anemia in cats

Key takeaway

Anemia in cats is a condition where cats don’t have enough healthy red blood cells in their bodies. As a result, cats with anemia don’t get enough oxygen traveling through the blood and to the organs. Anemia may be caused by vitamin deficiencies as well as certain medical conditions, and the symptoms include fatigue, pale skin, lightheadedness, and a rapid heartbeat. Treatment for anemia in cats depends on the cause of anemia, which is why it’s important to see a vet.

Anemia in cats is a medical condition that occurs when your cat doesn’t have enough red blood cells in their vessels, or when their red blood cells aren’t functioning properly. These red blood cells are tasked with transporting oxygen from your lungs to your body’s tissues, which means a lack of properly functioning red blood cells can lead to a lack of oxygen in your bloodstream. This oxygen is used for energy in your tissues, so it’s very important.

As a cat owner, it’s your job to keep an eye on your cat so you know when it’s time for a visit to the vet. From cat swollen belly worms to anemia, most medical conditions come with signs and symptoms. A cat with anemia may be a little lazier than normal, and you might notice your cat has especially pale gums. These symptoms are worth a trip to the vet.

The bottom line is, you can’t diagnose anemia in cats alone, and proper treatment is essential. If you think your cat may have anemia, you should take them to the vet for a diagnosis. In the meantime, here’s everything you need to know when it comes to anemia in cats.

Signs of Anemia in Cats

First off, you need to be aware of the signs of everything from anemia to worms in cats, so you know when to take your cat to the vet. Like many medical conditions cats may have, diagnosing anemia in cats can be difficult because they can’t tell you what’s wrong. Instead, it’s up to you to keep an eye out for any behavioral changes or symptoms that may point toward anemia.

As far as their behavior goes, you might notice your cat is a little more tired than usual. Cats with anemia may also show signs of losing blood, including blood in the urine and stool. That being said, these symptoms can also present with other medical conditions.

White or Pale Gums in Cats

White gums are telltale signs of anemia in cats. A lack of red blood cells in the gums can cause them to lose their pinkish hue, so white gums in cats are a common sign of anemia. Pale gums can be an easy way to differentiate between anemia, cat bronchitis symptoms, and other conditions with symptoms that may be similar to anemia. That being said, you still need to take your cat to the vet for blood work if they have white gums; you should never diagnose your cat alone.

How is Anemia in Cats Diagnosed?

Diagnosing anemia in cats is an important part of getting your cat the treatment they need. Typically, anemia in cats is diagnosed using blood tests. However, your vet may start with a physical examination and a look at your cat’s medical history.

Tests Used to Diagnose Feline Anemia

Ultimately, blood tests are what vets rely on when it comes to diagnosing anemia in kittens and cats. Because anemia is a blood-related medical condition, there are a handful of tests that can be used to diagnose feline anemia:

  • Packed cell volume (PCV) or hematocrit: This test determines the percentage of blood cells that are red blood cells, which should be between 30 and 45 percent of the blood. If a cat has a PCV of 30 percent or less, they’re considered anemic.
  • Red blood cell count: Using a total red blood cell count, your vet can determine if your cat has enough red blood cells or if they’re anemic.
  • Hemoglobin count: Low hemoglobin production is a side effect of a lack of red blood cells, so your vet may also perform a hemoglobin count to help diagnose anemia in cats.

Ultimately, it’s up to your vet to decide which tests to use to diagnose your cat. Working with a vet to diagnose and treat anemia is an important part of the process.

What Diseases Cause Anemia?

Anemia in cats can essentially be caused by anything that leads to a loss of hemoglobin or red blood cells. This includes diseases that cause a loss of blood, diseases that break down and destroy red blood cells, and diseases that reduce red blood cell production.

Diseases that cause blood loss in cats include injuries to organs and blood vessels, parasitic infections such as intestinal worms, fleas, tumors, and clotting disorders.

Hemolysis, or the breakdown and destruction of red blood cells, can be caused by autoimmune diseases, feline leukemia virus, blood parasites, chemicals and toxins, and cancer.

A lack of red blood cell production can be caused by bone marrow suppression. Bone marrow suppression actually has several potential causes, including:

  • Very poor nutrition
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Chronic diseases
  • Feline leukemia
  • Chemicals and toxins
  • Cancer

While humans may experience iron deficiency anemia, that’s not a common issue to keep an eye out for with cats. Cats can experience iron deficiency, but it’s typically secondary to another medical condition rather than the cause of anemia in cats.

You may notice your cat pacing or exhibiting other strange behavior if they’re dealing with a parasite. Some of the other causes of anemia can be harder to spot early on. If you want to keep your cat healthy and avoid anemia, you should take them to the vet for regular check-ups.

Will My Cat Recover from Anemia?

You may be wondering if anemia in cats can improve with treatment. Living with anemia can be difficult for cats, so taking your cat to the vet for a proper diagnosis should be your first step. Your vet can perform blood work and other tests to determine if your cat is anemic and offer treatment options that fit your cat.

In many cases, your cat will recover from anemia as long as the underlying disease or medical condition causing anemia is treated. That being said, there are a lot of variables when it comes to anemia in cats, so it’s important to talk to a vet about the severity of your cat’s anemia and the prognosis. Early diagnosis is also a key to simplifying anemia treatment.

As long as you take your cat to the vet regularly and follow any advice your vet may give you, anemia isn’t the worst thing to deal with. Your vet can help you figure out what’s causing your cat’s anemia and what the best treatment option is, so make sure you get an expert diagnosis as soon as you can.

How is Anemia in Cats Treated?

Treatment for anemia in cats depends on the underlying disease or medical condition that causes anemia. By treating the underlying disease, your vet can help treat the anemia so your cat can be happy and healthy again. The earlier you take your cat to the vet for a diagnosis, the easier it’s going to be to treat anemia.

In cases of life-threatening anemia in cats, your vet may recommend a blood transfusion to treat anemia. Before your cat can receive a blood transfusion, your vet will take blood samples to determine your cat’s blood type. These blood transfusions can help keep your cat in stable condition while a vet determines what’s causing their anemia and how to treat it.

Even if your cat receives a blood transfusion for anemia treatment, the underlying disease that’s causing anemia will still need to be treated. Your vet may determine that your cat has anemia as a result of a medical condition, or as a result of chemicals or toxins they’ve ingested. Treatment for anemia varies depending on what causes it, so a proper diagnosis is important when it comes to choosing the right treatment. An early diagnosis can also simplify the treatment process, which is one of many reasons you should be taking your cat to the vet for regular check-ups even if you don’t spot signs of anemia in cats.

sick cat with anemia

Final Notes

Anemia in cats is a blood condition that often occurs as a result of another disease or medical condition. While anemia may be caused by toxins and chemicals, it’s rarely caused by an iron deficiency in cats. Treatment options for anemia in cats vary based on the cause of your cat’s anemia, so getting a diagnosis is important.

If you think your cat may have anemia or want to know where to pet a cat, Dutch can help. At Dutch, we can help you connect with vets in your area to get help taking care of your cat. You don’t have to leave your home unless you need blood work or other diagnostics. If you need help taking care of your cat, connect with a vet through Dutch today.