Hemolytic Anemia is a general condition in which the blood’s ability to carry oxygen is reduced. Red blood cells have an oxygen carrying component called hemoglobin. If the number of red blood cells in the body is reduced the amount of hemoglobin will also be reduced. This deprives the cells of the body of oxygen needed to survive and thus causes a state called anemia.
The life cycle of the red blood cell is as follows: red blood cells are made in the bone marrow and then released into the circulatory system. These red blood cells perform their functions and after a few months are collected into the spleen where they are destroyed. It is when this process is interrupted or changed (at any point in the life cycle) that anemia can occur.
There are many reasons why a cat could become anemic including bone marrow cancer or a decrease in bone marrow production, internal bleeding, infection, autoimmune disorder (immune mediated hemolytic anemia), parasites, or iron deficiency. See Also: Feline Infectious Anemia.
Symptoms to look for:
- Decreased appetite
- Loss of weight
- Pale or white gums (gums are generally pink)
- Increased breathing rate or wheezing
If your cat has any of the above symptoms take him/her to the vet immediately for treatment. Your vet will determine the cause of the anemia and depending on the cause the treatment can range from antibiotics, to dietary supplements, to blood transfusions.
Indoor cats, who are in much less contact with disease and parasites, are at a much lower risk of becoming anemic. Keeping your cat inside and making sure he/she eats a balanced diet are the best precautions against anemia.