Friday, December 16, 2011

Immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA)

Last weekend one of our dogs, Ellie (who had a splenectomy a year ago), started acting lethargic and her breathing seemed labored. After taking her to the vet and running some tests he referred us to Gulf Coast Veterinary Internal Medicine and Critical Care where she received a blood transfusion and it was confirmed; Ellie has immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (extravascular). In other words her immune system suddenly started destroying her own red blood cells. She was hospitalized for a couple days after the transfusion while they worked on getting her PCV (packed cell volume) count up. She is now home and is on several medications to try and control the immune system which is causing the anemia. She will be on them long term and will also need regular blood tests while we monitor her progress. She is doing well but the recovery will take awhile. 

Experts say some cases may have an underlying cause but 60 - 70% of dogs with IMHA do not have an apparent cause. There are a  few breeds like the cocker spaniels, poodles, Old English Sheepdogs and Irish setters that are predisposed to the development of it. To learn more about this serious disease you can visit these websites: and

We are fortunate enough to have some of the best veterinary specialists here in Houston should we need them. Miss Ellie has been to the specialists before to have arthroscopic surgery for elbow dysplasia in 2008. Though she is 13, which is old for a dog, she is in good health other than this anemia. We are blessed to have her with us this Christmas and cherish the time we have together which hopefully will be a lot longer.

12/19/11 UPDATE: Good news! We just got the lab results back for infectious diseases and Ellie tested positive for Mycoplasma haemocanis. This apparently can be a problem in dogs that have had their spleens removed, which Ellie did. Why is this good news? That means Ellie is in the 30 - 40% that have a known cause of the immune-mediated hemolytic anemia. The Mycoplasma which causes the anemia can be treated with medications (prednisone and antibiotics) and once we get rid of that her anemia will be cured! This is really good news! We are so blessed. We are going in for a blood test tomorrow and to change up her medications. I don't know that much about Mycoplasma yet but will be updating you as I learn more. 

12/22/11 UPDATE: Ellie is doing much better and her PCV is on it's way back up to the normal range. There is little information available on Mycoplasma in dogs. What I have learned is this: Mycoplasma is transmitted by either fleas or ticks. It doesn't normally affect most dogs if they have it but if their spleen is removed, it can cause the immune-mediated hemolytic anemia. It's not known whether she contracted the Mycoplasma some time ago (before she had her spleen removed)  and then (a year) after her spleen was removed it causes the IMHA or if it was contracted more recently, since the removal of her spleen. It's also possible for her to get this Mycoplasma again in the future and because of this, we will be not only continue to use a monthly flea treatment (like we always have) but will need to also give her a monthly tick preventative to be on the safe side.