What is feline anemia?

Anemia in cats is basically a loss of red blood cells or hemoglobins. It can be caused by a number of different issues that affect the blood of the cat.


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What are the symptoms?

Your cat will be very weak if it gets anemia. They can get discolored on their skin - yellow from jaundice or pale (though that's harder to tell because the skin of many cats is pale anyway). However, you can look at the gums of the cat and usually tell - they will get pale as well and won't be pink anymore. Also, your cat could have a fever, so you might want to check the temperature (and monitor it if it turns out your cat has anemia). Sometimes cats with anemia will do weird stuff too - eating dirt or litter to try to get more iron to make new blood cells.

What causes anemia?

One big cause is a form of bacteria that lives in red blood cells of the cat like a parasite. The bacteria is called hemobartonella felis, and it causes serious problems for the cat. Basically, the immune system of the cat will start killing off infected red blood cells. The problem is that at some point the cat cannot create enough red blood cells to replace all the ones that are being destroyed, and this causes iron deficiency and anemia.

Parasites like fleas and ticks can cause anemia as well because of the loss of blood.

Finally, many serious diseases in cats cause anemia as a side effect. Leukemia, HIV, various forms of cancer, or chemical exposure can do it.

What is the treatment for feline anemia?

It depends on what is causing it. If it is infections anemia caused by hemobartonella felis, then there are various steroids and hormones that are used to stop the cycle of infection / killing blood cells.

If it is caused by parasites, look around the Flea Control Guide. However, as a side note you should probably have your vet check out the cat before doing anything with flea medicines - if you suspect it has anemia, it will need further treatment and you don't want to do anything that might interfere with that. Using natural flea control techniques might be best until then. But it's important to get rid of any fleas or ticks you can until you can get the cat to the vet.

If it is a serious illness, then the cat will need whatever treatment the vet recommends for that.

Finally, the generic treatment for anemia is a blood transfusion for the cat. That's usually a stopgap measure, however - it alleviates the symptoms, but not the cause.

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