Anemia is a deficiency of red blood cells. Because the red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body, symptoms of anemia stem from insufficient oxygen in organs and muscles.
A dog can become anemic as a result of blood loss (e.g. from trauma, bleeding ulcers, parasites), destruction of red blood cells (e.g. immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, some infectious diseases) or inadequate red blood cell production (e.g. due to a chronic illness, cancer or dietary deficiencies).
Dogs with anemia require special care to address nutritional needs and to help maintain a healthy energy level.
Important Foods for Anemic Dogs
Foods high in iron, protein and B vitamins (particularly vitamin B12) are essential in helping the production of red blood cells. I would avoid commercial dog food, especially generic brands, with the exception of high-quality pet food such as Royal Canin , Science Diet, Iams, and those that are high in iron. I recommend supplementing a good dog food with the following healthy, natural foods:
- beef liver; contains iron, protein as well as B vitamins, particularly B12
- brewer's yeast along with vitamin B 12 offers similar benefits as the liver
- kelp powder; contains iodine and other trace minerals
- green vegetables like string beans and leafy produce like spinach which contain iron as well as other minerals and chlorophyll
- carrots, whole wheat and rye breads, pumpkin and egg yolks which are high in vitamin B9
- nuts, fish, and vegetables
- lean meats such as ground beef and lamb
Supplements that I Recommend for Canine Anemia
A diet rich in protein and vitamin B12 is critical for your dog's anemia treatment. Supplements and minerals added to your dog's diet can also enhance overall health.
Consider adding one of the following supplements to your dog's diet according to special needs and other conditions:
- Milk Thistle which boosts hemoglobin levels
- crushed vitamin C tablets in your dog's food to help with iron absorption, approximately 500 mg a day, more for a larger dog
- geritol tablets to give the blood a bigger boost of iron and B vitamins
- phosphorus pellets which helps treat bleeding in anemic dogs
- sulphur tablets which help dogs with worms, fleas, skin disorders, and a poor immune system.
The Importance of Iron in the Anemic Dog's Diet
Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, an oxygen-transporting protein. Hemoglobin requires iron to be able to perform its oxygen-transporting function. Dogs need approximately 35 mg of iron a day for each pound of dry food consumed.
Herbs, such as burdock, red clover and nettle are also often used in treatment of canine anemia. Adding these to an overall dietary plan can greatly benefit an anemic dog.