Anemia in dogs means the body does not have sufficient red blood cells (RBCs) to deliver oxygen to the tissues. Your dog needs oxygen for respiration and energy production. Less oxygen causes low energy production that leads to lethargy. To maintain an adequate level of oxygen in the body, an anemic dog needs to breathe rapidly, resulting in excessive panting.
Common Signs Of Anemia
Pale gums and eyelids: The typical color is rosy pink … but in an anemic dog, the color of the gums and eyelids is light pink or white.
General lethargy: This happens when there’s not enough oxygen reaching the tissues.
Excessive panting or rapid breathing: Your dog needs to breathe faster to supply the body with much-needed oxygen.
RELATED: Why do dogs pant?
Weight loss and loss of appetite: Owners often observe weight loss in anemic pets. Breathing is limited and the body cannot use the glucose from the already-digested food. This leads to loss of appetite and weight loss in the longer run.
Blood in the feces: Blood can be digested (stool appears black) or undigested (hematochezia, stool appears red).
Causes Of Anemia
Anemia in dogs develops due to underlying causes. Some are …
Injury or trauma: leads to the loss of a significant amount of blood. The trauma may be internal or external. The external injuries can be easily spotted, but the internal wounds are difficult to diagnose. Keep a close eye on the color of your dog’s feces.
Parasitic infestations: Parasites usually live in the gut and feed on your dog’s blood..
Low iron in the diet: Iron is an integral part of hemoglobin (the protein in red blood cells – RBCs). Diets that are low in iron cannot meet the body’s ferrous requirements.
Kidney and liver problems: The liver produces proteins for the body and the kidney secretes hormones for the production of RBCs. Damage to the kidneys or liver reduces or even stops their hemoglobin-producing capacity, resulting in anemia in dogs.
Autoimmune disorders: Examples include autoimmune hemolytic anemia.
Poisoning: Hemolytic poisons can destroy RBCs. If your dog got into any poisonous chemical substance, this could cause anemia.
Home Remedies For Anemia In Dogs
You may need your vet’s help to find out the cause of your dog’s anemia and treat the underlying problem. But here are some home remedies you can use to build up your dog’s red blood cells …
Increased Iron And Protein In The Diet
Anemia in dogs develops due to insufficient iron in the blood. Feed your dog a diet with an abundance of iron and protein.
Beef liver contains a large quantity of iron, proteins, and vitamins. 100g of liver has nearly 20 grams of proteins and 5mg of iron. Feed liver raw to preserve nutrients, or sear lightly if needed.
Salmon and sardines
Fish is a rich source of iron and protein.
Raw egg yolk
Raw egg yolk is a rich source of protein and iron. You can feed whole eggs and preferably don’t cook them, as this reduces amount of protein and iron.
Leafy green and cruciferous vegetables
Greens like broccoli, cabbage, kale and spinach are some excellent sources of iron and vitamins. Feed puréed or steamed for digestibility.
Chickpeas and beans
Chickpeas and beans can also be added to food as a rich source of iron and protein. When you feed legumes, make sure they’re organically grown. Conventionally grown legumes have high amounts of herbicide residues.
Note: Cook legumes thoroughly until soft throughout before feeding.
Vitamin deficiencies can result in decreased production of proteins. Certain vitamins act as co-enzymes for metabolic pathways.
Vitamin B12 deficiency results in the production of larger than normal RBCs that cannot function properly. Vitamin B12 or folate is abundant in fish and vegetables.
Vitamin B9 plays an integral part in the formation of anemia-related proteins. Just like B12, there’s plenty of B9 in liver and fish.
Note: If your vet finds these vitamins are severely deficient, they may recommend supplementation or even vitamin B12 injections. These are subcutaneous injections you can give at home.
Herbs are natural remedies for anemia. Many herbs are liver tonics and blood purifiers. They strengthen the liver and help filter harmful substances from the blood.
Here are some herbs you can give your dog for anemia. Herbs should ideally be given twice a day for best results, so divide the daily dose in half and dose morning and night.
Red clover is a liver tonic and blood purifier. It’s also a good source of calcium and potassium.
Daily dosing: 0.4-0.5g per kg.
Caution: don’t use red clover if your dog takes blood thinners or has any clotting disorder, as it may have some blood thinning action.
Burdock root is an excellent source of vitamins, iron, and magnesium in addition to being a blood cleanser. It is safe and not known for any adverse effects.
Daily dosing: Give dried herb at 0.5g per kg or tincture (25% ethanol) 0.5-2ml per kg.
Caution: Burdock root can increase blood glucose levels so should be avoided in diabetic patients.
Dandelion root is an excellent blood tonic. Being rich in iron, it is an easy substitute for spinach and green vegetables. Daily dose: Give dried herb 0.4g per kg per day or tincture (50-60% ethanol) 0.5 to 1.5 ml per 10 kg.
Note: Dandelion also has diuretic effects so make sure your dog can go out often.
Parsley is easy to add to your dog’s daily diet. It has an ample amount of iron and folate; deficiency of either of the two can cause anemia.
- Fresh herb, minced: 1 teaspoon per 5 kg.
- Dried herb: 0.5g/kg/day.
- Tincture: 0.5-2.5ml (45% ethanol).
- Infusion: 15g infused in 1 cup of hot water, cool and give ¼-1/2 cup per 10 kg.
Yellow dock is the best source of iron and minerals for anemic patients. It has a slightly bitter taste.
- Dried herb 0.2g/kg.
- Tincture: 0.5-1.0ml/10kg (25% ethanol).
- Decoction: 5-10 g in a cup of hot water, cool and give ¼-1/2 cup / 10 kg.
Caution: Vets advise mixing yellow dock with feed or feeding by hand before meals as it stimulates salivation and secretion of enzymes. It can also have laxative effects, so start slowly. Yellow dock shouldn’t be given long term.
Note: Some herbal brands make herbal combinations specifically for anemia. Before using these products, check with your holistic vet or herbalist that they’re safe for your dog.
If you use these products, start slowly and watch for any adverse effects or allergic responses. If the product is made for dogs, follow the label dosing. If it’s made for people, assume it’s for a 150 lb person and adjust for your dog’s weight.
Regular exercise will keep your dog healthy and active. A balanced diet coupled with exercise promotes production of more RBCs. Increased RBCs will help maintain oxygen levels across all the cells of the body.
When To See Your Vet
Anemia is a serious situation that often requires veterinary care. Your vet can confirm anemia with basic blood work. Some more serious conditions may need treatment by your holistic or conventional vet.
But, in some cases, you may be able treat your dog at home. If your dog’s anemia is caused by any of these situations, you can manage the condition at home.
1. Anemia after a gastrointestinal or liver infection. GI and hepatic infections result in the reduced absorption and utilization of minerals and vitamins in the body. If your dog has recently recovered from a serious gastrointestinal infection and you have found out that your dog is anemic, you shouldn’t worry. Just add some beef liver and herbs to the regular diet.
2. Anemia due to low iron in the diet. Often anemia develops due to improper feeding. This is easy to resolve by adding some of the foods listed above.
3. Parasites. Worms are also a frequent cause of anemia as they suck blood from the GI tract. In most cases you can use natural remedies to eliminate worms, and avoid harsh deworming medications. Once your dog is free of worms, add some iron-rich foods as above.