Autoimmune Disease In Dogs: Dog IMHA Tips
Most pet parents learn about autoimmune disease in dogs the hard way — your dog is diagnosed with IMHA, IMT, SLE, or any number of autoimmune skin diseases. When my dog was diagnosed with IMT (immune-mediated thrombocytopenia), the prognosis was grim.
Several years after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, my dog is one of the fortunate survivors. Dog IMHA, or immune-mediated hemolytic anemia is very serious and life-threatening. Normally, the dog’s immune system fights off foreign invaders and infections. In IMHA, the dog’s immune system attacks his red blood cells.
Dog IMHA can be the primary problem or secondary to something else. Many veterinarians struggle with treatment, how often to recheck, and who should best manage the dog’s case. Most dogs with IMHA are seen in the emergency room after symptoms appear. From there, the dog is kept in-house, transferred to a higher-level facility, or treated and referred back to their regular veterinarian.
Autoimmune disease in dogs can be found at its earliest during routine bloodwork or health screening, but often there are symptoms. Here’s what the experts say about IMHA in dogs, along with treatments, prognosis, and true stories from dog parents whose dogs are affected by this autoimmune disease. Spoiler Alert: There is hope.
What Is Dog IMHA?
IMHA is a disease in dogs where the body attacks its own red blood cells (RBCs). Dogs typically have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Pale or yellow gums
- Discolored urine
- Splotchy marks (petechiae) on the skin
Dr. Patrick Mahaney, a Los-Angeles based holistic veterinarian, had a dog who was affected by IMHA. Cardiff, a Terrier dog, overcame three bouts of IMHA before succumbing to cancer.
Mahaney says as a “highly informed pet owner,” he knows any deviation from a dog’s normal is
highly scrutinized for potential causes and outcomes.” Translated, pet parents need to act fast when their dog acts or looks abnormal.
Pale, white, or yellow gums are a tell-tale sign of many canine autoimmune diseases, including IMHA, but not the only sign. Some dogs may have normal-appearing gums but have abnormalities found during routine examination.
Many vets call IMHA the four letters you never want to meet in veterinary medicine.
What Causes IMHA Autoimmune Disease In Dogs?
Four of the main culprits that may trigger autoimmune diseases in dogs include genetics, vaccine reactions, disease-carrying ticks, and sulfa antibiotic medications.
My Cocker Spaniel fought a long, hard battle with IMHA’s nasty relative, IMT or ITP (immune-mediated thrombocytopenia). Most times, a specific trigger to IMHA or any immune disease in dogs is unknown. In Dexter’s case, the internal medicine vet ran a specific blood panel which revealed a disease-carrying tick infected my dog. IMT was the horrific result.
Dexter’s nephew, a Cocker Spaniel named Sonny, was diagnosed with IMHA at seven years old (he’s now 10). Sonny’s symptoms began as excessive panting, so his mom, Jen Angradi, checked his gums. Since they were nearly white, Jen rushed Sonny to the same emergency hospital that saved my dog’s life.
Sonny spent three days in the hospital, where Jen says it seemed like “an emotional roller coaster ride.” Sonny was treated, monitored, and placed on prednisone and a medication to prevent blood clots from forming. He was also given folic acid for healthy red blood cell production.
To date, Sonny and Dexter have not had a relapse of their autoimmune diseases. However, both dogs receive regular followup care and blood work to monitor for any changes. In Sonny’s case, a cause was never identified.
Sadly, 70 to 80 percent of canine IMHA cases are idiopathic, or of unknown cause. This type of IMHA is called primary, but there are specific causes of secondary IMHA in dogs.
What Are Primary and Secondary IMHA In Dogs?
Primary IMHA happens as a result of canine anemia or from an unknown cause. Primary IMHA is the predominant form of the disease.
Secondary IMHA can be caused by any number of underlying diseases, illnesses, or processes. These include, but are not limited to:
- Drugs, including NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), sulfonamides, and cephalosporins
- Toxins such as zinc toxicity or eating large amounts of onions or garlic, which may lead to a condition called Heinz body anemia
- Other inflammatory conditions such as pancreatitis, cholecystitis, or pyelonephritis
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.
Dogs who have been diagnosed with IMHA should not be used for breeding, and it is preferable to avoid breeding their close relatives as well. Ask a prospective breeder about any proof of IMHA in the line along with any screening measures that have been performed..
How Is A Dog Diagnosed With IMHA?
“It was a hot August day in San Diego, California, so when my Cocker Spaniel, Mia, became lethargic, I attributed it to heat,” says Naomi Lukaszewski. “For days, she was eager for food and seemed normal; until one morning, she collapsed.”
Mia rushed her dog to the vet where she was asked:
- Has the dog been exposed to insecticides?
- Has she eaten any grapes?
- Did she have any onions?
- Had she ever been anemic before?
Naomi and her husband, Dan, rushed Mia to Veterinary Specialty Hospital where Drs. Arnell and Hill happened to be participating in a study on IMHA in dogs.
“They took one look at her gums, how weak she was, and drew some blood,” Naomi recalls.
Mia was diagnosed with IMHA, and the couple was given a 50 percent survival rate (back in 2010). After being admitted to the hospital, Mia was put on immunosuppressant drugs and given a blood transfusion. Unfortunately, IMHA was considered to be breed-related, and at four years of age, the couple decided to fight for their dog’s life.
After nearly $12,000 in treatment and follow-up visits every two weeks for a year, it seemed Mia beat the odds. She remained in remission for a year but relapsed after receiving Clavamox for an eye injury. Again, the couple invested around $12,000 for Mia’s care. It is believed Clavamox triggered the dog’s IMHA, but this time it was worse.
The couple went through the same treatment, but they had less hope.
“When Mia relapsed it was with Evans’ Syndrome, a combination of thrombocytopenia and IMHA at the same time,” Naomi says. “The survival rate after remission is only 25 percent. Unfortunately, progress was much slower this time and after four months, Mia passed away from a blood clot.”
IMHA can be tricky to diagnose. Vets will often ask if the dog has been traveling, on flea and tick prevention, taking any drugs or supplements, recently had vaccines, exposed to garlic or onions, and if they could have consumed something containing zinc, such as pennies.
With those questions answered, diagnostic testing to confirm IMHA usually consists of one or more of the following:
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Packed cell volume blood test
- In-house blood testing such as smears and Coombs test
- X-rays to look for ingestion of any foreign objects
- Abdominal ultrasound to screen for masses or cancer
- Specific infectious disease panel, such as the IMT panel performed on my dog
- Lactate testing
For a deep medical dive about IMHA, refer to the ACVIM Consensus Statement on the Diagnosis of Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs.
IMHA In Dogs Treatment
My dog’s littermate was diagnosed with IMHA in August of 2019. His mom noticed orange stool, decreased appetite, and lethargy. She also noticed his gums were pale, so she rushed Ricky, a Cocker Spaniel, to an emergency vet.
After a series of tests and several days in the hospital, Ricky’s outpatient treatment consisted of prednisone on a tapering dose, omeprazole for gastric protection, ondansetron for nausea, clopidigel to reduce the chance of thromboembolic disease (blood clot), metronidazole to help with loose stool, and mycophenolate to suppress his immune system.
Blood transfusions are used when extensive bleeding or extreme anemia in the dog is present. Intravenous fluids are administered to help the body maintain proper fluid levels. Some vets may choose to remove the dog’s spleen in extreme cases when traditional treatments aren’t working.
Ricky suffered two relapses after his initial IMHA diagnosis and treatment. He was initially weaned off all medications and stayed in remission for six months. However, when he relapsed, he was placed on low-dose prednisone twice a week and mycophenolate daily.
UPDATE 01/23: Ricky is now 14 years old and has some other medical issues, but he eats, drinks, goes for walks, and recently relocated to Florida when his human paw-rents retired.
Follow-up vet visits and bloodwork are essential in the treatment and care of a dog with IMHA. My dog’s internal medicine veterinarian tailors each treatment plan to the dog’s specific needs.
When my dog arrived at the hospital the night of his autoimmune disease diagnosis, he had zero platelets on blood panel but did have splotches on his gums and ear flaps. In addition, he had some bleeding from the back portion of his mouth. The entire time, he was spunky and his tail was wagging.
The reason most pet parents say their dogs recover from IMHA is acting fast. I know what normal looks like in my dog, so when I saw splotches on his gums and ear flaps, I knew something was wrong and didn’t wait. My dog would likely have bled internally and died during the night had I not rushed him to the emergency vet.
At-home tip: Always know your dog’s vital signs and how to take them.
Are Some Breeds More Prone To IMHA?
For unknown reasons, dog breeds that are predisposed to developing IMHA include, but are not limited to, Cocker Spaniels, Old English Sheepdogs, Poodles, Irish Setters, Beagles, German Shepherds, and Afghan Hounds.
As a lifelong Cocker Spaniel mom and pet journalist, I can attest to knowing hundreds of Cockers who developed IMHA or one of its nasty counterparts. Not all dogs survive, but many do, and there is hope.
Dawn Schultz remembers when her Cocker Spaniel, Moonbeam, was diagnosed with IMHA 10 years ago. The vet performed a PCV (packed cell volume) blood test, which indicated her red blood cells were very low.
“Treatment at the time was very minimal,” Schultz recalls. “Checking the PCV daily, then tapering off to every other day and weekly.”
Moonbeam improved in time but was given six months to live based on the prognosis back then. She lived a year, did not receive transfusions, and developed cancer in her ear. She lived a year after IMHA diagnosis and died at 10 years old.
Since IMHA messed with Moonbeam’s immune system, Schultz believes it made the dog more prone to other problems, like cancer. Since anything that overstimulates the immune system can trigger IMHA, any dog can be affected.
IMHA In Dogs Prognosis
Each dog is different. There is no “one treatment fits all” to make IMHA go into remission. Most of the research suggests mortality rates of anywhere between 26 percent up to 80 percent. This is a huge span, and each dog’s history, pre-existing conditions, and time to treatment vary.
Do not compare your dog’s course of treatment with another dog. In the same way people battle illness with varying results, so do dogs.
The prognosis for most cases of IMHA in dogs is guarded. Response to treatment is can take months and relapses may occur.
Death during medical therapy is typically due to, during the acute phase, lack of response to therapy, pulmonary thromboembolism (blood clot), or treatment side effects and, during the maintenance phase, disease relapse or significant side effects associated with treatment.
Vetfolio says the most common complication in dogs with IMHA is a blood clot. They note dogs who receive appropriate transfusion rarely die from anemia.
From the front lines of dealing with dog moms and dads every single day, I can honestly say there are many, many dogs who survive IMHA. I check my dog’s gums two to three times a day and he has blood work regularly to monitor his levels.
Aggressive treatment of IMHA is crucial, and acting fast is essential. Dogs are often treated at a medical facility equipped to handle critical IMHA cases.
How to Prevent IMHA in Dogs
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.
Keep up with regular vet visits and blood work to screen for any diseases or signs of autoimmune disease in your dog.
Of the dozens of dog parents I’ve connected with over the years who have/had a dog with IMHA, each of them reports 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
- Gums were white, yellow, or very pale
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.
Because the cause of IMHA is often unknown, it’s best to keep your dog in good shape, ensure he is not overweight, and is not overly exposed to chemicals.
I believe my dog recovered from IMT because of:
- Timing: We didn’t wait to get him emergency treatment.
- Seeing the right doctor: Most general veterinarians don’t see cases of IMHA every single day like a specialist would. I believe our dog’s internal medicine doctor and his regimen saved my dog’s life.
- Diet: Feed your dog a good, whole food diet that is not full of fillers and junk.
- Lack of chemical exposure: If I can’t use it, neither can my dog. I don’t use chemical spot-ons, our vet performed titer blood panels, and we no longer vaccinate because it can trigger IMT.
- Exercise and mental stimulation: For an overall happy, healthy dog.
- Careful monitoring of my dog’s environment: Our neighbors have their lawn chemically treated. We don’t walk anywhere near that area. I rinse my dog’s paws off after walks on any sort of grass.
- Not using an abundance of supplements: There is a time and place for supplements, but too many is never a good thing. If your dog is getting multiple supplements, talk to your vet, holistic vet, or veterinary nutritionist if they are all needed.
Is IMHA An Expensive Disease?
IMHA is a costly disease, so be prepared for any pet emergency with a savings account or pet insurance, the latter of which covered 80 percent of my dog’s $10,000+ bill to save his life. I would do anything to save my dog’s life and raise the funds needed, but having pet insurance in place helped.
“I could have purchased a car with what we spent on Mia’s treatment, and people should be aware of the costs associated with IMHA,” Naomi says.
I always remind people to ask themselves if they can afford a dog before they take the leap. A dog is a 10- to 20-year commitment in most cases. Each pet has its own unique set of needs and responsibilities, including short-term and long-term planning.
Here are a few things pet parents can do to save for their dog’s healthcare needs:
- Start a savings account
- Invest in pet health insurance (I get no money for telling you this, but I have been a policyholder with Nationwide Pet Insurance (formerly VPI) for over 25 years. We have been incredibly successful with them. Policies vary, so if you purchase policy with lower monthly premiums, your reimbursement may not be enough. We invested in a top tier policy. It has paid for itself time and again through two Cocker Spaniels and many health scares and maladies in our dogs.
- For true emergencies, things like Care Credit or a GoFundMe.
Sadly, economic euthanasia is all too common these days and dogs are dying because pet parents are unable to afford care. Plan ahead so this never happens to your dog.
Your Turn on IMHA In Dogs
Has your dog ever been affected by an autoimmune disease? Let us know in the comments below.
What a horrible thing. I am going to go check my dog right now.
Such important information presented here. Time is of the essence. Thanks for sharing.
My 10 year old Aussie was just diagnosed and I am so scared she will not survive. I have so many questions and emotions. This has helped
Thats awful! I honestly didn’t know anything about it! I will have to keep a closer eye on my babies!
Terrible disease – very good info. I pinned your post to my Dog Info Board.
Wow, I had never heard of this before. I am glad I know what to look for.
I didn’t know anything about IMHA. It’s so important to know the normal healthy condition of your dog so you can tell when they change.
This is horrible.I had no idea this could happen.
We do not have any dogs. I have never heard of this disease, it is so sad. Glad you recognize it and know what to look for.
How horrible0 thanks for letting us know what to look for!
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!
Thanks for the info, I will have to talk to my vet about this next time we visit.
How sad! I have never heard of this condition in dogs but its good to be informed. Glad you know what to watch out for!
I had a cocker spaniel growing up, his name was Baxter. He didn’t have this issue, but he did have seizures.
I didn’t realize how serious that could be. This is scary stuff and something to stay on top of.
I have never heard of this. Good to know the signs for prevention. I’ll pass this along to my friends with dogs.
Wow. I didn’t realise that dogs also get auto immune diseases too. So sad to read this
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.
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?
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?
My 10 year old Aussie was just diagnosed and I am so scared she will not survive. I have so many questions and emotions. What are The better foods? Does the food matter? What to know about this disease more.
There is also a Facebook group for IMHA dogs. You can search on Facebook. A lot of times fellow pet parents with dogs going through this can help. Hugs and I hope your sweet Aussie gets better with each passing day.
poor puppies sounds awful!
Wow! That is a lot of medication for a Dog. I had no idea what IMHA was before this post. So thank you so much for sharing.
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.
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.
WOW that is amazing that your baby is okay!
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.
Rita Kirouac – Why would you not list the drugs? Can you please list the 3rd drug so others can help their dogs!?
I was unfamiliar with IMHA actually and we have two dogs. Glad I have more awareness about this issue!
What was the third drug?????
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 🙂
Oh my gosh. I had no idea. I have to talk to my mom about this. It is good information
Thanks for sharing this. I have a fur baby and this is my first time hearing of this.
Thanks for a very thorough report on this dreadful condition. Very scary, but it helps to have the facts. Definitely sharing.
This is so helpful for pet owners. It’s good to know what to look for.
Poor little fur babies! What a nasty disease to have to deal with!
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mike, I’m so sorry for your loss!
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.
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.
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. https://www.zimfamilycockers.com/Forums/
In the article above, Carol mentions Dr. Dodds with hemopet.org. 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 http://www.secondchanceaihadogs.com 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
WOW that is fantastic that you figured this out and have it taken care of. Congratulations! Long and happy life!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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: https://www.facebook.com/groups/6228146980/
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!
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…
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.
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.
Way to go, Ellie Mae, and being on the mend. We love reading stories like this, Joan. Thank you for sharing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We are so incredibly sorry for your loss, Karl.
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..
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.
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
Bianca, There are many places that can help your dog. At ten, your dog may have many many years ahead with proper care, just like with people. Here are resources to help your sweet girl: https://fidoseofreality.com/help-if-you-cant-afford-your-dog-medical-bill/
I too have dealt with this horrible disease for 2 years with my now 14 year old Norwegian Elkhound. Please go to http://www.optimumchoices.com 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 – http://www.australian-shepherd-lovers.com…(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!
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.
I am so sorry to hear this, John. It is a terrible disease.
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.
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!
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; http://www.gofundme.com/save-faye-faye 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. http://www.gofundme.com/save-faye-faye
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.
Oh no I am so sorry. My deepest condolences.
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.
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.
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.
Oh no I am so sorry, Dorothy.
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
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.
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!
Oh no, Nichole, my heart is so heavy for you and your family. I am praying for your parents. Big hugs and my condolences.
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.
Many prayers coming out, Nicole. What a terrible disease. You caught this…keep us posted
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
I am so sorry to read this news, David. Our hearts and very deepest condolences are with you.
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.
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 …
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!~
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
I would not recommend this at all. This can actually kill a dog and I would deal with your dog’s vet directly.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Here’s hoping all is okay for your dog and the recovery process.
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.
I am so sorry for your loss, Katie.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Very true. Many dogs live. My dog’s brother had IMHA and is 12 years old and doing well.
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.
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.
Thank you for your very informative and clear page. My beautiful Wesley has just been diagnosed with IMHA and I am devastated. He is 4 years old and my life. I can’t afford to all the ongoing cost of this terrible disease and I don’t want to lose my boy. I’m in turmoil. He is my companion and I love him so much.
Hoping and praying your sweet Wesley recovers and does well. It’s a hard disease but many fight and win. We are thinking of you!
My butterscotch has imha it truly very tough road we don’t really caused it I truly believe antibodiic he put on now because steroids he being tested for Cushing’s disease All medication he on now is very tough for both of us I prsy someday find a cyre for this horrible disease
My 4.5 year old chihuahua/Pomeranian mix was diagnosed 2 months ago with IMHA. It took a few days to see that something was wrong with him. The day before we took him to the vet, he was acting more tired, but I chalked that up to having a new puppy in the house. But then he would get up from laying down and his legs would collapse from underneath him. As soon as he did it a second time, I got him to the vet. 3 days and 3 nights at the emergency vet- $4k. I haven’t had a chance to calculate how much has been spent since between all of the checkups, blood draws, and medications. BUT when I took him last week for a blood check, his red blood cell count was back in the normal range, and we are already dropping his medicines, just very, very slowly. His normal self is starting to come back, but I think one of the medications is still causing him to be weaker. I’m hoping that once he is fully off the meds, my boy will be back to normal.
I am a dog groomer, and have heard of many different diseases in my client dogs. And never have I heard of this horrible disease. When the first vet diagnosed him, it really didn’t hit me how serious and how expensive this was going to be. Otter has been so healthy that I figured she was over exaggerating to get us to spend more money. But once he was at the emergency vet, and he had to have a blood transfusion, it really hit me how sick he was. We never found a cause for his IMHA, and it all happened so quickly. To anyone that their dog was just diagnosed- it’s going to be hard, it will be expensive, and it will not be a quick recovery. But at least for us so far, there is hope.
Were you able to narrow down what might have set the IMHA into motion? Vaccine? Flea preventative? Anything? Thanks for your comment and keep us posted. Wishing your sweet dog all our best as he recovers.
I will tell everyone from now on, unless you feel it’s extremely necessary don’t vaccinate your dog.. I know for a fact that the vaccines are what brought my babies IMHA on. I went step by step and back tracked everything and that was the only thing different. The vets will never fully admit this can be the reason because hey get paid by the pharmaceutical companies to promote them.
This is a great article but I do think it’s great to also hear from real parents who have dealt with their dog babies that have IMHA and there experience. Our Fiona is a 7 year old female pitbull. She had always been very active and healthy. She has a few weird quirks but who’s dog doesn’t. We had takin Fiona to the vet for her yearly check up on May 14th. Due to Co-VID our vet at the time was having us meet the tech at the store, she took Fiona, and then called us while the vet did her check up and talked us through what was going on. They had asked if we wanted to get her vaccines and we said yes but we just wanted the parvo and rabies shot. She had never had the vaccine, that is a combination shot, something to prevent kennel cough before. Well the vet ended up giving her all of the vaccines. Roughly 11 days later Fiona started being very lethargic, she didn’t want to eat, she honestly did really want to move, we knew at that point something was definitely wrong. We took Fiona into her vets urgent care exactly 2 weeks after her vet appointment. When they did her blood work the vet called and advised us that he was pretty sure she had a disease called IMHA, she really needed a blood transfusion, and he wasn’t sure if she was going to make it. Her red blood cell count was as 18 (Normal for her size is around 53). We rushed Fiona out to an emergency care we have near my area that had the ability to perform the transfusion. They gave her fluids, 1 blood transfusion, and started her on Prednisone @ 80MG a day and Clopidgrel (which is a blood thinner) 1 x a day. They tested her blood count right before we left the hospital that evening and it had went up to 32. She looked back to herself, she was starving and ready to eat. They recommended bringing her back in 1 week and 5 days later she started becoming real Lethargic again and not feeling good. We took her back to the ER that day and her blood count had dropped to 25. They said this is fairly normal because there body looks at the new blood like a foreign object. They told us if she started getting bad again she would more then likely need another transfusion and they sent us home with another medication which was Mycophenalate. Well Fiona only had the 1 transfusion, She started getting back to herself slowly but surely. The prednisone side effects are really hard to deal with. She had diarhea for quite some time. She would constantly pant (Morning, Noon, and Night) She was constantly hungry and thirsty and she gained quite a bit of weight, Her stomach also became bloated and she looked like a pot belly pig. Well at the end of July they dropped her Mycophenalate and as of mid August we started tapering her off of her prednisone. She is now down to 5mg every other day and that is all she takes. She has some weight to lose and due to the weight gain and age she some pain in her hips and joints. Overall though she is doing very good. They do recover. It is one of the hardest things we’ve ever had to deal with because Fiona is like our child but just remember to have hope. When she first became diagnosed I read and read and read a million articles and became so depressed, I didn’t think she was going to pull through but she has. Stay diligent with the medication, give your doggy lots of attention and love and make sure your checking her blood cell count weekly and I hope you see like I did that they will recove.
One more thing….We also started Fiona on a home made High protein High Iron w/Probiotic diet right away. We would feed her beef and chicken livers and a supplement that had chlorphyll and probiotcs in it.
My 3 year old Spanish rescue Podenco Maneto Tika was just diagnosed with IMHA little over a week ago. I thought she just didn’t seem right – didn’t want to eat app of a sudden and very sleepy. I booked a video consult with a vet through my pet insurance straight away and he advised I take her to the out of hours vet. I was expecting her to be sent home with antibiotics – never heard of IMHA – but she was admitted to the pet hospital with a RBC of 25 which dropped to 20 overnight. Vet ran full analysis there and then and diagnosed IMHA. She was on fluids and started on steroids straight away. She got home a few days later when her rbc had stabilised but was down to 18. It then dropped further to 16 so she was started on immunosuppressants on top of the steroids. In 3 days her rbc is now at 30 and she is so much better. Very hungry and thirsty but a lot more energy and colour about her. What I’m unsure of is how long it will be before she will be able to go out for walks with me and my other dog. And from there will it be v safe for her to go on group walks – i usually have her and my other dog go out with a walker 3 days a week while I am out at work. At the moment she is on garden visits only and I am wondering if the group walks remain out of the question until (if) she comes off the immunosuppressants, even if she is otherwise fit enough for a walk.
Our 7 year old yellow lab, Bella was diagnosed with IMHA just 10 days ago. It has been a rough road for her and us, her family. She is improving slowly with her prednisone treatment and hasn’t needed a blood transfusion yet. This is such a scary disease, but these stories have been very informative and encouraging. I wish all of your fur babies well❤️ God bless you.
Thinking of Bella and your family, Diane. Please keep us posted. My beloved Dexter’s brother, Ricky, is going to be 14 and is an IMHA survivor.
My young Boba was just under 2 years old when he developed this disease. Now over $25K later and almost 2 years later he’s alive on chronic medication, daily 60mg cyclosporine. I will note that pet insurance declined me as soon as they confirmed it’s autoimmune. This is a very serious disease that almost took him. It can also trigger other diseases such as in Bobas case, he developed sterile nodular paniculitis in addition to his autoimmune disease. Within one week, between 8/15/2020-8/22/2020, Boba had five emergency vet visits, multiple surgeries, and was placed on a few different antibiotics and pain killers, but we still had zero answers and very little progress with his health. On 8/22 Boba was taken to the specialist hospital where he remained hospitalized from 8/22-8/29, mostly in ICU. During that week he received additional surgeries, one of which included removal of a 6″ x 8″ section of his skin due to necrosis. Biopsies, blood work, hyperbaric chamber treatment, new medications, and 24/7 hospital care were also required. He then underwent 24/7 home care and daily visits with surgery and specialists. For months we were at the vet. I can’t tell you how stressful and helpless those months were and I love that this site exists for people who need help in a very draining, painful and awfully dark experience.
My 19 year old boy was just diagnosed. I thought he seemed a little off for the last couple of weeks, but I attributed it to depression from losing his very best friend – Skiddles, who died of cancer 5 months ago and jealousy of the new young dog I got him. Anyway he stopped eating and seemed so weak in his legs last week so I took him to the Vet. The diagnosis was a complete shock. He’s on Prednisone twice daily — just finished his second day. I do think it makes him feel better and his legs even seem better. From all the reading I’ve done tonight about this disease it seems like he should also be on a medication to prevent clots — wonder why the Vet didn’t give us that. I keep reading about transfusions, but it’s never been mentioned to me by the Vet — maybe because my boy 19 yrs. old. Since he is so old I’ve been preparing myself for months for his death and wondering what will happen. This is a complete shock. I still can’t put him to sleep. I don’t think he feels that bad — he is sleeping a lot. I hope he can just die in his sleep peacefully. The steroid has brought back his appetite — thank goodness. I’m going to call the Vet in the morning to get the drug to prevent clots. We have a lot of Veterinarians in my city — but no specialist – all GP’s.
Is there any way you can drive to a university veterinary teaching hospital for more intense care? Hugs and healing love.