In February 2013 Ben became very ill between 1pm and 4pm, at 1pm he was running around chasing his ball by 5pm he could not even lift his head to drink or eat. We called the vets who said to bring him in. We took him in and she showed us his gums and inside his ears which were porcelain white, she tried to do a blood test but struggled despite 3 attempts to get enough blood to fill the vial, howver she said she would test what she got.
An hour later she phoned back to say that his vital organs were all ok and that he had a condition called Haemolytic Anaemia he had a low Red Blood Cell (RBC) count and a very high White blood Cell (WBC) count. She prescribed Prednisone (a steroid to suppress the immune system) and and anit biotic in case any infection.
Of course I came straight home and googled Haemolytic Anaemia in dogs and what I read was confusing and scary so a word of caution if your vet has not said the words AUTO IMMUNE or IMMUNE MEDIATED then there is a good chance that your dog has anaemia as a symptom of them fighting bacteria, virus or even an allergy so do not worry too much (easy to say I know!)
I spent hours worrying myself and reading articles then found a forum at Vet Net - Click HERE to access the site. The members at Vet Net were all experienced people who had fought or were fighting this condition and they were a great support and voice of reason and explained the blood results I posted and although there was no doubt Ben had anaemia many were cautiouysly opptomistic that it was not full blown AIHA/IMHA
In the days that followed they emailed support and posted support and deciphered readings from blood tests until finally yesterday after another blood test and visit to the vets Bens results had improved significantly. Again they explained that anaemia in itself and even if AIHA is not always a bleak picture. mild to moderate anaemia can be treated by a regular vet and recovery rates are excellent. AIHA/IMHA can be treated and managed succesfully especially if treatment is given at the onset.
I had never heard of these conditions so have provided information below. Remember if your dog is ill the faster you can get to a vet, with any condition, the quicker treatment can be started and the quicker treatment is started the better the chance of recovery. If you suspect your dog has AIHA or IMHA act quickly do not be afraid to question your vet seek help through the links I have provided you are your dogs voice speak up shout if you have to!! Ask for 2nd opinions (remember not all vets are clinically familiar with AIHA) But above all remember there is HOPE and although it can be a roller coaster ride and a even a long road dogs CAN and DO make a recovery from AIHA
Important -If your dog has been diagnosed with anaemia it IS NOT necessarily AIHA or IMHA
However if your dog HAS been diagnosed with anaemia it is important that you are aware of this condition so that you and your vet and if necessary a specialist can look at the possibility that AIHA may be the diagnosis required.
AIHA and IMHA are relatively rare - that is not to say they do not occur and there are many vets particularly in the UK (2013) who are not truly familiar with the condition however there are many specialists who work in the UK (and abroad) who can work with you to hopefully control and manage this condition)
What is AIHA
Anaemia is defined as a decrease in the number of red blood cells (RBC's) or the amount of hemoglobin, resulting in less oxygen- carrying capacity within the blood. In AIHA, antibodies stick to the red blood cells and cause the body to believe the red blood cells are foreign bodies (like in an infection antibodies attach to and destroy bacteria). This causes the immune system attack the red blood cells and destroy them.
This results in RBCs becoming damaged then the spleen and the immune system works to rid the body of the old, diseased or damaged red blood cells. However, when a large percentage of the cells are affected, and they are removed faster then they can be replaced, AIHA results.
The destruction of red blood cells often leaves debris in the blood stream. This debris is known as Spherocytes. Finding spherocytes on a blood smear carried out by your vet is a good indicator that there is some form of AIHA.Reticulocytes (immature or baby red blood cellscan sometimes be found too, as the disease does not necessarily stop production of RBCs
The symptoms of AIHA can appear suddenly or they may be gradual.
They may include (but are not limited to)
Please note that the presence of these symptoms DOES NOT MEAN AIHA these are just indicators of AIHA as well as many other illnesses and conditions and only a Vet can diagnose AIHA.
A diagnosis of AIHA is made on the basis of these symptoms along with Blood Tests carried out by your Vet. There is a test - The Coombs test, which has a good degree of reliability in diagnosing IAHA (however a negative test CAN occasionally still result in the dog being AIHA positive)
Causes of AIHA
The following information is taken directly from Meisha's Hope (A website FULL of Information and accounts of this condition) Please Click HERE for direct Link
"According to the Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine, the following are examples of underlying disorders and triggers of immune-mediated hemolytic anemia:
- Viral: transient or chronic persistent upper respiratory or gastrointestinal (GI) viral diseases
- Bacterial: leptospirosis, hemobartonellosis, various acute infections (e.g., abscess, pyometra, discospondylitis)
- Parasitic: babesiosis, leishmaniasis, dirofilariasis, ehrlichiosis, ancylostoma caninum
- Other emerging infectious diseases (e.g., bartonellosis), bee stings
- Hemolymphatic: leukemias, lymphoma, multiple myeloma
- Solid tumors
- Primary and secondary immunodeficiencies
- American Cocker Spaniel (one third of all cases)
- English Springer Spaniel
- Old English Sheepdog
- Irish Setter
Female dogs appear slightly predisposed to AIHA/IMHA, even when spayed."
As previously stated, please seek urgent vet advice if you are at all concerned