Autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA)

related term: immune-mediated hemolytic anemia

Usually red blood cells survive approximately four months in dogs. As cells grow older, they are removed and destroyed by various other cells which are part of the body’s defence mechanism. Brand new red blood cells are manufactured in the bone marrow in quantities which correspond to the break down of the old cells.

In autoimmune hemolytic anemia, the immune system kills red blood cells prematurely, more rapidly in comparison to the pace at which new ones are manufactured. It’s all in the name – anemia (decreased red blood cells) due to hemolysis (destruction) by means of the body’s own immune system (autoimmune).

How’s autoimmune hemolytic anemia passed down?

Inheritance is not known, however the disorder is much more frequent in some breeds.

Just what does AIHA signify to you and your dog?

AIHA may appear at all ages, although it is typically most frequent in middle-aged dogs. It can be moderate and barely evident, or it could be rapid at onset and acute. Normally the sorts of indications you may see tend to be vague – for example bad appetite, weakness, listlessness, a shortage of energy. You may also discover that your pet’s gums seem to be pale, or perhaps even  yellow-colored as a result of jaundice due to the breaking down of red blood cells. Your dog could have a fast pulse and rapid breathing. One particular type of AIHA (cold agglutinin disease) results in blood circulation problems in colder peripheral areas of the body, and so the ear or tail tips, or paws could become infected and also dark in color.

Diminished numbers of circulating red blood cells signify less oxygen getting to the tissues. The majority of dogs that pass away due to this disorder do so within the initial few days as a result of kidney, liver, or heart failure, or due to a bleeding issue.

The diagnosis of autoimmune hemolytic anemia

Your vet may suspect that a dog is anemic as a result of a physical exam, He or she will probably carry out some blood tests to discover the underlying cause.  The diagnosis of AIHA is reached through identifying antibodies on the surface of  red blood cells, and also eliminatingother reasons for anemia.

Treating autoimmune hemolytic anemia

Sadly, dogs seriously affected by this disorder may well perish despite having the very best therapy. This mainly happens in the first couple of days as a result of kidney, liver, or heart failure, or due to a bleeding problem. The objectives associated with treatment will be:

  1. to decrease the speed of the destruction of red blood cells (rbcs), and
  2. to support your pet whilst the red blood cell levels have an opportunity to recover.
  1. Corticosteroids are administered in order to decrease the speed of rbc break down, initialy in large dosages that are progressively lowered over a period of a few weeks as rbc levels strengthen and commence to increase once more. If rbc levels keep falling in spite of steroid treatment, other immunosuppressive medicines are given.
  2. Blood transfusions are necessary if the rbc level is seriously low. Even though the fresh cells are destroyed at an identical pace, the transfusion will probably buy precious time for the pet whilst its own blood cell levels are recuperating.

Dogs that live through an episode of AIHA can suffer further relapses.

Breeding advice

Dogs that have been identified as having AIHA must not be made use of for breeding purposes, and it’s also better to steer clear of breeding their near relatives as well.