may be referred to as immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA). Cats are rarely affected by this type of anemia.

What is the most common type of anemia in cats?

While younger cats are more likely to develop regenerative anemia as a result of acute blood loss caused by parasites, injuries, and infections, older cats frequently develop chronic diseases as they age, making them susceptible to non-regenerative anemia. Anemia can also be caused by auto-immune diseases or bone marrow disorders such as leukemia.

Signs of Anemia in Cats

If your cat has anemia, the severity, duration (short or long-term), and underlying cause of the illness will determine the symptoms. If your cat loses more than a third of his or her blood volume too quickly and is not replaced, shock and even death may result.

If your cat has anemia, you may notice:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Lack of energy or lethargy
  • Rapid breathing
  • Weakness
  • White or pale gums
  • Increased heart rate
  • Jaundice (yellowish color in skin, gums, or eyes if red blood cells are destroyed)

Blood loss can be caused by internal factors (parasites, a bleeding disorder, or a ruptured tumor) or external factors (major injury). If your veterinarian is unable to detect external bleeding, he or she will look for an internal source of blood loss. The veterinarian may detect a heart murmur, hypotension, or another indicator.

What should I do if I think my cat is suffering from anemia?

Visit your vet as soon as possible; in particular, discovering blood in vomit or feces is an emergency that requires immediate medical attention.

Your veterinarian will need to diagnose anemia officially and test your cat to determine the type she has and the underlying cause. A veterinarian may conduct a series of blood tests to aid in diagnosis.

They may refer to this as a complete blood count, which quantifies the number of red and white blood cells in the body (hematocrit level) Additionally, the number of immature red blood cells in your cat's blood will be determined (referred to clinically as the reticulocyte count). The average cat's red blood cell count is 35.

Treatment of Anemia in Cats

Treatment and recovery from anemia in cats are highly variable and depend on the underlying cause of the illness, the severity of the anemia, and other variables. Your cat's health history, physical examination, clinical symptoms, iron testing, bone marrow testing, urinalysis, and complete blood cell counts all contribute to the diagnosis.

Once your vet determines the cause of non-regenerative anemia, it can typically be resolved by treating the underlying disease.

Your veterinarian can collaborate with you to create a customized treatment plan for the underlying condition. Depending on the severity of the condition, a combination of dietary changes and medication may be effective in treating anemia effectively. If your cat suffers from severe anemia, he or she may require a blood transfusion from a donor cat.

Recovery Time for Cats with Anemia

The prognosis for anemia is highly variable and is determined by a variety of individual factors. Cats suffering from severe non-regenerative anemia typically require long-term treatment, and this type of anemia is uncommon.

If your cat's condition is severe, you should plan on a lengthy recovery period. He or she will require frequent visits to the veterinarian (as frequently as every day or two in the early stages.

The interval between visits will gradually decrease to once or twice a week, depending on your cat's circumstances. Adhere strictly to your veterinarian's treatment and medication recommendations.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your cat displaying symptoms of anemia? Contact our office today to book an appointment. Our compassionate vets are experienced in diagnosing and treating several illnesses and conditions.