Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia
“Autoimmune” literally means the immunity against the self. “Hemolytic” is the destruction of red blood cells. “Anemia” is defined as a decrease in the number of red blood cells resulting in a decrease in the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.
In AIHA, antibodies stick to the red blood cells and cause the body to believe the red blood cells are a “foreign invader”. This causes the immune system to “kick in”, attack the red blood cells and destroy them. When the spleen and the rest of the immune system is working to rid the body of the old, diseased or damaged red blood cells, it is doing its job properly. When a large percentage of the cells are affected, and they are removed faster then they are replaced, AIHA results.
Clinical signs of AIHA can appear suddenly or they may be gradual and progressive. Signs include weakness, lethargy, and an increase in heart and respiration rate. Pale mucous membranes (gums, ears, eyelids) may also be seen. The affected dog may also appear jaundiced. Vomiting or abdominal pain may be present and the presence of blood in the urine or stool may be observed.
Note: This section of the Canada’s Guide to Dogs website is intended as a source of information only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional care. Always consult with your Veterinarian about health related matters.