IMHA dog
Dog Health | Latest Posts

The Reality of a Dog With IMHA

IMHA dog

I check my dog’s gums for any change in color from their usual pink to reddish healthy hue to anything that slightly resembles pale. This routine is performed nightly in conjunction with bedtime teeth brushing.  The reality of a dog with IMHA means life changes, but it can be managed. I fear those four letters more almost as much as I do the Big C. In this case, I am referring to IMHA, or Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia. Break that down and basically it means the body’s immune system destroys red blood cells.

IMHA is a chronic disease, often fatal, and something that I’ve read time and again of which Cocker Spaniels are the poster breed. According to most websites and veterinary literature, breeds that are more prone to the disease, in addition to Cockers, are Poodles, Basenji, West Highland White Terriers, Old English Sheepdogs, and Irish Setters, but any dog can be affected.

As a member of one of the biggest online Cocker Spaniel forums, it is with a heavy heart that at least once every few months a member reveals their dog is affected—and then the battle begins—sometimes with victory and many times the disease wins.

vetWith all of this information and all of these resources I’ve consumed over the years, the idea of blogging on the topic came to a head when an industry friend’s dog was diagnosed with IMHA. The dog is not a Cocker, not any of the typical breeds affected, and the dog is that of famed veterinarian, Dr. Patrick Mahaney. Mahaney is a regular contributor to and has documented his dog’s journey. The road has not been easy, but Mahaney has taken an integrative approach to Cardiff’s treatment by using a combination of Western (conventional) and Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM). You can follow Cardiff’s journey and Mahaney’s treatments and blog posts here or here.

The doc admits he is a “highly-informed pet owner, so any deviation from his normal is highly scrutinized for potential causes and outcomes,” and this is what pet parents must do in order to thwart this disease early on. IMHA, you see, is best battled when caught early on: As in, get the dog to the vet right away if the gums or pale, white, or yellow. That is one of the signs, but not the only and certainly not textbook for all dogs.

Reality of a dog with IMHA

What Causes IMHA?

In most pets, the underlying cause of disease is never identified. Some experts believe IMHA may be caused, in part or because of, infection, vaccination reaction, drug side effects, or even cancer.

As a dog mom whose first Cocker Spaniel developed a mast cell tumor (cancer) at the site of then-yearly vaccines. You can read about our mast cell cancer journey here. (note: we beat it)!

Dogs that have been diagnosed with IMHA should not be used for breeding, and it is preferable to avoid breeding their close relatives as well. If you are seeking a dog from a reputable breeder, ask about IMHA in the line and any screening.

In some cases, it is believed there is an underlying problem: something that triggered the reaction. This is where my ears perk up and I take notice. And yours should, too.

Some theories of cause of IMHA include:

  • Drugs used for treatment in the dog of another condition. Implicated drugs include penicillins, trimethoprim-sulfa, and methimazole.
  • Cancer can cause a reaction and IMHA may result.
  • Insect bites.
  • Spot-on flea and tick preventatives

In one report, IMHA is observed in dogs with increased antibody titers to viral antigens, which seems to indicate that recent vaccinations or viral infections may be implicated in those cases. An association between IMHA and recent vaccination (<30days) has been established, but the cause and effect relationship between IMHA and recent vaccinations hasn’t been widely accepted by the veterinary community.

Photo courtesy Dr. Laurie Coger.

Why Should Dog Parents Care About IMHA?

The signs and symptoms may be subtle, and any dog can be affected.

I read a post similar to this on a Cocker Spaniel forum about 5 or 6 years ago:

“DeeDee is still hospitalized but doing reasonably well. Her RBC was holding at about 28 to 30. She is still receiving hyperbaric chamber treatments along with numerous meds. Marsha has been bringing her food and she is starting to pick at stuff but not really eating/drinking all that much (this is typical since the patient is exhausted as well as the meds often making the tummy iffy).”

The dog never made it home. She passed later that week.

The posts became more frequent and it seemed to this expert-level Cocker mom that IMHA is an epidemic. The more we know as pet parents, the more vigilant we can be in fighting it, and at the very least in getting a proper diagnosis sooner than later.

cocker spaniel

What Are the Symptoms of IMHA?

Symptoms include, but are not limited to, and not all dogs will experience these (nor all at once, though some may):

  • Weakness/lethargy
  • Dark orange or brown urine
  • Yellowing (jaundice) of mouth and/or eyes
  • Labored (heavy) breathing

 Get to the Vet

If any of the above occurs, time is essential, so get your dog to a veterinarian. One of the tests that a vet should run if gums are yellowed or pale is a packed cell volume blood test. In this test, blood serum will return to an off-white color in the tube if the result is normal; a bright orange color indicates hemolytic anemia.

NOTE: Of the dozens of dog parents I’ve connected with over the years who have/had a dog with IMHA, each of them report different initial symptoms, including:

  • Did not eat or even if they did not eat all of their food (note: not eating could be a sign of a lot of things. Get a blood panel done as a start)
  • Seemed a little “off”
  • Lethargic and not wanting to play as usual
  • Labored breathing

If your dogs have black gums, you can also check their eye membranes. Gently pull up (or down) on the lids and look under the lids. It’s similar to checking for pink-eye.

So everyone’s dog is affected differently but acting quickly to get the dog to a vet is essential. This disease, and its symptoms, can come on slowly, but more often, it comes on very quickly.

brush dog teeth
This what my dog’s gums look like normally. Do you know what normal gums look like in your dog?

What Dog Parents Say

Here are actual quotes from dog parents who have a dog diagnosed with IMHA:

I can say that this disease is very tricky. My dog had his first episode in June 2009 and then a second in July of 2010. The first episode,  there were no signs at all…had he not jumped off and hit his eye accidentally I probably would have woke up to find that he had crossed over, his platelets when I took him to the vet for the eye was 1%. He was in the hospital 6 days and had a platelet transfusion. The second episode was exactly like the symptoms say, weak, not eating and very worn out. We got him to the vet thanks to Cherished Cockers and his RBC was way down, he was there 5 days had a whole blood transfusion and thank god has been okay since then. I check his gums 2-3 times a day all the time. He probably gets tired of me doing it but I still do it.

I lost my little angel, Lily, on the 24th of October from IMHA. I don’t think there was anything I could have done to save her. It hit so quickly, and hard, I don’t think anything would have helped her fight it. She had a transfusion, which didn’t take. Her gums, eyes, and tongue had all turned yellow, and at the end even her belly skin was tinged. It was just terrible. And she went from healthy to very ill so quickly!

I’m thinking the reason Penny contracted the disease was to do with her yearly boosters. The needle bent due to her wiggling and the vet was very new. I guess I’ll never be 100% sure but something seemed off about the whole event, her booster was in late December and soon after she stopped eating as much, it took a while and then her gums went pale on February 13th and she was admitted on Valentine’s Day and stayed in intensive care for two weeks and she had to return a week after she was allowed out after contracting a rather nasty virus.

I am currently fighting IMHA with my pup, Annie. She was also started on prednisone and and antibiotic. By the end of the first week my vet also added cyclosporine which is what transplant patients take to prevent organ rejection. She is currently on those along with azathioprine which is a chemo drug. She has also had two transfusions – one of gamma globulin and the second of blood. She is also on a liquid aspirin which is important with IMHA since you need to avoid blood clots. Thankfully she is doing well now and starting to cut down on the pred. This is a horrible disease and if caught early and fought aggressively you can beat it.

So you can see that everyone has a path that is different, but it is a disease that can wreak havoc. It is, however, a disease that is treatable and manageable, with an overall guarded prognosis.

cute dogs


Dogs can and do survive despite a diagnosis of IMHA. It is not a guaranteed death sentence. Dispel any thought of that immediately, as a good attitude, a dedicated veterinarian who understands the disease, a specialist who can assist, and a plan in place are all needed. It can be costly and it is a disease that requires diligence on the pet parent’s behalf.

Dr. Patrick Mahaney’s dog, Cardiff, is proof of a dog living (and thriving) with IMHA and a cancer diagnosis, too. I encourage you to read his story and the recommendations of things he has done with Cardiff. Talk to your veterinarian and ask questions. Keep a journal/log of any incidents, when they occurred, anything that surrounded the incident, etc.

Treatment isn’t easy and it is ongoing, and it includes, but is not limited to:

  • Blood transfusions
  • Immune system suppression (immunosuppression) with corticosteroid hormones and potentially advancement to stronger immune suppressive medications, including azathioprine and cyclophosphamide. These are very serious drugs reserved for serious diseases and do have side effects to be discussed with your dog’s veterinarian.
  • Repeat visits and close monitoring of your dog
  • If those gums change in color, get to the vet ASAP. Blood transfusions are needed when the red blood cell level is critically low.

Secondary Complications

Treatment of IMHA is one battle and the side effects of those medications can wreak havoc. According to, here are some of the secondary issues:

IMHA slides


Vickie Olesker Oppenheimer is an incredible resource on this disease, as a Cocker Mom who has faced this illness with her own dog. She sees this time and again in Cocker Spaniels and is a wonderful resource of information on the Zim Cocker Spaniel Forum. She says, with regards to cost:

“This – like most serious diseases – is expensive! I’m talking about a $10,000 bill in five days – the FIRST five days. Medications ran $400 a month after that for a year. If you are someone that says you tuck away a little each month, consider how much you need to put away monthly to cover that bill. Thankfully we have pet insurance and received reimbursement.

I pay $214 each month to cover five dogs, two cats with a $500. deductible per pet, 80% reimbursement and 100% drug coverage. Research plans and find one that suits you. The only way we could have paid for both Annie and Jennie in that year would have been to put almost $2,000 a month away for them. Is that realistic for you?”

For me, yes this is realistic. I save for my dog. I have pet health insurance for my dog. I look at my dog as a family member and this is what I would do for a family member. And most of you would, too.



I am not a writer who believes every fact or statistic she reads. Survival rates run the gamut, but dogs can beat this disease. A diagnosis is not a death sentence.

IMHA patients need very close monitoring. Red blood cell counts must be rechecked every 2 to 3 weeks and medications and treatments will fluctuate depending on blood work results. After stabilization, a basic blood panel and urinalysis should be performed every 4 to 6 months for good.

Here is an entire website for reading on success stories of IMHA diagnosed dogs.

Bottom line: There is hope and if this was my dog, I’d fight for him or her period. Love is love.

If My Dog Acquired IMHA

In all honesty, if my dog ever acquired IMHA, I’d be on a consult with the famed Dr. Jean Dodds, Dr. Mahaney, a specialist in the disease, and in regular contact with my dog’s veterinarian.

If your dog is diagnosed, I recommend you ask to join the Zim Cocker Spaniel forum and read the many resources from folks dealing with it first hand or who have dealt with it.

Never give up. Dogs depend on us for their care and overall well being. This can be dealt with, there are resources, and you are not alone.

dog writer

Citations, Sources, and Further Reading:

Veterinary Partner, The Pet Health Library:

Marvista Vet,

IMHA information:

Dr. Patrick Mahaney: Cardiff’s Blog:


Vickie Olesker Oppenheimer with special gratitude

Note:  I am not a veterinarian but I am a dedicated and educated dog mom. You should always seek veterinary care and talk to your vet about your dog’s health.


Similar Posts


  1. I’ve never heard of it. It’s good to be informed though, so you know what you’re dealing with, if your pet has it!

  2. I had a cocker spaniel growing up, his name was Baxter. He didn’t have this issue, but he did have seizures.

  3. This article is GREATLY needed — IMHA Awareness is the biggest tool in the arsenal to fight IMHA. My Billy (yep, a buffy English cocker) onset 9 years ago. Back then it took me weeks to even find ONE buffy cocker who had survived. Meisha’s Hope website showed that. Billy survived **and THRIVED (six transfusions the first month though. Expensive? oh yeah). Like is mentioned above I also used TCVM (and if anyone wants help trying to hook up with a TCVM vet feel free to email me). But a couple of things I’d really like to stress:

    The absolute BEST above description of onset is “seemed a little off”. If you can catch this EARLY your chances of heading it off with less trauma are far better. Even a teeny tiny bit “seems just a little queasy” (but may be eating FINE) … but truly “just a little off” — go to the vet PLEASE.

    Vet Schools — they can be **the** absolute best place to go. Often far far cheaper (and far better than many) than specialists. It’s honestly worth a 4-6 hour drive and can save you literally many thousands of dollars to go to a vet school.

    This is an auto-immune a/k/a immune-mediated disease. That means that the body itself is killing the red cells (and sometimes platelets). That’s what the big drugs do — they are immune-suppressors. They have mega side effects. You cope with them. You mitigate damage by protecting the liver with things like milk thistle. The dog is sick for a good long while and it takes you many many months (six months at the very least is best to wean off the drugs — with my Billy it was 18 months).

    So you seek wise help — like TCVM — to cope with those side effects and protect the body as best you can so the drugs don’t take a permanent toll on the body.

    And you never give up. My Billy had his BEST years post-IMHA. He was a rescue who had a zillion problems … but he survived and thrived. A mutual friend who has an IMHA dog gave me this link. You absolutely ROCK for bringing awareness to IMHA because we can’t fight what people don’t know about. I’m not a vet — I’m just another dog mom who has found passion in fighting IMHA.

    1. Hi there Callie
      We are trying to manage this disease now with my spaniel mix, Sweetie. Her RBC was 7, She received a tranfusion and after 8 days on meds (prednisone and doxycylene) she looks better, and her RBC rose to 11. That didn’t seem like a big jump, but the vet felt any improvement is a good sign. She is eating well and her activity level has improved. The vet is adding another drug to help her, mycophenolate (sp.?)
      How quickly did your pups RBC levels rise?

    2. Thank you for the information, my pek be came ill with IMHA 3 weeks ago. We have a good vet. But I feel lost how can I help, what do I do?

  4. My dog had this and he did survive it. He had 2 transfusions and tons of medicine. He was within 12 hours of losing his life when the 3rd drug started to work. It was a year ago May 29th 2014.

    I believe his was brought on by dental that was done and they didn’t get all of the infection.

    It was the worse 8 weeks of my life and I check him every day to make sure his gums are pink.

    1. My dog had it few years ago. He was half dead already, the vet said maybe two more days. I didn’t give up, out of desperation I researched the internet and read about aloe vera juice. Started giving him about 1/4 cup by mouth with a syringe three times a day. He didn’t want it but I forced it into his mouth. I didn’t know how much to give him so I guessed. He is about 15 pounds Pekingese. Let me tell you, he started to get better the next day. After one week he was back to normal, like nothing ever happened. Up to this day my vet calls him the miracle dog and she still can’t believe it that he is alive.
      Aloe vera juice, NOT gel, juice is what saved my Riley. Aloe vera builds new red blood cells, people cure themselves out of leukemia with it.

    2. Can I ask what was the third medicine that worked? My dog is going through this and nothing is working and I’m running out of funds.

    3. Rita Kirouac – Why would you not list the drugs? Can you please list the 3rd drug so others can help their dogs!?

  5. Thanks for sharing this important information. I am not a dog owner but I am sure that this info will come in handy to those that are. Thanks for sharing awareness and being an advocate for our four legged friends 🙂

  6. My 7 year young Standard Poodle was suddenly covered in deep purple, nearly black bruising all over his body. I happened to be giving him a bath when I was horrified to find these bruises everywhere. His coat is so full and thick, even with brushing I wouldn’t have seen them. “Humphrey” came from a reputable breeder that shows their dogs, and does all the necessary genetic background testing before they breed their dogs. This is one of the things that a dog cannot be tested for beforehand… I called my regular vet, who was booked full for about 5 days. The receptionist said it sounded like ” age spots.” My gut instincts (and Facebook friends) told me otherwise. When I took him to the vet the following morning, after an ultrasound and extensive blood work they found he had 0 platelets. He was put on Chemo and medications and seems to be doing well, 11 days later. Bruising is all gone, good appetite, alert, though a bit quieter than usual. Had I waited the 4 days for my regular vet’s appointment, Humphrey would have been dead. Tomorrow is his first follow up exam… and I’m very curious as to what they will do and find. The last 11 days Humphrey hasn’t been allowed to wear his collar, eat crunchy foods, no bones to chew on, no teeth brushing, or playing around with my other 2 Standard Poodles. Luckily he’s been a bit quieter than usual, which has made life a bit less stressful during this heartbreaking time. Humphrey has had his usual vaccinations.. the last one was Leptospirosis, back in November 2014, after I instructed the vet NOT to. I’m fuming. Humphrey isn’t allowed any more vaccinations, EVER. Also no more monthly Heartworm preventative tablets. Please follow your gut instincts.. if you seriously feel something is wrong with your dog, get him to the vet asap. I did. and it saved Humphrey’s life. Twice. 17 months ago he was suddenly very sick and was diagnosed with IBD. My other Standard was also diagnosed last August with Addison’s. Better to be safe than very sorry…

  7. My shepherd mixed breed recently faced IMHA. His symptoms were pale gums and falling over with pre-seizure like activity but caused from lightheadedness. We got him into the vet within a week of his first fall and a week after that he required an emergency blood transfusion. I believe our quick response was key in battling this as he is now in remission! It has been three weeks since the transfusion and his rbc count has gone from 15% to 35%. We used GoFundMe to help raise money for his transfusion and medication because, as this blog clearly points out, it is an expensive treatment. I hope others can find this resource helpful too.

    1. WOW, Amber – good for you for acting fast. I am sure your due diligence and getting your dog to the vet so fast was key to his improvement. We have our paws crossed that all continues to go well. Please keep us posted.

      1. Thank you Carol,
        We had a checkup at the vet today and his blood work turned our really good! All of his levels are in the normal range and we are starting to slowly decrease his medication. We are looking forward to participating in Dog-N-Jog on Sunday to benefit the Humane Society of the Greater Kansas City.

  8. My dog died from this disease yesterday. I wish I knew of about this disease earlier. It was brutal and my baby girl tried her best to eat her meds and food. In a matter of two days (after noticing the symptoms), IMHA destroyed her organs and she had severe case of jaundice, her urine was practically blood. The best decision was to let her sleep peacefully and pain free. I wanted to keep her and fight along side her but we caught the symptoms too late… I don’t know if or how or when I will get over this, but I know I am going to miss her and keep her close to my heart forever. Please, spread the word so others don’t have to lose their furry friends to this awful disease.

    1. I feel for you deeply. I lost my lab/shepherd mix in Jan. He was diagnosed with IMHA afew days before thanksgiving and put up a hell of a fight. I said as long as he was willing to fight and not suffering I would fight with him. Right before christmas i took him in for a follow up rbc count and to have the vet, not his usual, check a small mass at his armpit. She diagnosed it as edema, fluid buildup, and he went home. It spread down his leg into his paw and it wasn’t until he hit it that it was determined to be an abcess. I don’t know if he was septic from the infection or if the imha got him but on January 6th I made the call that his suffering wasn’t worth waiting around hoping for one more good day, so with his normal vet by my side I let him get the rest he deserved. It’s the not knowing that kills me and brings me to tears even now. Had the abcess been caught right off would he till be here doing well with a 38%rbc and happy energy.

  9. My 7 month old Goldendoodle was diagnosed with IMHA about 3 weeks ago. He has been sick the week before, he was unable to open his eyes and when he did they were rolled back in his head. I decided to take him to the vet and when I did they said that he has a fever and that he obviously had some kind of infection so they started him on several antibiotics. A few days after being on the antibiotics he was back to his old self. A couple days after that I let him outside like I do every morning and that is when I noticed that he his legs would just give out on him. I walked him around a little and then I saw that his gums were extremely white. When I called the vet they urged me to bring him in immediately. After many tests they diagnosed him with IMHA. They told me that his red blood cell count should be between 35 and 40 and his was at 10. At this point he was unable to walk all together and could barely even lift his head. After several days in and out of the vets office and local pet emergency clinic we decided that we needed to do a blood transfusion and start him on several medications. One of those medications is called Mycophenolate. This is a chemotherapy type drug that shuts down the immune system. After the blood transfusion it brought his red blood cell count up to 16. It wasn’t exactly what they were hoping for but they said I needed to wait 72 hours for this drug to kick in. Over the next several days his red blood cell count began to drop again and got back down to 12. After the 72 hours passed they said that he would need to have another blood transfusion. They explained to me that a 2nd blood transfusion was much riskier than the first one because dogs do not have the antibodies that humans do to accept new blood. They told me that I would need to take him to a facility that could cross match his blood type and that would decrease his risks. I took him to Blue Peal in Louisville. They explained to me that he was on all of the right medications and that they would do a 2nd blood transfusion and that his red blood cell count would need to get up to at least 25 and it would need to stay there before they would allow him to go home. They started the blood transfusion and when they tested his red blood cell count afterwards his count was at 27. They kept him for 24 hours and when I went to pick him up it was up to 30. 2 days later I took him back to his normal vet and his red blood cell count was at 35. Its been one week since then and he gets his blood count done again tomorrow. I can tell sometimes that he gets tired but he definitely has his spunk back and is doing much better.

    When I found out that he had IMHA I was looking everywhere online trying to some answers and understand what exactly it was. I was told many times that most of the time dogs do not make it through this. They told me that my dogs red blood cell count is about as low as they had ever seen. I was devastated. I hope this helps someone else looking for some answers and a little hope because although it is a TERRIBLE disease it cant be beat.

    1. Olivia – One of the best resources I have found for IMHA assistance has been from a Cocker Spaniel forum and I would recommend going over, joining it (free) and searching IMHA. Many Cocker parents deal with dogs with IMHA and there is a lot of solid info and experience there. here is the link:

      Blessings to your dog and please keep us posted on his progress. He will continue to make it with your due diligence and staying on top of this. You sound like a great dog mom.

      1. Hi Olivia,
        In the article above, Carol mentions Dr. Dodds with On their website you can upload any of your dog’s test results and get a thorough consultation for $150 which may seem like a lot at first but if you are working with vets who don’t specialize in this disease it is worth it! In addition to the website that she mentioned in her previous message, I also found support through and they too were able to provide some information based on the test results that I uploaded. It may seem a bit “out there” but I am taking Dean to a vet who specializes in Traditional Chinese Medicine. This is a great supplement to your regular veterinary care and they can suggest some great herbs and diet modifications to protect your dog’s liver from the damaging side effects of the medications needed to fight this disease. Praying for the best for you and your goldendoodle.

        1. Amber, that means so much that you took the time to write and share this very valuable info. I believe in and follow the teachings of Dr. Dodds religiously. She is such a pioneer.

          I you don’t mind my asking, what is Dean seeing a traditional Chinese medicine specialist for? Keep us posted and many hugs.

          1. I have scrutinized all possible causes of Dean’s IMHA and haven’t found any risks that he ingested poison, tick tests turned up negative, no chemicals on the lawn, no recent vaccines, etc. He also doesn’t appear to carry any of the genes of breeds that are commonly diagnosed with this disease although he is truly a mutt and we really have no idea what breed(s) he is. We are visiting the TCM vet for three reasons: 1) There is a chance that Dean is allergic to something commonly found in dog food (i.e. gluten) and a TCM vet can provide information for diet modifications specific to his issues. 2) With all the medications Dean has been on for the past four months, his liver levels are really high and we are looking for some herbs/supplements to protect his liver. 3) Ten days ago, Dean’s blood test showed some drops in HTC and RBC so we went back on the cyclosporin which had recently been discontinued. While waiting for a week to pass before we could test his blood in response to the reintroduction of cyclosporin, I sort of had a “freak out” or a “meltdown” in fear of losing him or needing another blood transfusion and decided I would try anything. While I was up to 3am one night researching anything and everything about IMHA and AIHA, I came across Traditional Chinese Medicine and that next day I impulsively made an appointment with one in town. Luckily, we reintroduced the cyclosporin quickly enough to prevent the need for another blood transfusion but I consulted with Dean’s vet and she is completely on board with supplementing with TCM to manage any possible food allergy and to protect his liver. Acupuncture is also an option that may stimulate the bone marrow’s production of reticulocytes but there is little to no research on this. We visit the TCM vet tomorrow so I will let you know what I learn.

          2. Sending paw prayers, Amber. I am vacationing at the time, so pardon any delays in replying. But yes,please do keep me posted on how things go. You are a great dog mom and so on top of this! Give Dean a tummy rub from us.

      2. Our chihuahua was diagnosed with IMHA. Her RBC was down to 21 when the diagnosis was made. We started her immediately on BioAlgae F3+ and a very nutritious raw food diet along with Prednisolone. She is weaning off of the Pred and she started taking Mycophenolate . Her RBC is up to 42 now. She has had swelling of the liver since we put her on the Prednisolone and the Mycophenolate has caused bloating. I really feel that the Algae and the raw food diet has helped her immensely. I think she might not have survived this if we hadn’t done this. The meds from the vet are very harsh and she doesn’t like taking them. She enjoys her raw food diet and the algae and even comes to tell me that she’s ready for her green medicine 3 times a day at the exact right time. I wanted to put this out there for anyone who is going thru this with their little precious pup. I hope it helps.

        1. WOW that is fantastic that you figured this out and have it taken care of. Congratulations! Long and happy life!

  10. Dean and I visited a vet today who specializes in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). I’m going to do my best to share what I learned but there was so much information that you absolutely must consult with a vet before adding any (and I mean ANY) herbs or supplements to your dog’s diet when fighting IMHA. Yes, acupuncture can stimulate a dog’s bone marrow to create the reticulocytes that become red blood cells but herbs and Chinese medicines can do this too and so much more. In Dean’s case, she believes he carried an underlying predisposition for anemia that was triggered by vaccines as well as a diet high in processed foods which was also preventing his recovery. No matter how good the ingredients are in a bag of commercial kibble or canned food, the food has been processed to the point that it has lost some nutritional value. Because vaccines are meant to last a year or more, he is now on some medications to cleanse his system and restore his digestive health which has been ravaged by the immunosuppressants he has been on to keep him alive. He is still on the prednisone and cyclosporin and both our regular vet and the TCM vet are working together to track Dean’s test results. Dean will never again be vaccinated (this is not just my opinion but recommended from the vet) except with a specialized form of the rabies vaccine. We are preventing fleas and ticks with the Soresto collar as opposed to anything topical or ingested. Without the required vaccines he won’t be able to go to the doggie daycare down the street and dog parks are too great a risk. Despite all of this, my baby is still alive and we are enjoying every minute of our time together.

  11. My 8 year old Shih Tzu has this God awful disease.The first incident was in 2011 when we walked into the bathroom and found a dog pad drenched in blood.We rushed her to vet and then specialist in R.I. who in my eyes is a miracle worker.She was in ICU for 5 days and had 2 transfusions.I dreaded each call and prayed a lot.My baby Ali was full of life and playing as usual before this happened.It came on quickly and suddenly.She was on prednisone and other medications for months.Itwas very expensive but more costly in emotional distress.I am a retired teacher and my 2 dogs are my kids.The worrying was hell on earth.But slowly my spunky girl made it after several months of loving care at home.Just when we were told by our vet that she was very unlikely to have a reoccurrence it happened again in 2014.Back to the specialist for 4 more days of ICU,transfusions,and medications.Again my miracle Ali recovered after several months of care and medication at home.Sadly,as I am writing this I noticed a tinge of red blood in her urine.I am terrified,angry,and unimaginably sad.It is late so tomorrow to the vet.My baby has gone through so much.We have decided that if it happened a third time we would help her cross the Rainbow Bridge. Yet everything in me cries to try one more time.I know in my heart it was because as a young puppy she was given too many vaccinations at once as she passed out.This was after only a few weeks with me.I thought they had killed her.To this day I know her IMHA was due to too many vaccinations at once.Please do not let this happen to your dog Insist the vaccinations be spread out.The research mentions this as a possible cause but then says there can be no proven correlation. But I know better.I hate this disease.

  12. My 5 year old male pit bull was just diagnosed five days ago. Platelet count is up to 147 from 37 five days ago. H&H are 4.3 and 13.6, RBC is 1.97 – dropped from 5.7, 17.29 and 2.66. He received a steroid shot five days ago and is on Pred 20mg bid. The vet added Imuran today after I called and cried stating I have to watch my dog die because I can’t afford to take him to VSS in St. Louis. The vet said he needs a transfusion, but no one in Cape Girardeau has any blood. I need to ask about aspirin and maybe Tagamet. I took the week off and don’t let Tucker out of my sight. We sleep with him and I hold my hand over his heart all night long while praying. The guilt I feel for money determining whether or not he makes it is unbearable. We maxed out Care credit with my other dog that just had TPLO surgery and then went into renal failure.

    Thank you for this article, it gives me some hope. Please let me know if you have any other suggestions for me to ask my vet about.

  13. My 10th month old rescue is the light of my life. I am single and 42 and adopting him was the best decision of my life. He was strong playful and healthy up until 2 months ago when he started limping. Was diagnosed with Pano and seemed to be on the mend. A week ago though he took a nose dive has lost a ton of weight and after multiple vet visits we think he has AIHA. I am sick to my stomach – he was just admitted and will start the aggressive treatment of steroids and antibiotics. The doctor is good but gave me a less than 50% chance of his survival. I literally saw yesterday that his normally heathy gums and beautiful white teeth were now yellowed pale and bleeding. Obviously straight to the vet and this is where I am now. I am so distraught and upset and all I can do is pray he’ll pull through. He was so healthy and amazing and I am so shocked that if this is such a danger that it’s not a typically administered test! What if he had this all along and not pano as they said?!? Wtf good are the vets then? He is my soul mate and my love – I have been sleeping with him on the floor for a week now and only can pray he pulls through. This forum is comforting but of course I am blaming myself – he is vaccinated – I was told I had to if he was to go to daycare, dog parks etc. is that really what did it? I am just sitting by the phone now waiting…please say a prayer for Sawyer and I

  14. My 8 year old shah tzu Lola was diagnosed a month ago and it has been a battle. She made it after 3 blood transfusions and many nights in the hospital. We still have not figured out what caused the IMHA. Since she is a lap dog the only symptom was the brown color of urine and then I checked her gums. At one point her blood level was 8. She continues to take two medications. I almost gave up hope. I am so happy we helped her. She continues to improve everyday.

    1. Gosh I am glad your Lola is okay. Sometimes you may never know what set the IMHA off. Is she vaccinated regularly? Sometimes even a vaccine can do it. Healing paw prayers coming out, Emily.

  15. My 5yr old Italian Greyhound Louie was diagnosed with IHMA on 9/29/16. I rushed him to the vet after noticing his white gums. His PCV was at 12% & received a blood transfusion that day. After the transfusion & 2 days in hospital care his PCV reached 26%. They allowed him to come home. His medications consist of a 10mg tab of Pepcid every 12hrs, 20mg tab Prednisone every 12hrs, 2mg asprin every 24hrs, & 100mg tab Doxycycline every 12hrs. His follow up check on 10/04/16 showed his PCV declined to 20%. All of his test results came back negative. Our vet stopped the Doxycycline and started him on 25mg tab Cyclosporine. At his next follow up on 10/6/16 his PCV increased to 22%. We’ve been pushing along & Louie has remained stable. At today’s check up (10/14/16) his PCV has declined to 19%. The vet said it’s still early to tell if the cyclosporine is working or if we will need to change to another medication (Mycophenolate)
    Louie was recently vaccinated on 09/07/16 & I wonder if this is what caused the IHMA. Our vet said she can’t confirm this, but another vet we’ve seen at this same hospital told me to “Never vaccinate my dog again”. I am on an emotional roller coaster at this point & I am learning that it is a day by day process. Please feel free to comment with any advice. We will continue to fight this awful disease & hope for a full recovery. This blog has been incredibly helpful, & I appreciate everyone’s stories. Thank you!

    1. For starters, don’t blame yourself. If I were in your position, I would choose to titer my dog and only vaccinate as absolutely necessary and required by law. We follow the advice of Dr. Jean Dodds, who really is a pioneer in the vaccine world and she has been such a resource for so many.

      We have blogged about vaccines and you can search our site.

      In the meantime, we do know a lot of pet parents who have dogs with IMHA and they have beaten it. Are you seeing a specialist for it???

      Your feedback is very much appreciated and we are keeping Louie in our thoughts and prayers. He is young, has a very diligent dog mom in you, and you are on top of this. There is also a Facebook group that I know is valuable for many dog parents dealing with IMHA in their dog:

      1. Thank you for the link, I will look into that. Yes we are seeing a specialist. I appreciate your time, & prayers. We’re staying positive and will continue to fight!

  16. We just lost our sweet Jack yesterday. He was fine on Friday, Saturday morning he was lethargic and his urine was brown. I took him to our vet, she ran a blood test and diagnosed it. We then went immediately to the Pet ER. His blood count was at 29 at our regular vet, but had dropped to 21 by the time the vet at the ER checked his blood. She started a transfusion and he had four transfusions in less than 24 hours. He was losing the blood as fast as they could put it in. The vet recommended an infusion so we did that. There was no improvement. His blood dropped to 13, he was having trouble breathing. We were losing him right before our eyes. The vet said his case was very severe and aggressive. We had to make the horribly painful decision to let him go. We are absolutely heartbroken… To have him with us one day and gone two days later is incredibly painful. Jack was only nine years old. He was a beautiful sweet Maltese. I will never have another dog like him. After reading some of these posts I think that maybe we gave up too soon. But he just wasn’t responding at all to anything… I am heartbroken…

    1. So sorry for you lose. I have a 4 yr old Maltese/Yorkie 5 lbs and he was diagnosed on Monday 2/6/17
      with this horrible disease. This is day 3 and I don’t really see much change after being on medication for 3
      days. We go back on Monday for more blood work. I’m really concerned due to his size and pray
      we start seeing some change in the next day or two. Thank you for your story.

  17. My little Elly Mae was just under 4 years old when she threw up in the house one morning. She never has an accident. When I went to clean it up, I looked at her and threw the cloth down, and rushed her to the Hospital. The Vet called me back within the hour and told me to look up IMHA on line. I thought I would never stop crying. He told me that she was the worst he ever saw. She was hospitalize for a week, and came home with 5 different meds to be given to her 3 times a day. This was extremely expensive. Without the 4000 dollars hospital bill, the meds were more than 300 dollars a month. Now two years later she is well and the joy of our life. Elly Mae is a West Highland Terrier. By the way she is now on meds for pancreas problems, and still is a happy dog. They have told us that this sometimes happens because of the massive drug program that she needed to save her life.

  18. I just found this article and was glad to find it informative and helpful. My boy Jasper, a dachshund, was diagnosed w/ IMHA in 2013 at the age of 4, about one month after his yearly vaccines. He was showing signs of lethargy, loss of appetite, dark yellow urine, and the dreaded pale (almost white) gums. I know my dog and I knew something was wrong, so I took him to his regular vet immediately. She took xrays and did some bloodwork and suggested I put him on a multivitamin and bring him back in 2 weeks. Ummm, no. I took him to a NEW vet the next day and he was diagnosed with IMHA. I was devastated and angry all at the same time. He was started on meds, which we had to change out several different times because nothing seemed to be working. His immune system was attacking the few rbc his marrow was producing and even after a bone marrow aspiration they could not figure out why. At one point his hematocrit levels were down do 19% and they were considering a transfusion. So in a last ditch effort they put him on Cyclosporine in addition to the Prednisone and that did the trick! Granted, it was not an overnight fix, but his numbers started to rise. It took a full year and a half of meds and bi-weekly cbc workups and tlc to get him to where he is now. In January 2015 we finally got the all clear from all meds and tests and his numbers have been holding steady ever since! (We get cbc checkups every 6 months as a precaution)

    IMHA is not a diagnosis I would wish on any dog or their owner. It was emotionally and financially draining. I spent over $4000 that I was not prepared for and without the help of friends and strangers I would not have been able to save my baby. There were many nights I would go to sleep thinking he might not wake up with me in the morning, and the feeling of having to leave him to go to work and worrying that he would die while I was gone was almost too much to bear. I also know that he could relapse at any time, and that the next time we may not get the same outcome.

    1. Our paw prayers and thoughts are coming out to you that all is okay and that Jasper continues to be stable. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

  19. My 4 year old Corgi got IMHA this past December. It has been the worst thing you could go through with your little angel. She is such a hyper dog and loves to eat all the time. But all of a sudden she woke up one morning not wanting to eat, move, bark or even go to pee. By night time, I took her to the emergency and they told me her blood counts were at 17% when they’re suppose to be around 45%. She had 4 blood transfusions while at the hospital for 9 days. We almost had to put her down since we saw her suffering at the end. Thank God that the double blood transfusion worked all of a sudden. But this was such a horrible experience I hope I can forget soon. But most important is that if we had not had the funds in our credit cards, she wouldn’t have made it due to the cost for this $18K. There was no sign before that day for me to realize she was getting sick. It just happened one day. So I urge everyone to purchase pet insurance with no limits of coverage if your pet is as important to you as mine are to me. She is still in recovery since it’s only been six weeks since her red blood cells went up to normal. She’s still on medications. But it also helped when we purchased a homeopathic medication which we got through the internet once I searched about this desease and found out the survival rate was 50-30%. It’s called Blue Algea. You can read about it if you search in the internet. I was desperate to safe my girl. I believe wIth the help of the meds, the homeopathic solution and all my prayers made a miracle to safe her. Unfortunately this changed her completely. She’s more hyper,especially at night.! She breathes so fast. Plus she’s gotten mean to the rest of the animals and she breathes so fast when she goes in the car anywhere. I don’t know why.

  20. My dog contacted IMHA and was only 3 years old. We did all we could do to save him. He spent 9 days in the hospital only to come home one night and passed away the next morning. We had 9 medications for him and he only got to take one dose. In my mind they knew he wasn’t going to make it but the played on our heart strings and wallet. $8000.00 later my dog is in a box setting on my table. Just be aware of what you are told by the Vet.

  21. We have just had to make a very hard decision. our GR has been in hospital. for 11 days now. vets said it is an immune deficiency. His RBC was very low and he wasn’t producing any platelets. not sure if this is IMHA but seem as it is.

    He had a blood transfusion on Friday his RBC is up abut platelets 9%. we are going to visit him tomorrow to spend some time with him and to say goodbye. he isn’t even 2yrs yet. we are heartbroken. All the info I put in leads to same conclusion IMHA.

    Good piece to read. it can happen to any dog or cat I believe..

  22. In August, 2016, I lost my very beloved mini Doxie named Rosay. It’s been 10 months, but I sit here, now, with tears streaming down my cheeks as I write this message. Vivacious, Energetic, Perfectly Healthy, Bouncy, Fun, Caring, Lovable, Spirited, Very Healthy, Beautiful and Loving Rosay. She was 10 yrs. old. Never sick a day. Then, in that early June/2016, my Rosay just seemed a bit “off” …. so to the Vet we did go: not our regular vet, but a Canine Internist/Specialist from Oakland Veterinary Referral Services in Michigan. Rosay was diagnosed with IM/HA. Had NO idea what that was …. and I was positive she would recover. I read everything I could about IM/HA. Rosay had three Transfusions, a number of Hospital stays, pills/pills, special diet, TLC and everything else, but Rosay died in my arms in less than three months following her diagnosis. My other mini Doxie, Rosay’s Pal Dutchess, spent her early years in/out of Veterinarian Care for one thing or another. I always hoped Dutchess would make it to 9 or 10 years old. Today, Dutchess is flourishing at 11.5 years old … is healthy as can be … a great “little one”. Vet gave her a great report, she has a slight heart murmur, exercises with me daily, keeps her “girlish Doxie figure” and I pray I will have her for a longer time. Love my Dutchess ….. Miss my Rosay so/so much: we were so/so connected. And she knew it, too. After Rosay died, I had lots of flickering lights, phone disconnects when sadly talking about her on the phone, there were pennies in my paths, a “whosh” or two on my rear legs, such real life seeming dreams of Rosay, and more. Then, a final and very sad farewell dream, and all abruptly stopped thereafter ….. around the mid/end of February. What happened? I think Rosay went over the Rainbow Bridge. I will always Love you Rosay … Love You Forever. You made me believe in a spiritual world and know we will meet again.

  23. Unfortunately I don’t have money laying around to pay 10,000 bucks. I just don’t want to see her in pain. So far she is getting an immune boost, iron, and pain meds for her joints. She still very hungry and gets happy when is meal time. She also has hip dysplasia and torn LCL’s, for the life of me you think I have money to take care of her ailments?? I don’t. I just hope when she goes is without any pain. She has given me the happiest of ten years. I guess I will see her at Rainbow Bridge! so sorry my little girl…. so sorry

  24. I too have dealt with this horrible disease for 2 years with my now 14 year old Norwegian Elkhound. Please go to to find out loads of info and to order the Biopreparation for animals. I believe it has helped saved my dogs life…along with a mostly homemade diet and constant monitoring of her health. My dog was so bad initially that her numbers would not even register on her bloodwork..Learned a great deal from this site also –…(I hope I’m not infringing on anything by writing this!…They are just so helpful, I wouldn’t want anyone to miss the information!) I am forever grateful to the owners that posted real info that I could use. I said I have tailored their plan to fit my needs, especially using the Biopreparation because it is a very expensive regime to follow. The costs have dropped because of weaning my dog SLOWLY from her meds AND with vet’s guidance.. My dog was on Prednisone and antibiotics for 1 1/2 years along with my version of their diet. She relapsed last summer because of gastrointestinal bleeding I feel was directly related to prolonged Prednisone use. Was told by an emergency vet to euthanize her…but she pulled through…thank you God! She went on Sucralfate to help heal her intestinal tract and I feel she should have been on it all along. I am wondering if anyone has used Slippery Elm to combat ulcers in digestive tract? Please respond if you have any experience with this!!!
    Note: my dog never received a transfusion…vet has seen bad experiences with them. Sort of explained it this way….the dog’s body is fighting against its own immune system and although a transfusion may replenish new red blood cells, it sort of says “Woo hoo!” now I have LOTS of cells to destroy and basically goes to town on the new ones too with a vengeance, ultimately destroying all cells in the process. PLEASE!!!!DO NOT TAKE MY WORD FOR THIS OVER YOUR VET’S ADVICE. I AM NOT A VET!!! YOU MUST COME UP WITH A PLAN ALONG WITH YOUR VET! EVERY CASE IS DIFFERENT! SOMETIMES A TRANSFUSION IS THE ONLY WAY TO KEEP A DOG ALIVE…YOU MUST DECIDE FOR YOURSELF IF THIS IS TRUE IN YOUR PET’S CASE!We think my dog actually acclimated to the anemia and that was why she survived her ridiculously low numbers initially. We also do not know if her onset was caused by a tick-bourne illness or (I suspect) over-vaccination at an advanced age (Plus using the chemical based Heartguard and flea and tick medications) She has not received a vaccine or those meds during her treatment and never will again!
    Good luck to all fighting this and bless all the furbabies who have it!

  25. Our experience: Our spayed female rottweiler (six years old) was very lethargic. Vet took a look at the gums and ordered blood tests. Red blood cell count and platelets were very low. Vet diagnosed IMHA, but I don’t have any record of a Coomb’s test or autoagglutination test. Treated with high doses of prednisone and Keflex. Four days later, red blood cell count and platelets were lower. Five days after that, we took her to a specialty hospital, signing up for a transfusion. We didn’t get that far. They took an ultrasound and found cancer on the spleen and elsewhere. That was the end for our poor rottweiler. So correct diagnosis is important. But in this case, the final result would have been the same.

  26. Our 8 year old Lucy, who is a collie type shepherd mix went in for a spa day. Bath and a clip. The vet called saying they had to sedate our “nervous Nelly” as she was to stressed out. When she was under, her bladder let loose with pure red urine. The vet caled immediately and requested blood work. Yes IMHA. She was at 20% and she should have been in the high 40’s. I had no idea she was even sick!
    Fast forward 4 months now and she is stable and on prednisone and chemotherapy daily. Vet says her prognosis is good and instead of weekly blood work, hopefully we move to monthly blood work. I’m am in the red by about 4K but it is worth every penny for my Lucy.
    Please folks, watch those gums, peek every now and then at their urine stream. This disease comes on fast and furious to even a healthy acting dog. My dog went from rolling on the floor one night to fighting for her life the next.

    1. WOW Linda, that is great that you were able to catch it. Please keep us posted and it sounds like Lucy is doing good on her treatment. Thank you for sharing with us and hugs!

  27. We are a family dealing with this horror of a disease right now. It is extraordinarily expensive and we’ve already tapped out of our immediate funds and have started to sell items in our house to cover the payments. I have taken out a line of credit with the veterinary hospital treating our girl and have started a gofundme page; to try and get the balance. She has had two blood transfusions that have bought up her counts from zero to 19 and then to 23, but her body just can’t make the blood cells quick enough. She is on four medications, prednisone, cyclosporine, clopidogret, omeprazole and aspirin and she still can barely raise her head and is having extreme difficulty breathing – which is terrifying because just as they state in this article, the pets die from Thromboembolism caused by the platelets grouping and causing clots. If you can spread the word about our Go Fund Me campaign, that would be amazing.

  28. Lucy update.
    I am sorry to say I lost my Lucy last weekend. She had torn her acl ligament in her knee and had to have surgery. She made it through the surgery but vet thinks she may have developed a blood clot from the anemia as she passed away 2 days later at home. Horrible vicious disease.
    I will never ever forget her and have never loved a dog so much in my life. RIP sweet girl.

  29. this is really a serious disease. the worst side of it is that in most cases the IMHA is idiopathic, this is extremely frustrating for the owner (but I think also for the vet) because you find yourself struggling desperately against something whose nature is absolutely mysterious. you do not know what has triggered the hemolysis and therefore, even in the case of favorable prognosis, you will live the rest of your dog’s life wondering if it can happen again, paying attention to a thousand things, checking the mucous membranes of your dog even three times a day, worrying if your dog once vomits or sleeps more than usual. my golden rertiever camilla was diagnosed in November 2015, when she was 3 and a half years old. she has survived, she is stable and without meds since March 2016. She only does the control analysis 2-3 times a year, but I live every day with the anguish that it can happen again. it’s terrible.

  30. I lost my dog, Angel Baby, on Sunday March 18th. She started acting sluggish and not interested in food or water on Thursday night. I took her into the vet on Friday evening – the first appointment available. Her RBC was 42. They gave me pregnazone (however you spell it) By Saturday night she was in very bad condition and I took her back in. Her RBC had dropped to 14. It was decided then that there was no saving her because her RBC had dropped so rapidly. She took a pain shot and I brought her home to spend one last night here with the family and her doggie brothers and sisters. By 6 a.m. Sunday morning we were back at the vet where she was put down. I was absolutely stunned at how quickly everything happened. Stunned. I still am. When they say it happens rapidly it is so the truth. When she woke up Thursday morning she was out sweet Angel Baby. In the span of 60 hours she had gone from healthy to dead. She fought so hard and had enough in her to wag her tail at me at end. It was absolutely devastating. And no reason or cause given. It just happened. She was 10 years old. It is an absolutely devastating disease. It reminds me of ebola in how fast it kills. Just devastating.

    1. I had to put my Cali down yesterday. Same thing…very fast – 2 days. Looking back I think she did have mild IMHA that was diagnosed but I attribute Heartguard Plus for killing her quickly.

    2. We are going through this right now with our lab mix. He is only 6 years old and he was as healthy as they come till last Friday night he was just not his self. My parents called me to come check on him and as soon as I got there I had told them to call a vet bc he did not look good. That’s when we learned of this bad disease and found out he had it! My heart is so broken for my parents right now bc they have done everything they were told to do and has had him to the vets 4 times in 5 days. They take turns staying up with him bc his breathing is so bad and has had very little sleep. There are at a hospital in Columbus where our local vet said he needed to go. Now my parents don’t have much but they will put every dime they have to try to make him better. Our local vet said he is holding on and giving it his all to stay alive. This is a awful thing to go through and I just pray he makes it but odds are slim but we all have faith! Please , Please everyone pray for Flash, pray that he pulls through this awful disease! Thank you all so very much and god bless you all

      1. We are praying and thank you for sharing. Your dog is rocking it and yes, it is awful and dreadful. Hugs. Please keep us posted.

        1. as of 30 min ago they had to make the most dreadful decision and had to have Flash put to sleep as he was coughing up blood and couldn’t breath and he was just suffering to much! but thank you Carol please continue to keep our family in you prayers as my mother and father isn’t doing very well!

          1. Oh no, Nichole, my heart is so heavy for you and your family. I am praying for your parents. Big hugs and my condolences.

  31. My 2 year old shih tzu, Maci was diagnosed with this horrible disease June 5, 2018. My baby went from spunky, crazy wild little girl, to having a seizure. I noticed she had white gums and rushed her t the ER vet. This is where we found out her PCV was at 31 % so they gave us Doxicyclone. Next day I took her to our primary vet and her PCV was down to 20%. After two blood transfusions and 3 medications later, she is at a stable PCV of 45%. We are weaning her off Presidone as of right now. I am thankful she is pulling through. However, every little thing she does I am concerned about and even rushed her to my vet yesterday, due to me thinking she was not herself. Luckily, that is when I found out she is at a stable 45%. Please continue to pray and send positivity for my baby, as I will do for all of you. This is a manageable disease and I am sorry for those who did not get enough time. All we can do is pray, learn more and share awareness.

  32. My dog 7 y/o chihuahua, Bella, was diagnosed as of 2 days ago, before then I had never heard of the disease. As of this moment she appears to be on the road to recovery. Below a timeline of events so far:

    06/23 – During an evening walk she became suddenly lethargic on a walk and was limping. She was taken home and given a raw, frozen bone w/marrow treat (her second in two days due to miscommunication between my husband and I). She began displaying signs of nausea that evening and had severe diarrhea throughout the night. It was assumed to be from the richness of the bone marrow.
    06/24 – Extremely lethargic (even for a ‘couch potato’ dog), unsteady on her feet, lack of appetite and dehydrated. When she is taken out to pee, her urine is identified as bloody and she is taken to the Pet Emergecy Care. There her blood is tested and she is at 12% RBC. Uneducated, we deny the recommendation for a blood transfusion and leave her overnight, beginning her on Predisone and Cyclospine treatment.
    06/25 – She is transferred to the IMHA specialist at the Pet hospital. Her RBC rises to 15%, she is declared stable and released to our care with the instruction to maintain her medication. I begin her on a diet of boiled chicken breast and sweet potatoes. She eats about half a cup, but later in the evening the majority is vomited back up.
    06/26 – Despite being told she would likely be very thirsty, she seems uninterested in any food or water. Eventually I decide to take her to my primary vet for supplemental assistance and information. She is treated for dehydration, RBC is checked and found to have risen to 18%. She receives an anti-nausea inject. That evening there is a struggle to administer her pills as she does not care for food and it becomes stressful emotionally for everyone. The impact on her health is noticeable immediately.
    06/27 (today) – We had a follow-up appointment with the IMHA specialist. Her RBC has dropped to 14% and we agree to the blood transfusion. They go over the CBC and report that her bone marrow does appear to be trying to catch up — this is a good sign. She went in a very sick looking dog, but afterwards seemed more alert and energetic than she has been since Saturday morning. Her appetite still hasn’t returned and she isn’t drinking enough water from what I can tell. This is concerning, as I imagine nourishment and rest are key to producing new blood.

    1. WOW, thanks for sharing your experience. You are on top of this. There is a lot you can do and you are doing it all. Please keep us posted. Your Bella is in our paw prayers.

      1. Thanks for all the prayers. Today Bella just got a follow up with the Vet, a week after the transfusion. Her RBC rose 2%, taken as a sign that the medication is working and her body is doing what it needs to do.

        The treatment plan has been adjusted to ween her off of the predisone. We will bechecking back in 2 weeks.

        1. I wished to leave a followup on how things stand for Bella. Over the course of the last few months we’ve been checking her RBC every 2 weeks and following through with a treatment plan. Last week was the last vet visit and her count was up to 41%, stable and weened off of the immuno-suppressants.

          So far she remains healthy and like everything is in remission. I still keep close watch for creeping symptoms and won’t be vaccinating her again (I just can’t chance it), but all in all, she has shown remarkable recovery.

          When first she was diagnosed I was gutted and certain my dog would die. I can’t know what the future holds, but right now, she’s going strong, healthy and living the same life style as before. For those of you out there doing research, don’t lose hope!

  33. My Cocker Spaniel was fine on a Sunday. Running around on the beach with the kids. Monday morning he was dizzy and having trouble standing up. He was taken in to the hospital in the morning. His first transfusion was Monday night. We had to put him down on the Friday. He had 3 Blood transfusions and developed clotting in his lungs. By Thursday he was very week and in an oxygen tent. It is a horrible disease. Very upsetting for th entire family

  34. I hate this disease that I never heard of three days ago. My beautiful 8 year old cocker spaniel was her normal, happy, loving and beautiful self Tuesday night. She didn’t seem great Wednesday, but I thought she was just tired from going to the groomer the day before. She hated getting her haircut, but seemed to perk up as the day progressed. I took her to the vet Thursday morning and was told to take her to the vet specialist immediately. Had x-rays, ultrasound, and more blood work. Her RBC number was 13, she had a blood transfusion and it went to 18. Friday morning her breathing was labored and they started the second blood transfusion. She died.

    In 48 hours she went from happy and healthy to dead. I can’t make sense of this. Why was she not part of the statistics that survive. She was my baby, not my dog. I miss her so much.

  35. Our 9 year old German Shorthaired Pointer stopped eating her food for a few days and became very lethargic.
    I noticed her gums were very pale, but not knowing what it meant, I did not take her to the vet immediately, I tried cooking chicken and steak for her to get her to eat something, but she could not be tempted, this is when I took her to the vet. He did not know what the problem was after examining her, and suggested we take her to specialist at a particular vet hospital To make a long story short, she was almost immediately diagnosed with IMHA…she had to spend a few long days in hospital, where they did tests, and bloodwork, and decided to put her on prednisone…We learned the hard way about IMHA and what it does to your beloved, and to you as well.. side effects of the necessary medications are nasty, uncontrolled urinating, tremendous weight gain, infections, you name it…We were fortunate to have an amazing team of Drs who did everything in their power to save our girl, knowing full well the chances of her recovering were grim..

    If you have been told that your dog has this terrible disease, DO NOT GIVE UP HOPE…The treatment was expensive, and very long…almost 9 months..but OUR GIRL CAME BACK TO US !!! and lived happily and healthy until she was almost 17 years old!!! Some people say it was a miracle, others say it was our persistence, and absolute refusal to give up one her, whatever? she survived 8 months of hell, and so did we!….We did however check her gums almost every few days for the rest of her long life in fear that it might come back, and we stopped all of her vaccines as well.

    We never knew what brought on the IMHA, she had been a healthy dog up until this hit her, I remember only one thing that might have been the cause, she had a bad tooth extracted and was put on antibiotics about 1 month before this occured…but it was never confirmed …

    1. WOW, Trina. We really appreciate you sharing your story of your dog. It is scary, and I am so glad to hear you did not give up. 17 is wonderful. Warmest hugs!~

  36. Is anyone have tried giving Marijuana to their pets for Medical purposes? I have read many articles about medical marijuana and Cannabis oil can be used to treat seizures, nausea, stress, anxiety, arthritis, back pain, symptoms of cancer, and gastrointestinal issues, among other health conditions in dogs. Alternatively, they’ve also found new ways to infuse cannabis on food and beverages. If this is true I can’t find any solid conclusive evidence that speaks to its efficacy. Any personal experience or testimonial would be highly appreciated. Thanks

  37. Our 3 1/2 yr old Pom died from Vaccine induced IMHA, without a doubt. She had her yearly booster exactly one month before showing any noticeable signs. She was rushed to the finest Vet College about 80 miles away. 3 blood transfusions, powerful drugs, 4 days in ICU, then we realized, no hope., we had to euthanize.

    Through testing they found no evidence of cancer, tumor, infection, toxin or anything that could cause this horrible disease. They concur that it could only be the booster shot.

    I am in complete shock, you follow your vets advice and think your doing the right thing, and you murder your own dog. She was so loving and active and full of life and she was still a pup with so much ahead of her. I don’t know if I can even survive this agony.
    She died Christmas day (2018) and her name was Liberty.

  38. It’s been 5 weeks of a non-stop roller coaster since my dog was diagnosed with IMHA. The internal medicine vet says it was from vaccines (3 year rabies/DHPP/Lepto) which my dog got 3 weeks prior with a follow-up Lepto booster 2 days prior to the first symptom.

    We REALLY thought we were going to lose her those first few days, but I am a nurse and we told the vet to do everything they needed. From the first arrival to the emergency room and 8 days in critical care, her cell counts finally stabilized/held for us to take her home. She got 8 units of packed red blood cells and IVIG, plus prednisone, cyclosporine, mycophenolate, sucralfate, pantoprazole, clopidogrel, Cerenia, Entyce, metoclopramide, constant IV fluids with potassium added, and Benadryl to reduce any blood transfusion/IVIG reaction. I can’t stress to people enough how expensive this has been. I’ve always been very good with keeping 6 months worth of emergency savings for situations like if you got laid off your job or whatever and needed to be able to pay your mortgage/rent/food/utilities with no income. Just my dog’s in-hospital costs the day we brought her home was $20,000 and we still have frequent vet rechecks plus most of those meds listed above which have added about another roughly $2500 since she’s been home just under a month now.

    She’s been stable and is doing pretty well, considering. She was 104 lbs at the start and was 92 when we brought her home. We’ve had to make our own food to get her to eat consistently and have been mixing with her usual dry kibble. What’s been working well lately has been a really easy recipe: turkey/chicken (cut breasts or ground meat) with baby carrots and broccoli for 3 hours on high in a slow cooker with ONLY plain water (no seasonings/herbs NOTHING ELSE). We’re feeding our other dog the same stuff as they sometimes switch bowls during meals. They also love white rice, pasta and low-fat cottage cheese. All these foods were on a “dog safe” list my vet gave me to encourage her to eat.

    We still have a long road ahead as she’s also now fighting off a leg infection. We’ve also had to coordinate work schedules so that someone is always home with her. The prednisone causes constant thirst/hunger while the immunosuppressants can cause nausea/vomiting. So she can only have a cup of water and/or food at a time to prevent any regurgitation or vomiting which requires someone to be home to offer her food/water every couple of hours or so. We’re weaning prednisone off now so her thirst is decreasing, fortunately.

    If you’re vet thinks it was caused by a vaccine, make sure it’s reported to the vaccine manufacturer immediately. We opened a case file through the vaccine clinic and it looks like they’re going to reimburse at least some of the costs after her treatments are all over.

    1. I am so sorry you are going through this. It is a nightmare, but you are on top of it. Vaccines can be a blessing and a curse. How old is your dog at present time?

      1. My dog is now 5 years old. She’s been off all meds for 2 weeks now and is back to her old self! We still have another recheck in a couple weeks and if all is still good we’ll have to recheck her blood work about every 6 months. I still worry every day and check her gums/eyes any time she seems even the slightest bit “off”.

        By the way, I found out a little late about Good Rx to get a lot of these medications for a lot less than what the vet clinics charge. There is an app to get current prices in your area with their coupons and it’s well worth it for dogs AND humans.

  39. My dog Winston crosses the rainbow bridge this afternoon due to complications from this.. he was the bestest boy. It came out of nowhere and hit so hard there was no chance.

  40. We lost our cockapoo – Bear – only four days ago to this horrible disease. Reading all of the similar stories and realizing just how unknowing dog owners are about IMHA (myself included), I believe it should be communicated to all veterinarians to make all of their patients’ owners aware of IMHA and its symptoms.
    And not just for this disease. We are not the experts, but we are our dog’s caretakers and are the best ones to keep a close watch and to notice the slightest changes in our dog’s behavior or physical symptoms (such as pale gums). I would have gladly checked Bear daily. It would have been no different than feeding or playing or taking him on walks daily. He was first diagnosed on 3/25/19. Just a comment on one of his medicines, mycophenolate: Once taking him off this medication, his appetite and energy increased. I will also say that it can damage the digestive system, perhaps ulcers or other bleeding problems. I will also say that once all of Bear’s tests showed that the spherocytes were gone and his white blood cells were producing healthy red blood cells, I wish they had started weaning him slowly from such a high prednisone prescriptions. I am heartbroken and will always wonder if there was anything we could have done differently to save him.

  41. My 14 yr old silky, Hildee has been diagnosed with IMHA. She’s currently taking 10mg of Pepcid an hour before she takes 1 1/2 5mg prednisone and 1/4 azathioprine 50mg in the morning and 5mg of prednisone at dinner. The pharmacy messed up on dosage, instead of 1/4 of azathioprine every 24 hrs they put 1:4 every 12 hours. Her last blood test showed her bone marrow wasn’t producing unlike the test before where it was but low. I’m wondering if taking the extra does harmed her. The vet said no but reading about the drug says it can suppress bone marrow. Her platelets came up after being extremely low.
    She has a bad liver that was discovered during surgery and since the I give her 1/2 tab of denamarin which helps.
    She does nap more often, sometimes limps other than that she eats, drinks and still likes to play with her toys. Barks in the yard with the other two dogs we have.
    I’m constantly reading to find whatever else I can do for her.

  42. Heartbreaking disease. My estimated 12 year old Doxie (rescue) was fine prior to what was thought to be a trigger of BioMox (penicillin derivative) after a teeth clean and 5 teeth removal. The decline after was shocking. The anemia was diagnosed 10 days after dental. Transfusion and battery of tests to identify cause was immediate. No cause was identified, No temperature even with dog.Gum check was marginal. After transfusion dog rejected food and pharmaceutical meds first by vomit, next by refusal to eat. Naturopathic Vet was consuted and administered acupuncture, lazer and chinese herbal med. The dog immediately rebounded ate, drank exhibiting encouraging development. After a few days dog would eat minimal food offered. Would drink water up until the day he passed (euthanized), 20 days after transfusion. Exhibited lethargy, diarrhea, along with increased weakness last two days of life. A sincere request to conventional Vet industry: When you direct medications to pet owner with instruction: administer 1/4 pill twice daily, CUT THE PILL in the appropriate manner reflected to dog size/weight. DO NOT expect the novice pet owner to have the skill to properly prepare medication prescribed in this way when they very life of the pet is dependent on the administration of accurate medications. I will never know if the rejection of food and medication was based on this inaccurate administration but I suspect it was at the least a contributing factor in the death of my dog. This I find to be another horrifying component to management of this disease. Professionals as well as novice pet owners need to do better to achieve better result in the management of this killer disease. Good luck to all who are faced with this diagnosis.

  43. I lost my beautiful Prince (a red 5lbs Pomeranian) exactly a week after I lost my dad. I am a vet tech, I knew something wasn’t right, we took him to see my set of Dr.s he was first diagnosed with a UTI,We did blood work and everything that day, everything came back fine, the next day he didn’t eat and that was not like him but I figured the medication may have made his belly upset and he was still drinking so I said if he’s not better by morning I’ll take him back, he didn’t eat breakfast and didn’t want to drink, so I took him back again, his gums had just began to get a little pale, they did a PC and it came back at 24, so we did a blood transfusion and we gave him steroids and otherness and I decided to bring him home and would rush him back if anything happened as my clinic is open 24hrs. That night I noticed he hadn’t peed, at first I thought well he hasnt drank much,but then he couldn’t stand up at all either, I gave it a couple hours for the blood transfusion and meds to actually start doing something…. well about 3 am he actually got up (he was on the bed with Me and a water bowl at the foot of the bed, and he walked over to it and started drinking a little, so I felt ok enough to lay back down for a couple hours and check on him around 5 or 6, I woke up right at 6 and he was breathing really hard/panting, I took his temp and it was a littlelow but not to concerning considering the situation, so i waitiedabout an he to see if maybe he had just got physically hot and it didn’t get better but hadn’t got worse so again I thought maybe it’s all these new meds because the poor thing had been threw the ringer the past couple days, and I had cases of IMHA before actually another coworker had a blue heeled that lived threw it, I waited until about 8am to take him to my favorite dr who came in at 8am just to make sure everything was normal, His gums were pale but not white, not yellow, just not nearly as pink, i tokd them about him not urinating all night so they did a ultrasound…. his bladder was full of nothing but black blood (they did a Cysto see what the fluid was) at that point he was suffering and we couldn’t let thatboy poor go threw anymore, I went to the bathroom to call my fiance to ask if they wanted to be with him or come say goodbye, when another employee came running down the hall to let me know he was leaving us, I was unable to make it back to him before he passed, I tho k he was waiting until we were both away from him, I feel like he held on so long for us and didn’t want the last thing he saw was us crying. I am so sorry for everyone who has every lost a pet to IMHA or any other reason. I will always love my Princey boy, he was definitely one of a kind (he had to suck on toys faces to go to sleep, like a baby and a pacifier. He had such a hard life before he was able to reach me,but I feel I gave him the best 3 years, and best health treatment that he’s ever had.

  44. Incredible article Carol and my heart goes to those that have lost their loved ones. I hope other dog parents will continue to share tips on what to be looking for. My takeaway is we should be routinely inspecting our pets to make sure nothing has changed. The knowledge that you have shared will end up helping one of us!

  45. I was doing some research on IMHA disease in dogs and came across this content piece. I found the immune system of the dog destroys its own red blood cells. The survival rate after getting infected with IMHA is quite low, which is sad.

  46. Our yellow lab was only 10 months old and lethargic, I noticed that her gums were white so rushed her to our family vet she diagnosed her with IMHA gave us prednisone doxycycline and aspirin her off was 15 and told us to come back in 3 day’s, thank God she lasted I took her back only to then rush her to a major Hospital where she had three transfusions and spent a week there she was sent home with a PCV of 25 medication cyclosporine,prednisone clopidogrel,my poor pup bowel movements were mixed with blood because the meds were too harsh we finally found ductal fate that helped her stomach, after 9 months gradual decrease of meds and she was Great,I noticed that she would be lethargic after flea and tick meds so I stopped those! about 4 weeks ago she had a tick I took it off and she is sick again,she’s 2 & 1/2 year’s old and relapsing she’s back on the prednisone and blood thinner,she eats well but I have to make chicken broth to mix with her water and she drinks it all,I’m a wreck over her relapse but our vet tech takes her PCV and reads it right away it’s cheaper too,I just hope and pray that she recovers and lives a longer life,this disease is a nightmare.

    1. Oh goodness my heart and thoughts are with you. It is great you are on top of this and I hope for every success for your sweet lab. Hugs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.