Aplastic Anaemia in Dogs

Aplastic Anaemia in Dogs

Health & Safety

When dogs suffer from Aplastic anaemia it negatively impacts their red blood cell, white blood and platelet counts. The reason for this is that their bone marrow, which plays a vital role in producing and replenishing these cells, is unable to carry out the task leaving a dog vulnerable. When these vital cells mature, they are released from the bone marrow into a dog's blood stream and are needed in vast quantities for other organs in the body to work properly. Dogs suffering from aplastic anaemia are usually suffering from some other health disorder and as such they need to be seen by a vet sooner rather than later.

Aplastic Anaemia Explained

Because vital red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets are not produced in enough quantities for whatever reason, it can become a life-threatening condition. This is because a dog's system needs the right amount of red blood cells in their system to ensure enough oxygen is carried around the body and so that carbon dioxide is removed. Dogs need the right levels of white blood cells in their system so they can fight off infections and other foreign particles that enter their systems. Platelets play a vital role in that they are needed so that a dog’s blood clots as it should and thus preventing haemorrhaging.

When dogs suffer from aplastic anaemia, all three of these vital cells are negatively impacted in that not enough of them are produced in a dog's bone marrow. If a dog is not treated sooner rather than later when they develop aplastic anaemia, it could prove fatal.

Symptoms Associated with the Condition

Because all three of the cells can be affected by the condition, the symptoms can vary according to which are the most impacted. Symptoms also depend on the severity of a dog's condition. With this said, the most common signs to watch out for when dogs develop aplastic anaemia would typically include the following:

  • Constant and persistent infections that never seem to clear up
  • Fever
  • Skin becomes spotted which are either red or purple in colour which is due to haemorrhages just below the skin
  • Urine contains blood which is known as haematuria
  • Faeces are dark in colour because they contain blood which is known as melena
  • Constant and persistent nosebleeds which is known as epistaxis
  • Pale gums and other mucous membranes
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness

The Causes

Dogs can develop aplastic anaemia for a variety of reasons which includes when they suffer from the following health issues:

  • Infections
  • A reaction to certain drugs or medication
  • Toxins
  • Chemicals
  • Canine parvovirus infection
  • Ehrilichia - a rikettsial infection
  • When administered estrogen
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • NSAIDs which dogs are given to relieve pain and inflammation

Diagnosing the Problem

A vet would ideally need to have a dog's full medical history and be told how the onset of any symptoms first presented themselves. The more information a vet can be given, the better and easier it is for them to come to a preliminary diagnosis. The vet would thoroughly examine a dog suspected of suffering from aplastic anaemia and would typically recommend carrying out the following tests:

  • A complete blood count
  • A full biochemistry profile
  • A urinalysis
  • A bone marrow biopsy

Treatment Options

A vet would need to establish a definitive diagnosis before being able to set in place an appropriate treatment. Dogs suffering from the condition usually need to be hospitalised so their condition can be closely monitored and stabilised. Supportive care is vital which would involve making sure a dog is receiving enough nutrition and if necessary be given blood transfusions. Because the disorder is an immune-mediated condition, one of the first things a vet would want to do is to suppress a dog's immune system to prevent any further damage occurring.

Dogs suffering from the condition would also be given the right type of medication to support their bone marrow function and if there is a secondary infection flaring up, a vet would prescribe a course of antibiotics to resolve the problem or to prevent an infection from developing.


Sadly, the prognosis is never good for dogs when they are diagnosed as suffering from aplastic anaemia. Even if a dog is hospitalised and given all the necessary supportive care and therapy, most dogs succumb to the disorder. However, it is worth noting that the younger a dog happens to be when they develop the condition, the higher their chances of survival. With this said, even if a young dog does recover from aplastic anaemia, they would need to be treated for several months to fully recover from this debilitating disorder.



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