What is IMHA?
Immune Mediated Haemolytic Anaemia (IMHA) is a potentially very serious auto-immune condition of dogs where the body’s own immune system attacks its own red blood cells. This condition can occur spontaneously or as a result of something that may have stimulated the immune system. Examples of this include some drugs, toxins, some infections (especially as a result of ticks) or cancer. Some breeds of dogs such as English Springer Spaniels are at greater risk of developing this condition.
How do I know if my pet has IMHA?
When the lots of red blood cells are damaged at the same time dog will become anaemic. This is characterised by pale gums or lips, exercise intolerance and lethargy. Affected dogs may also have a rapid breathing rate and a faster than normal heart rate (over 140 beat per minute depending on the patient). Some dogs will lose their appetite and lose weight.
How is IMHA diagnosed?
Your vet will take a very thorough history and do a full clinical exam of your pet. A blood test will be taken to check the red blood cell count and the blood will be examined under a microscope by a pathologist to study the size and shape of the red blood cells. As this condition can be secondary to other diseases, the vet may want to run additional blood tests and do a scan of the abdomen and chest to ensure that there are no signs of cancer or other diseases.
Can IMHA be treated?
The mainstay of IMHA treatment is immune-suppression and treatment of any underlying conditions. Immune-suppression is achieved with a combination of drugs, and the aim is the stop the body destroying the red blood cells for long enough that the bone marrow can catch up and produce more new blood cells (regeneration). Sometimes a blood transfusion may be needed to buy some time and allow the bone marrow a chance to catch up. Blood tests will be run every few days to check if the treatment is working and to see if the bone marrow has been producing new red blood cells. A special blood test can be sent to America to assay see if the level of immune suppression is adequate.
Please contact the clinic for more information.