Anemia in cats can be caused by either a sudden loss of blood or a potentially life-threatening underlying condition. Our White Settlement veterinarians define anemia, as well as its symptoms and treatment options.
What is anemia in cats?
Although anemia is not a disease in and of itself, it is a symptom of another condition or disease. Anemia is a medical term that describes a reduction in the number of circulating red blood cells, hemoglobin, or both.
Types of Anemia in Cats
These are the types of anemia cats can experience:
Regenerative anemia in cats is caused by a sudden or acute loss of blood, which can be caused by a serious illness (such as cancer), infection, parasites, toxin poisoning, or an injury. Red blood cells can be destroyed by serious illnesses or conditions.
non-regenerative anemia can occur in cats with kidney failure, bone marrow disorders, liver disease, and other chronic diseases. In healthy cats, the kidneys produce a hormone that aids in the production of red blood cells. However, if the kidneys aren't working properly, they won't be able to replace those cells as quickly as the cat's body uses them, resulting in anemia.
Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia
Autoimmune hemolytic anemia in cats is an immune system disorder in which the body destroys red blood cells. Although red blood cells are still produced in bone marrow, their life span and circulation period are limited. This condition is also known as immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA). In cats, this type of anemia is uncommon.
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 are more likely to develop chronic diseases as they age, making them susceptible to non-regenerative anemia. Anemia can also be caused by autoimmune 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 all influence the symptoms. If your cat loses more than a third of his or her blood volume too quickly and it is not replaced, he or she may experience shock and even death.
If your cat has anemia, you may notice:
- Lack of appetite
- Lack of energy or lethargy
- Rapid breathing
- 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 either internal (parasites, a bleeding disorder, or a ruptured tumor) or external factors (major injury). If your veterinarian cannot detect any external bleeding, he or she will look for an internal source of blood loss. A heart murmur, low blood pressure, or other indications may be detected by the veterinarian.
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 officially diagnose anemia and test your cat to determine which type she has and what is causing it. A series of blood tests may be performed by the veterinarian for diagnostic purposes.
This is known as a complete blood count, which measures the number of red and white blood cells in the body (hematocrit level) The reticulocyte count (the number of immature red blood cells in your cat's blood) will also be determined. The average cat has a red blood cell count of 35.
Treatment of Anemia in Cats
Treatment and recovery from anemia in cats are determined by the underlying cause of the illness, the severity of the anemia, and other factors. Your cat's health history, physical examination, clinical symptoms, iron testing, bone marrow testing, urinalysis, and complete blood cell counts are used to make a diagnosis.
At Western Carolina Regional Animal Hospital, our vets use diagnostic technology and testing to provide precise diagnoses and tailored custom treatment plans to fit your pet's needs.
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 personalized treatment plan to address the underlying condition. Depending on the severity of the condition, a combination of dietary changes and medications may be effective in treating anemia. If your cat has a severe case of anemia, he or she may require a blood transfusion from a donor cat.
Recovery Time for Cats with Anemia
The prognosis for anemia will depend on many individual factors. Cats with severe non-regenerative anemia usually require long-term treatment and this type of anemia does not usually happen.
If your cat’s case is severe, it’s best to prepare for a prolonged recovery period. He or she will need to see the vet frequently (as often as every day or two in the preliminary stages.
Depending on your cat and his or her circumstances, the time between visits will gradually decrease to once or twice a week. Follow your veterinarian's treatment and medication recommendations exactly.
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.