Dr. Marty Greer on Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia
Dr. Marty Greer, DVM, this year’s Westminster Kennel Club and Trupanion Vet of the Year, joins host Laura Reeves to discuss Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia in dogs.
“Autoimmune hemolytic anemia is, as it sounds, an immune mediated disease,” Greer said. “But what it doesn’t exactly describe is that in this particular disease, the target cells for the immune response are the circulating red blood cells. So in a patient that has autoimmune hemolytic anemia… people have it, dogs have it. Not as often in cats…. basically the body attacks its own red blood cells.
“The dog goes from being pretty clinically normal, to being really profoundly sick, weak, out of breath, really, really sick. Sometimes with a fever, sometimes not, within a matter of hours to days. And when this happens, it requires an immediate diagnosis and immediate initiation of treatment. Sometimes requiring blood transfusions, 24 hour stays in the hospital, all kinds of stuff. So, it is a bad disease.
“As soon as you flip the lip and you see that really pale mucus membrane color, like their gums are white or close to white. Sometimes jaundiced, just depends on how rapidly the red blood cells are being broken down and how those are being managed. The dog will look something like a dog with a splenic rupture. Or hemangiosarcoma of the spleen where they’re bleeding into the abdomen. It’s that same really profound anemia. Now, this tends to be most common, like I said, in middle age, to older female dogs, especially spaniels.
“That being said. I’ve seen it probably in every breed. So, I don’t think you can say, well you know, I have a corgi so it couldn’t be that. I don’t really think that’s the case.
“The other part of this is to try and determine if there’s an underlying cause. It can happen spontaneously in the middle-aged and older female. It can happen after a number of vaccinations are administered at the same time, but we see a lot of it related to tick borne diseases.
“(These) are thought to be triggers for this because something makes your body, say that red blood cell that’s in your circulation, no, that’s not my cell, that’s not my protein. My immune system is going to attack it just like it would have bacteria, a virus or other foreign tissue.”
Listen in to the entire episode for Dr. Greer’s diagnostic and treatment recommendations. And click over to the Veterinary Voice ALBUM for a compilation of every one of Laura’s in depth and practical conversations with Dr. Greer.