In dogs with AutoImmune Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA), the immune system destroys red blood cells faster than new ones can be produced. The result is anemia, or reduced red blood cells, which means less oxygen is circulated to the tissues. This disorder is occasionally seen in the Alaskan Malamute.
AIHA is most common in middle-aged dogs, and it is more often found in females than in males. Evidence of disease ranges in severity - symptoms can be mild and hardly noticeable, or severe symptoms may come on suddenly. Vague symptoms are common and include poor appetite, weakness, listlessness and lack of energy. The dog's gums may be pale, or they may be yellowish due to jaundice as a result of the breakdown of red blood cells. A dog with AIHA may have a rapid heart beat and rapid breathing. One form of AIHA (cold agglutinin disease) causes circulation problems. The ear or tail tips, or feet may become infected and dark in color.
A veterinarian will draw blood for testing to determine if a dog is anemic. Diagnosis of AIHA is made by ruling out other causes of anemia and identifying antibodies on the surface of the red blood cells. Corticosteroid treatment can slow the destruction of red blood cells. Blood transfusions are needed when the red blood cell level is critically low; transfusions can buy the dog some time while his/her own blood cell levels are recovering. Severely affected dogs may die even with the best treatment. This mostly occurs in the first few days since the onset of the episode due to kidney, liver, or heart failure, or because of a bleeding problem. Dogs that recover from an episode of AIHA may experience future relapses.
Dogs that have been diagnosed with AIHA should not be used for breeding.
Developed from the Canine Inherited Disorders Database.