In this month’s article, we will be addressing a common type of anemia seen in dogs, known as ‘Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia’.

In the veterinary world, we commonly address this condition as its abbreviated form, ‘IMHA’. It is seen to be a very life-threatening situation that should always be taken seriously in both dogs and cats. Like any autoimmune disease, this condition causes your pet’s immune system to fight against the body’s own red blood cells, causing the death of these cells that results in anemia.

IMHA is an autoimmune condition, which can be triggered due In this month’s article, we will be addressing a common type of anemia seen in dogs, known as ‘Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia’. to a number of causes. Certain drugs prescribed to your dog for previous illness or concurrent diseases can be a triggering factor. A previous encounter with an infection that your dog’s immune system worked to fight off could have influenced the start of an autoimmune reaction.

If your dog is experiencing IMHA, some of the common signs that may be noted are weakness, increased respiratory rate, collapse and pale mucous membranes, fever, feeling unwell overall, loss of appetite, dark urine, and possible vomiting. If your furry companion is exhibiting any of the aforementioned signs, it is highly recommended to seek assistance from your local veterinarian as soon as possible. In this case, your veterinarian will choose to perform a complete blood work panel to test the ‘Packed Cell Volume’ levels. This blood test will determine how many red blood cells are present in your dog’s body. If the count is low, then it would indicate the presence of anemia. Additional tests may be warranted to reach a conclusive decision and diagnosis. These tests can help determine if there are any underlying issues such as an infection, toxin ingestion or cancer.

Like many autoimmune conditions, a cure may not be possible; however, management is key. A recommended treatment plan includes suppressing the immune system to decrease the effects of it harming itself. Immunosuppression can be accomplished through steroids, such as Prednisolone or Dexamethasone. However, it is important to note that steroids being used at high doses over long periods of time can have detrimental effects. Therefore, it is ideal to work alongside your veterinarian towards monitoring your pet’s condition and coming up with a beneficial and practical plan together for helping your dog feel better.

In some cases, blood transfusions may be needed, depending on the severity of the anemia being experienced by your dog. Most recent studies have proven for new alternative treatments to be beneficial. Such treatments include plasmapheresis and splenectomy. Plasmapheresis is a treatment in which blood is removed by using a needle or catheter. It is then placed into a machine, which allows for the blood to be separated into different cell categories, such as red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Recent research has shown that this can allow for the effective removal of antibodies that are attacking the immune system and for allowing agglutination to take place. A splenectomy is a surgical procedure in which the spleen is removed. This treatment is commonly seen as a solution for humans dealing with IMHA. By removing this organ, we are able to allow the process of red blood cells removal to be slowed down. However, this is considered as a last resort if other treatment plans are not effective.

 Dr. Sifti Bhullar