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Anemia in Cats: Types & Recovery

Some cats experiencing various conditions can experience symptoms with their own set of issues. One symptom like this is anemia. Here, our vets in Alpharetta share the signs and types of anemia in cats, what to do, and how your vet can help manage the condition.

What is anemia in cats?

Anemia is a term that describes a drop in the amount of hemoglobin, red blood cells, or both in your cat's blood. Anemia rarely appears on its own. It is most often a symptom of another underlying condition or disease. 

If you notice that your cat seems uninterested in food or treats, is breathing rapidly even while relaxing, and is lazier or lethargic than they usually are, your cat may be suffering from a condition causing anemia. 

The Different Types of Anemia in Cats

There are three varieties of anemia found in cats: autoimmune hemolytic, non-regenerative, and regenerative anemia. Each has its unique causes and specific mechanisms for reducing the cell counts in your cat's blood. 

Regenerative Anemia in Cats

Whether it is caused by parasites, blood loss, serious illness, or a physical injury, regenerative anemia is brought on by acute or very sudden and significant blood loss. In the case of illnesses or conditions causing this kind of anemia, they do so by destroying your cat's red blood cells. 

Regenerative anemia most often affects younger cats rather than older ones. 

Non-Regenerative Anemia in Cats

Non-regenerative anemia in cats can include chronic diseases such as kidney failure, liver disease, or bone marrow disease.

The most common underlying cause for non-regenerative anemia (anemia in general) in cats is kidney failure. Usually, kidneys produce a hormone that encourages the production of red blood cells in your cat. Anemia is a common condition in cats with kidney failure. When kidneys aren't functioning properly, they won't be able to replace the cells as quickly as they are used, leading to anemia.

Older cats are more often affected by non-regenerative anemia. 

Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia in Cats

Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA) in cats is a disease of the immune system that destroys your cat's red blood cells. This disease is also sometimes called 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).

Symptoms of Anemia in Cats

The symptoms your cat will exhibit will be very dependent on the underlying cause of their anemia, the kind of anemia they are experiencing, and the severity of their case. 

The most common symptoms can include:

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

Other symptoms may include:

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

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

If your cat is showing any of the symptoms listed in the section above, make sure you book an appointment with your vet as soon as you can. Your vet may need to take a series of diagnostic blood tests, sometimes called a complete blood count (or CBC).

To provide an official diagnosis and an identification of the type of anemia your cat is suffering from, more tests will likely be required. They will also help to determine the underlying condition, disease, or injury that is causing your pet's anemia. 

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

Treatment for Cats Suffering From Anemia

Once your cat has been diagnosed with anemia, your vet will work with you to develop a treatment plan to treat the underlying condition. Your cat's treatment will depend upon the underlying cause of the illness, the severity, and other elements of your cat's overall health.

For non-regenerative anemia, once your vet pinpoints the cause, your cat's anemia can typically be resolved by treating the underlying disease.

If kidney disease (renal failure) is at the root of your kitty's condition, your vet may prescribe long-term hormone treatments to help the kidneys produce red blood cells.

Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA) is treated by diagnosing and addressing the underlying cause of the condition. Treatment for AIHA may include antibiotics or toxin antidotes to help restore your cat's health.

When it comes to anemia in cats, the recovery time can vary depending on the severity. In severe cases, a blood transfusion may be necessary.

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.

Is your cat showing any of the symptoms listed above? Contact our vets in Alpharetta today to schedule an examination for your feline friend.

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