Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA): Reader Stories (Part I)

Anemia is a deficiency in red blood cells (RBCs), resulting in a decreased oxygen carrying capacity of the blood.

Anemia can be caused either by blood loss, insufficient red blood cell production or increased destruction (hemolysis).

In immune mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA), the red blood cells are being attacked and destroyed by the dog's own immune system.

IMHA is a life-threatening disease that strikes fast and hard. Acting fast when you suspect IMHA is your dog's best chance for survival.

Red flags include
  • pale gums
  • yellow tinged gums or whites of the eyes
  • dark or dark yellow urine
  • weakness
  • lethargy
  • loss of appetite
  • rapid breathing

Many readers shared their stories in the comments. These stories need to be heard.


I have never heard of IMHA until I found my one and half year old Rotti with white gums and very lethargic when coming home from work. 

I immediately called the vet and was told to rush him in. They did blood work and his RBC was 2.10 and PLT 22 at which time I was told to take him to the Emergency Hospital which would be able to take care of him in the critical state he was in. Several blood test were done and a central line was placed along with IV fluids. Three days later  I was allowed to bring him home.

He is doing better, but not his playful self, he is eating and drinking fine and urine is still clear. 

The doctors have informed me the tick titer and other labs have all come back negative, so we still do not know the underlying cause. We will return in 10 more days to recheck the blood levels (CBC, Blood Smear, Liver panel) and see where he is at.


I also had never heard of IMHA until my 13-month-old golden was diagnosed with the disease. 

One night we were going to bed and I was petting him on his stomach and his groin area felt like he was on fire. I took him to the local animal emergency center and he was diagnosed. He was put on IV and was given meds.

On Thursday he was given his first transfusion. 

He got to come home on Saturday and he seemed to be doing better. On Monday he again was very lethargic and the vet said that he was very bad. I thought that I had lost him.

On Tuesday morning he had two more transfusions and a splenectomy. 

After three days he got to come home again. His vet said that he is holding his own. His blood values are going up slightly every time they are tested. With Murphy being just a puppy it is so hard for me to watch him just lay around. Not like my Murphy who would run and jump and play with me. I know that his recovery is going to be a long road so I just take one day at a time. I do agree that if you have a dog who has the symptoms the only thing to do is get them to the vet as soon as possible.


I lost my beautiful soul mate - Ricky my 8.5 year old Chihuahua on Saturday to this awful disease.

It came out of nowhere. 

The week before I noticed he was 20% not himself but I thought maybe it was some sort of cold. On Monday he didn't want to eat anything, and then Tuesday he also didn't' want to eat anything - and I noticed that his urine was a dark orange(brown).

I made a quick appt for my husband to take him to the vet. All the blood work was done but unfortunately we had wait 24 hours for blood work results. The next day I called my vet and it seemed like Ricky's red blood count level was way off. So the vet asked that I rush him to the vet, I left work immediately took Ricky to the vet with my husband.

The vet told us that Ricky was diagnosed IMHA. 

 She asked that we leave him in the animal hospital so he can get proper treatment, Steroids, IV, and some sort of antibiotic since he was running a small fever 40c.

On Wed his red blood cells where in his 30s. However, on Thursday since since she was giving him IV, they dropped down to 18. But she expected that since she was flushing his body out with IVs. She said that the steroids wont' start working for a couple days but Ricky is stable and has a great outcome. Ricky was lethargic, he didn't' want to eat or drink, but he was fully alert and soo happy to see us.

We went and visited him for 2 hours on Thursday afternoon/evening.

Little did I know that was going to be the last day I see my precious angel.

We cuddled and held him as he was hooked up to his IV. He was so happy to see us as he was panting and giving us small kisses. He just wanted to sleep with us.

After 2 hours, I gave him a kiss goodbye and said "see you in the morning" He had these beautiful brown eyes and was like "mommy where you going, dont' leave me"

On Saturday morning, my husband and I woke up and started getting ready to go visit my sweet baby where we got that awful call. 

The vet said "I have some bad news, Ricky passed at night time - he probably had a thromboembolism (blood clot) which is a huge risk during IMHA. Apparently, when the vet came in the morning, he had his blanket still on top of him, so he died peacefully in his sleep.

I have so many "What ifs" such as :
  • What if I took him to an 24 hour hospital where they had night care, could they have saved him. My vet says "probably No" Because a blood clot is impossible to cure when it happens.
  • What if I done something wrong?
  • What if we got a blood transfusion. Which the vet thought Ricky was stable and didn't' require at the time.

Related articles:
IMHA Is Not To Be Taken Lightly: Know The Symptoms
Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde: Razzle's Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA)
Battling IMHA With Integrative Veterinary Medicine (part 1)
Battling IMHA With Integrative Veterinary Medicine (part 2)
I Am An IMHA Survivor! Dylan's Story
Liver Tumor? IMHA? Daphne's Story (Part I)
IMHA Complications: Daphne Didn't Make It

Further reading:
Anemia Related to the Immune System in Dogs
Immune-mediated Hemolytic Anemia
IMHA: Diagnosing and treating a complex disease
Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs (IMHA), Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia

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