If your dog has very pale gums and lips does this mean that he is suffering from anemia?

April 13, 2012

Healthy flexible and smooth skin, glossy coat, bright and shiny eyes, nose that should be cool and moist are signs of good health in dogs. Healthy gums should be firm and pink. The color of the lips, similar to the color of the skin should not be pale. Pale gums and lips are indication that all is not well with the dog. A vet conducting a physical examination would always look at the pet’s gums. Vets would prefer to see pink colored gums as pale gums and lips means that the dog is not getting sufficient supply of oxygen. It is highly probable that the pet has an internal problem that must be promptly addressed. The dog may be suffering from anemia, a condition that is primarily characterized by pale gums and lips resulting from the inadequate number of red blood cells. Anemia is a serious concern. Red blood cells play an important role of carrying oxygen throughout the body. When the performance of the red blood cells is compromised, the dog would be weak and would tire easily because the abnormal level of oxygen in the body cannot properly oxygenate the cells. This condition will prevent the dog’s body from functioning excellently. Aside from being lethargic, the dog would have no appetite and would have no interest in performing its usual activities. Rapid respiration is another symptom of anemia. The dog would pant rapidly or take shallow breaths.

Anemia is not a disease in itself but a symptom of another disease. There are varied reasons why a dog would be anemic. A dog may suffer from anemia if an injury causes either slow but continuous blood loss or rapid blood loss. A dog may be anemic because a genetic defect causes the low production of red blood cells. The destruction of red blood cells caused by autoimmune diseases and other diseases would as well result to anemia. Apart from the pale gums and lips, a dog with anemia will be weak. Severe anemia will cause the dog to collapse. Normally, a dog would produce the necessary amount of red blood cells to stay healthy. However, intestinal parasites and external parasites like fleas, ticks and mites that feed on the dog’s blood will would somehow rob the dog of the nutrients and cause the depletion of the red blood cells. Severe parasite infestation is also one of the possible causes of anemia.

Autoimmune hemolytic anemia is as well characterized by pale gums. This condition is believed to be hereditary and often seen in Poodles, Irish setters, Shetland sheepdogs, Collies and Cocker Spaniels. Hemolytic anemia can be a primary condition. This condition occurs when the immune system of the dog destroys its own red blood cells. It can also be a result of another illness or triggered by factors in the environment. For instance, in a dog that was bitten by bee, bee venom will become the infectious agent that will trigger the immune system to destroy its own red blood cells. Zinc contamination and other infectious agents can trigger hemolytic anemia.

Anemia can be treated but a diagnosis will be necessary to before a treatment plan can be made. Blood tests and other diagnostic tests will be conducted to determine the cause of the dog’s condition. The causes for the dog’s anemia have to be addressed accordingly. A dog with severe anemia may require blood transfusions. For dogs with autoimmune hemolytic anemia, corticosteroids are given to suppress the unwanted activity of the dog’s immune system.

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