Immune haemolytic anaemia in a dog
Jack was presented for his annual health check and vaccines. We noticed his gums were very pale. There was no history of rodenticide or other toxin ingestion. There had been no blood in the urine or faeces.
We collected some blood and placed some on a glass slide. The red blood cells (RBC) could be seen clumping together forming small blood clots.
When we spun some blood down in a centrifuge on day one, the percentage of Snuffle's blood made up by RBC was only 15% (packed cell volume- PCV). Normally it would be 35-45%. The clear part of his blood in the tube, the serum was yellowish (jaundiced).
We suspected Jack had a condition where for some reason; his immune system was attacking his own RBC and destroying them in the liver and spleen. It is called Auto-immune Haemolytic Anaemia (AIHA). The immune system coats the RBC with anti-bodies which makes them stick together.
Destroyed RBC have a yellow by-product called Bilirubin which the liver normally handles and puts into the intestines. Because there was some much destruction of the RBC, some of it leaked into the blood stream giving the yellow colour to the serum (jaundice).
We collected blood from Jack and had it tested for Feline AIDS (FTLV), Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) and Feline Haemobartonella. All results were normal. These diseases are the most common causes of this condition. That left an unknown cause but things like ingestion of onion, garlic, compost and toxic plants are know to cause this condition in dogs and cats.
Jack was stared on cortisone tablets to knock out his immune system for a few weeks. He was bordering on the need for a blood transfusion but luckily his PCV started to rise quite quickly.
After 6 weeks we are still slowly lowering the dose of cortisone tablets to see if the underlying problem has resolved itself. His PCV is now 32% and he is bright and alert and has quite a deal of strength.