Today, our Kinston vets describe the kinds of anemia your cat could develop, including the causes, symptoms, and available treatments.
Anemia in Cats
Anemia is a medical term that is used to describe a drop in the red blood cells or hemoglobin (or both) circulating in your feline's body. Even though anemia isn't a specific disease in itself, it still can be a symptom of another condition or disease.
If you notice that your cat has been acting more lethargic than usual, seems uninterested in treats or other food, or is breathing rapidly even when lying still, they might be suffering from anemia.
Types of Cat Anemia
There are three kinds of anemia a cat can develop including regenerative, non-regenerative, and autoimmune hemolytic anemia. Each kind has different causes and develops for different reasons.
Sudden or acute blood loss is the main cause of regenerative anemia in cats, whether it's the result of parasites, infection, a serious illness (such as cancer), or an injury. Serious illnesses or conditions can kill red blood cells.
Regenerative anemia typically affects younger cats more often than older ones.
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 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 causes anemia.
Non-Regenerative anemia usually affects older cats more often than younger cats.
Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia
Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA) in cats is an immune system disease where the body destroys red blood cells. The disease could also be called immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA).
AIHA is usually more secondary because an underlying disease or toxin changes the surface of the red blood cells. Most cats with AIHA have severe anemia, which causes symptoms such as pale gums (normally, the gums are pink or red in color).
The Signs and Symptoms of Anemia in Cats
The underlying cause of anemia, as well as its duration and severity, will determine the symptoms your cat develops.
The most common anemia symptoms are:
- Lethargy or lack of energy
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of appetite
- Rapid breathing
Other symptoms could include:
- Pale or white gums
- Jaundice (yellowish color in eyes, skin, or gums if red blood cells have been destroyed)
- Increased heart rate
What You Should Do if Your Cat is Showing Symptoms of Anemia
If you see any of the above symptoms in your cat schedule an appointment with your vet as quickly as possible to have your kitty examined. Your veterinarian might run a series of diagnostic blood tests, which is often called a complete blood count (CBC).
Your cat will require an official diagnosis and potentially more tests to determine which type of anemia they have, as well as the underlying injury, illness, or disease that’s causing it.
If you find blood in your cat’s feces or vomit, it is considered an emergency and needs to be addressed immediately by a veterinarian.
Treating Anemia in Cats
The underlying cause of the illness and its severity will determine your kitty's treatment plan and recovery period.
A quick diagnosis and carefully following the instruction your vet provides for your cat's 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 could include bone marrow testing, a complete blood cell count, iron testing, and urinalysis.
If your cat has non-regenerative anemia, this could usually be resolved by diagnosing and treating the underlying disease. If kidney disease is the culprit, your vet might recommend long-term hormone treatments to help promote 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 might also suggest making changes to your cat's medications and diet and will work with you to establish a treatment plan that's customized to meet your feline companion's needs. If your cat is diagnosed with severe anemia, a blood transfusion might 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.