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Signs & Causes of Anemia in Cats

Signs & Causes of Anemia in Cats

While we do our best to protect and care for our beloved feline companions there are a variety of illnesses and diseases that can affect them with symptoms that can greatly affect their quality of life. Our Stockton vets share some of the signs and symptoms of anemia in cats.

Anemia in Cats

Anemia is a medical term that represents a drop in the number of red blood cells or hemoglobin (or both) circulating in your cat’s body. While anemia is not a specific disease in itself, it’s typically a symptom of another disease or condition.

If your cat is experiencing symptoms such as lethargy, seems uninterested in treats or other food, or is breathing rapidly even when lying still, he may be suffering from anemia.

What Are The Different Types of Anemia in Cats?

If your cat is diagnosed with anemia then they will be experiencing one of three types:

Regenerative Anemia in Cats

Sudden or acute blood loss, whether a result of parasites, infection, serious illness (such as cancer) or injury, can lead to regenerative anemia in cats. Serious conditions or illnesses can destroy red blood cells.

Regenerative anemia is the type of anemia that affects young cats more often than it is diagnosed in older cats.

Non-Regenerative Anemia in Cats

Causes for non-regenerative anemia in cats include liver disease, bone marrow disorders, kidney failure and other chronic diseases.

The most common underlying cause for anemia in cats is kidney failure. Normally, the kidneys produce a hormone that helps to produce red blood cells. When the kidneys are malfunctioning, those cells will not be replaced as quickly as your kitty’s body uses them, which leads to anemia.

Opposite of regenerative anemia which affects younger cats, non-regenerative anemia is known to primarily affect older cats.

Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia in Cats

Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA) in cats is an immune system disease in which the body destroys red blood cells. The disease is also sometimes referred to as immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA).

AIHA is more commonly secondary since an underlying toxin or disease alters the surface of the red blood cells. Most cats with AIHA have severe anemia, which causes symptoms such as pale gums (usually, the gums are normally pink or red in color).

Symptoms of Anemia in Cats

The underlying cause of illness, as well as its severity and duration, determine which symptoms of anemia your cat will exhibit.

The most common symptoms can include:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lethargy or lack of energy
  • Loss of appetite

Other symptoms may include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Jaundice (yellowish color in eyes, skin or gums if red blood cells have been destroyed)
  • Pale or white gums
  • Weakness

What should I do if my cat shows symptoms of anemia?

You should contact your vet as soon as possible if your dog begins to show any of the above symptoms in order to have your dog accurately diagnosed allowing for quick and effective treatment. The vet may take a series of diagnostic blood tests. This is often called a complete blood count (CBC).

Your cat will need an official diagnosis and potentially more tests to identify which type of anemia he has, as well as the underlying injury, illness or disease that’s causing symptoms.

If you discover blood in your cat’s feces or vomit, this is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention from your vet.

Treatment & Recovery For Anemia in Cats

The underlying cause of the illness, the severity and other factors that lead to the anemia will determine the treatment path and prognosis, or recovery, for your cat.

Finding and closely following an appropriate course of treatment is key. Your vet’s diagnosis will be based on a comprehensive assessment of your cat’s health history and clinical symptoms, in addition to a physical examination. The exam may involve bone marrow testing, a complete blood cell count, iron testing and urinalysis.

If your cat has non-regenerative anemia, this can typically be resolved by diagnosing and treating the underlying disease. If kidney disease is the culprit, your vet may recommend long-term hormone treatments to help red blood cell production.

For secondary AIHA, the goal will be to treat the underlying cause, potentially with toxin antidotes or numerous antibiotics.

Your vet may also recommend changes to medication and diet, and will work with you to develop a treatment plan tailored to your cat’s needs, and designed to treat the underlying condition. If your cat is diagnosed with severe anemia, a blood transfusion may be required.

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.

Are you concerned about the signs of anemia in your cat? Contact American Veterinary Hospital right away to schedule an appointment with our Stockton vets.

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