Annie's Lost Battle with IMHA

by Alison Kaylor

My little maltipoo of 11 years and 11 months,  Annie (Snanniebug) was my biggest joy. She was a healthy little pup, had a great appetite and was full of spunk ... until one morning ...

I noticed she had no interest in her breakfast, and few of her morning antics were not present. 

That made me nervous, knowing that Annie loved to eat! Trying not to be too alarmed, I went off to work and came home at lunch with some El Pollo Loco chicken thinking this will wet her appetite.

Annie’s brain was interested in the chicken but she couldn’t stomach it. She took only a small bite.

Her gums were pale too. I thought she was dehydrated.

It was evident that Annie needed to be checked by her vet so I took her in that evening.

The vet suggested Annie could be dehydrated which can cause a lack of appetite. In my opinion, her behavior was a little odd as well, which I conveyed to the doctor.  He offered to run some blood work and after talking with him further, he made me feel comfortable enough to take her home to see how she does through the night with the fluids he gave Annie as that could be the solution.

The next morning I woke up to see Annie had wet my bed but the wet spot had a tinge of red.  

I immediately rushed Annie into the vet closest to my home (VCA Saddleback Veterinary Hospital, Lake Forest, CA).  Dr. Heathcock examined her while I went to work and bad news prevailed when I received a call from the doctor in the early afternoon.

She informed that Annie had IMHA and tried to explain the disease and its complications.  

I still didn’t fully understand the severity of this disease.  She told me she would start Annie on steroids that I would continue to give Annie once I picked her up the same evening.

When I arrived at the vet I was called into the exam room so Dr. Heathcock could talk with me in private.

She brought Annie out and it was so obvious my poor baby was so tired and lethargic!  

Dr. Heathcock was very sincere and advised I euthanize Annie due to the progression of this disease which had taken a toll on her in such a short time.

I was devastated! I couldn’t fathom giving up and was in complete shock. As an alternative, the vet suggested to take Annie into the Southern California Veterinary Specialty Hospital in Irvine, CA.  She called the specialty hospital giving them notice I was on my way there with Annie and updated them on Annie’s condition.

The intake veterinarian made me comfortable giving me a great deal of hope by informing that their specialty center had a very high recovery rate with IMHA patients – 90% by which she then disclosed, however, there are those 10% of their patients that don’t survive.

Annie was admitted on a Wednesday evening.  

The staff advised me to visit Annie as much as possible and bring some food each time in attempt to persuade her into eating. The SCVSH had started blood transfusions for Annie as well as immunosuppressants.  Her Pack Cell Volume was extremely low  - “12”. Blood transfusion bumped it up to 15.

Annie continued getting blood transfusions.  

Annie’s  highest PCV number while hospitalized was “18” I believe on day 3.

It was so sad to see this sweet little dog fighting for her life. 

Each day Annie seemed to feel and look worse, with jaundice very evident throughout her body. I continued to ask the doctors for their support and advice as to how much time I should give this disease to turn around the chances of that happening.

The lead Critical Care doctor (Dr. Tracey Rossi) informed that it takes a minimum of 3 days to see any results from immunosuppressants before they catch up to Annie’s immune system, thereby suppressing the antibodies attacking Annie’s healthy red blood cells.

Initially, when I visited Annie, she cried when I was leaving.  After the 3rd night during her hospitalization she didn’t respond.

I feel I should have listened to Dr. Heathcock at VCA Saddleback.

Annie’s 5th night at the specialty hospital was the night Annie was clinging for life and I was literally clinging for hope on a very thin thread. I wanted my Annie’s health back and Annie wanted to live!

After seeing Annie that evening,  I told the doctor on duty I will not let my dog continue to suffer. 

She said to go through the night and then make a decision in the morning.

I went home, and at 12:30a.m. (Tuesday) morning, I received a call from the veterinarian on duty telling me Annie’s condition had declined and she was having difficulty breathing. I told the doctor to immediately euthanize Annie. She then asked if I would like to come down to the hospital to visit Annie for the last time (which was approx. 20 - 25 minutes from my home with no traffic). I didn't want Annie to suffer a minute longer and explained to her that I already said my goodbyes to my precious little girl earlier that evening.

I had to ask myself if putting Annie through so much misery was the humble thing to do despite the 42% survival rate – long term more like 20%.

Finding out about Annie’s condition I was so caught off guard.

I had very little time to research the disease. Had I known what Annie was going to have to go through, I would have made a different judgment call prior to Day 5 (1/2 hr into Day 6) of Annie’s ordeal.

I hope more awareness is raised and more published stories are available as well as studies on this horrific disease (IMHA) to educate everyone who owns a fur baby.

Dog's lives are much shorter than human's; their quality of life needs to be top consideration (even for 1 week).

Related articles:
Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA): Reader Stories (Part I) 
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 
Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA): Reader Stories (Part I) 
Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA): Reader Stories (Part II) 
Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA) Survivor: Pete's Story
Whitney's Lost Battle With IHMA Complications   
Pale Gums Are An Emergency: Bailey's Story 

Further reading:
Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA)
Anemia Related to the Immune System in Dogs
Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA) in Dog

Do you have a story to share?

Your story can help others, maybe even save a life!

What were the first signs you noticed? How did you dog get diagnosed? What treatment did/didn't work for you? What was your experience with your vet(s)? How did you cope with the challenges?

Email me, I'll be happy to hear from you!


  1. We are so sorry to hear about dear Annie. Love and hugs from all of us.

    1. Thank you, Brian. IMHA can bo so nasty and so deadly.

  2. My condolences for your loss of Annie.

  3. Thank you Alison for sharing Annie's story and I'm very sorry for your loss. I hadn't heard of IMHA before but it's helpful to learn about diseases that can affect our pups and Annie's story may help another dog owner recognize the disease make the best treatment decisions for their dog. Thanks again for sharing (Alison and Jana).

    1. I'm happy for all people who never heard of it. But since it's so nasty and hits fast, I do believe everybody should learn and be aware what it might look like.

  4. Oh I am so sorry about Annie. Sending pug hugs. I had not heard of IMHA- what a horrible disease. I totally understand you wanting to give her the best chance. Just awful she had to suffer. Thank you for sharing X Susie and Kilo

    1. It is one of the nastiest disease. Early intervention is so important. I believe everybody should be aware of this one.

  5. I am so sorry for your loss and that your precious girl had to get IMHA. Having to make that end of life decision is one of the hardest us dog guardians ever have to make.

  6. This is a heart breaking story. Sometimes we just end up in no win situations. I wish the vet would have listened to you and stopped her suffering sooner, but it is always so hard to listen to your gut when the expert gives you different advice.

  7. I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing and hopefully this will alarm pet owners if they see anything similar in their pet.


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