Other than your family, nothing is more important than your cat's health. Unfortunately, many pet parents are unfamiliar with the symptoms of anemia, which leads to the condition going untreated for long periods. When pet parents are better equipped to recognize the symptoms of feline and canine anemia, they can help their beloved pets to live longer, healthier lives.
What is Feline Anemia?
Feline anemia, much like human anemia, is a condition in which the number of circulating red blood cells and/or hemoglobin is drastically lowered. Anemia isn't technically a disease, but rather a side effect of a variety of other diseases or conditions. This means that it is especially important that anemia is recognized and treated as quickly as possible.
Symptoms of Feline Anemia
The symptoms of feline anemia are very similar to that of human anemia. One of the symptoms to spot is changes to your kitty's gum color. If they have lost their typical bright red color and instead look pale pink or white, your cat may be suffering from feline anemia.
Hemoglobin is responsible for delivering oxygen to the body's various cells and tissues structures, so cats affected by feline anemia will also eventually begin to suffer symptoms of oxygen deprivation. These can include lethargy and decreased stamina.
If pet parents notice any of these symptoms, a blood test is warranted.
Diagnosing Feline Anemia
When cats display the above symptoms, a blood test will be done to check for anemia. The test will spin a blood sample in a centrifuge to separate the red blood cells from the blood plasma. At that point, the veterinarian will measure the red blood cell count (a healthy cat's blood is between 25% to 45% red blood cells) and if it is below 25%, the cat will be diagnosed as anemic.
Treating Feline Anemia
Anemia may be the result of other diseases or conditions; therefore, one of the most important aspects of treatment is ensuring that the underlying condition is addressed, as well.
If a cat is severely anemic, a blood transfusion will be warranted. For less severe cases, treatment may come in the form of corticosteroids, de-worming treatment or surgery to correct any source of bleeding.
The most common diseases or conditions that result in feline anemia are those in which the cat loses blood (traumatic injury, severe parasitic infection, tumors or clotting disorders); the cat experiences breakdown or destruction of red blood cells (hemolysis) such as autoimmune disease or infection with blood parasites like Hemobartonella; and those in which cats cannot adequately produce red blood cells, as is the case with chronic kidney disease, poor nutrition, cancer or feline leukemia. In order to treat anemia adequately, the underlying cause of the issue must first be addressed.
Prognosis for Feline Anemia
If cats are diagnosed with anemia early in the progression of the condition and the cause of the anemia can be managed, the prognosis is generally good. If the anemia is a result of a severe, traumatic injury or the cat has cancer or autoimmune disease, the prognosis may be less favorable. In all cases, it is important to diagnose and treat anemia as soon as possible in order to ensure the best outcome for the cat.
If you suspect that your cat may be anemic, we recommend a visit to your local veterinarian to discuss the diagnosis, prognosis and available treatment options.
Content reviewed by a veterinarian.