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Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs

small dog getting treatment at vet clinic


Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA) is an autoimmune disease in which your dog’s body attacks and destroys its own red blood cells. The resulting deficiency in red blood cells

Your dog’s AIHA may be primary or secondary.

With primary AIHA your dog’s immune system is not working properly and it incorrectly makes antibodies that target its own red blood cells. It’s estimated that about 3 out of 4 of cases of AIHA are primary.

With secondary AIHA, the surface of the red blood cells becomes altered by an underlying disease process or a toxin. The dog’s immune system then recognizes the altered red blood cells as ‘foreign’ bodies that must be destroyed. Secondary AIHA may be triggered by cancer, infection, blood parasites, drug reactions, chemicals, toxins and even bee stings.


Dogs with severe anemia will have pale gums and often act lethargic. These symptoms are caused by the fact that there are not enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to the tissues. Your dog may also show signs of jaundice and in some cases a lack of appetite or vomiting may occur. If you suspect your dog may have AIHA visit your veterinarian immediately. Your vet will perform blood tests to identify and diagnose the issue.


Treatment is directed at preventing further erythrocyte destruction with use of corticosteroids and immunosuppressant drugs. Severe anemia is corrected with blood transfusions to maintain tissue oxygenation.

Cost to Treat: $1,000 to $5,000

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