When anemia is diagnosed in cats it is due either to a sudden loss of blood or an underlying condition that needs to be addressed. In today's post, our Greensboro vets look at the different types of anemia in cats, how they are caused and how they can be treated.
About Cat Anemia
Though anemia is not a specific disease, it is a symptom of another condition or disease. Anemia is a medical term we use to refer to a decrease in the number of circulating red blood cells, hemoglobin, or both.
Types of Anemia Seen in Cats
There are three types of anemia seen in our feline friends. Younger cats tend to experience regenerative anemia due to acute blood loss due to parasites, injuries and infections, whereas older cats are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases as they age, which leaves them susceptible to non-regenerative anemia. Auto-immune diseases or bone marrow issues such as leukemia can also result in anemia.
- Regenerative anemia in cats is the result of acute or sudden blood loss, which could be caused by serious illness (such as cancer), infection, parasites, poisoning due to toxins, or an injury. Serious illnesses or conditions can destroy red blood cells.
- 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
- Autoimmune hemolytic anemia in cats is a disease of the immune system where the red blood cells are destroyed by the body. Though red blood cells are still being produced in bone marrow, they have a short life span and circulation period. You may also hear this disease referred to as immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA). This form of anemia is uncommon in cats.
Signs of Anemia in Cats
The symptoms of your cat's anemia will depend on the severity of the condition, how long they have had the condition and the underlying cause of the illness. If your kitty loses more than a third of their blood volume too rapidly and it is not replaced, this can lead to 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 may be internal (parasites, a bleeding disorder or ruptured tumor) or external (major injury). If your vet cannot detect any external bleeding, they will look for a source of blood loss internally. The vet may detect a heart murmur, low blood pressure or other indication.
Diagnosis & Treatment For Anemia in Cats
If you think that your cat may be suffering from anemia book an examination for your cat right away. Discovering blood in vomit or feces is an emergency that requires urgent veterinary attention.
Your vet will need to officially diagnose anemia and test your cat to find out which type they are suffering from, as well as its underlying cause. The veterinarian may perform a series of blood tests for diagnostic purposes.
You may hear them refer to this as a complete blood count, which measures the amount of red and white blood cells (hematocrit level) The number of immature red blood cells in your cat’s blood (known clinically as the reticulocyte count) will also be measured. A normal red blood cell count for the average cat is 35.
Treatment of and recovery from anemia in cats depends on the underlying cause of the illness, the anemia’s severity and other factors. Diagnosis is based on your cat’s health history, physical examination, clinical symptoms, iron testing, bone marrow testing, urinalysis and complete blood cell counts.
At Carolina Veterinary Specialists, our vets use diagnostic technology and testing to provide fast and accurate diagnoses and treatment plans customized to meet your pet's unique needs.
Once your vet determines the cause of your kitty's non-regenerative anemia, it can typically be resolved by treating the underlying disease.
Your veterinarian will work with you to develop a treatment plan to treat the underlying condition causing your cat's anemia. Depending on the condition, a combination of diet changes and medications may help effectively treat anemia. For a severe case of anemia, your cat may need a blood transfusion from a donor cat.
Recovery Time for Cats with Anemia
The prognosis for your cat's anemia will depend on a number of individual factors.
Cats with severe non-regenerative anemia usually require long-term treatment and this type of anemia does not usually happen.
If your kitty’s case is severe, it’s best to prepare for a prolonged recovery period. They will need to see the vet frequently (as often as every day or two in the preliminary stages).
The time between visits will gradually increase to every one or two weeks, depending on your cat's health status. Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for treatment and medications closely.
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.