Welcome to our blog post accompanying our latest podcast episode, “Surviving the Storm: A Journey through Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA) in Dogs.” In this post, we delve deeper into the world of IMHA, a challenging and potentially life-threatening condition that affects our beloved canine companions. Join us as we explore the experiences of Alex  Morgan and her dog Pepper, shedding light on the struggles, triumphs, and valuable lessons learned throughout their battle with IMHA. Prepare to be informed, inspired, and equipped with knowledge as we uncover the intricacies of this condition and provide insights into managing and supporting dogs diagnosed with IMHA.

Podcast Edition 88 Episode :

Understanding and Managing Immune Mediated Haemolytic Anaemia (IMHA) in Gundogs

As women training pet gundogs, it’s essential that we are well-versed in the health challenges our canine companions may face. One such health condition is Immune Mediated Haemolytic Anaemia (IMHA). Let’s delve deeper into understanding this serious, often life-threatening illness, and how best to manage it.

IMHA occurs when a dog’s immune system misguidedly starts to attack and destroy its own red blood cells, leading to severe anaemia. This abnormal condition can result in kidney damage, liver issues, jaundice, and even life-threatening blood clots. If not addressed promptly, IMHA can quickly become fatal.

Identifying the Types and Causes of IMHA

IMHA falls into two categories: primary and secondary. Primary IMHA, accounting for around 60-75% of cases, is an unexplained reaction of the immune system against the red blood cells. Certain breeds, including Cocker Spaniels, Springer Spaniels, Irish Setters, Poodles, Collies, and Old English Sheepdogs, are more susceptible, hinting at a potential genetic component. However, more research is needed in this area.

Secondary IMHA, on the other hand, may occur due to an adverse reaction to a medication, a blood transfusion, specific types of cancer, or in extremely rare cases, parasites within the red blood cells.

Recognising Symptoms

IMHA can either develop gradually over weeks or show sudden symptoms within a few days. Look out for pale, yellow, or grey gums, decreased energy, loss of appetite, weakness, rapid breathing, and jaundice. A higher-than-normal heart rate might also be indicative, although this symptom is often more challenging to spot.

Healthy Dog Gum
Pale Dog Gum


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Diagnostic Measures and Treatment Plans

Should you suspect your dog may be showing signs of IMHA as Alex did, immediate veterinary assistance is crucial. Diagnosis typically involves a thorough physical exam and several blood tests. Once confirmed, intensive care and a multi-faceted treatment approach will be necessary, potentially including:

  • Steroids or other immunosuppressant drugs to inhibit the immune system’s attack on red blood cells
  • Blood transfusions, if severe anaemia is present
  • Fluid drips to support vital organs during recovery
  • Anti-clotting medication to prevent the formation of life-threatening clots
  • Oxygen supplementation to optimise the oxygen-carrying capacity of remaining red blood cells
  • Gastro-protectants to safeguard the gut from the effects of high-dose steroid treatment.
  • In severe cases, your dog may require transfer to a specialist veterinary clinic. Pepper was taken to Davies the Veterinary Specialist

Caring for Your Dog Post-Diagnosis

Once your dog shows signs of improvement, they will be sent home to continue their recovery. Medication compliance, close monitoring, and ensuring they maintain a healthy diet and hydration are essential during this time. Also, provide your pet with a comfortable resting area and restrict their exercise to prevent undue stress on their body.

Regular follow-up visits and blood tests will be needed to track their recovery progress. Initially, these check-ups may occur every few days but will become less frequent as your dog’s condition improves.

Prognosis and Costs

Sadly, the survival rate for IMHA is generally low, particularly for dogs whose symptoms develop quickly. However, the survival rate is somewhat better for dogs whose condition develops slowly over weeks. Recurrence can also occur in 11-15% of dogs, so vigilance for any returning symptoms is crucial.

Treatment for IMHA can be quite costly due to its emergent nature and the need for intensive care. It’s essential to have an open discussion with your vet about the costs and to consider pet insurance as a means of financial support.

Remember, early detection and prompt treatment are key to better outcomes in IMHA. Always reach out to your vet if you notice any concerning signs in your pet gundog.

IMHA is a challenging illness, but with understanding, awareness, and appropriate care, we can do our best to support our loyal gundogs through it.

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