Like humans, cats can, and often do suffer from anemia. The condition, known as feline anemia, is the result of a low red blood cell count that leads to a reduction of the oxygen level throughout the cat's system. This is frequently a result of kidney disease, which causes a shortage of the hormone erythropoietin. When levels of erythropoietin are reduced, the bone marrow receives fewer stimuli to produce the red blood cells.
This condition can also be caused by fleas or other parasites. Some cats have developed the condition after having suffered a severe blood loss, either from trauma or through an internal cause, such as a bleeding ulcer or tumor.
In other cases, anemia is the result of another cat illness called feline leukemia, cancer or the feline immunodeficiency virus. Research has also shown that many cats get anemia as a result of ingesting a toxic substance. These substances can be as benign as an aspirin or Tylenol, which is why it is critical to never give any human over-the-counter medication to cats or other pets. If you have a sick cat, the first thing you should do is learn more about cat health issues to help you identify the illness. Here's how to identify the symptoms of anemia and find cat anemia treatment options.
Cats suffering from anemia generally exhibit the following symptoms:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Susceptibility to cold
- Discoloration of nose, tongue and/or gums
- Inattention to grooming
- Blood in feces or urine
Diagnosing the Disease Any cat with these symptoms should be taken to a veterinarian immediately for a complete physical examination. The only way to determine if a cat is actually suffering from anemia is through a blood test. Normally, the veterinarian will perform a complete blood count (CBC) on the cat to help her diagnose health problems. This serves three purposes:
- It will indicate how many erythrocytes are present in the bloodstream.
- It will show the level of red blood cells in the bloodstream.
- It will indicate iron levels
Additional tests would be needed to determine the root cause of the anemia, which must be treated in order to alleviate the condition.
Treatment Feline anemia is generally not specifically treated. The veterinarian must first treat the disease that is causing the anemia. Once the disease is under control, repeated blood testing is required to determine whether or not the red blood cells are being replenished. In some severe cases, the cat will require a blood transfusion even after the disease is under control.
Cats who suffer anemia as the result of trauma will also generally require blood transfusions. Some veterinarians recommend giving a cat iron supplements, not as a cure, but rather as a preventative to ensure the production of healthy red blood cells. Certain steroids can help in stimulating the appetite and there are also drugs that appear to stimulate the production of erythropoietin.
With proper cat illness diagnosis and treatment, your cat can recover. But proper cat health care states that it is important to visit your veterinarian at the first sign of illness, since feline anemia is a symptom of an even more serious disease.