Our perfectly healthy and lovely nine year old Belgian Tervuren (terv-URN) Mica was lost within six days of onset to two blood immune diseases: Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA) and Immune-Mediated Thrombocytopenia (IMT). IMHA occurs when the immune system attacks its own red blood cells (RBCs) prematurely and at a much faster rate than new ones can be produced. It is life threatening and requires prompt, aggressive medical treatment. A lack of oxygen carrying RBCs may damage vital organs and a high risk of death from blood clots exists.
There are a number of other names Hemolytic Anemia goes by, such as Auto-immune Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA) and different versions of the disease itself. Mica's was the worst, known as peracute.
IMHA can be caused by exposure to toxins, cancer, infection or even vaccines. Bee/wasp stings and tick-borne diseases (TBD) have also been implicated, as has the ingestion of onions, garlic and pennies. It may be deemed idiopathic (no known cause) like Mica's, which is most often the case. IMT adversely affects blood platelets, which help blood to clot normally, and accompanies IMHA in 50-70% of IMHA cases. It can lead to excessive bleeding, which can be interior and/or exterior in nature. For Mica it was the complications of IMHA that presented the greatest challenge. Symptoms of IMHA can appear suddenly or can be more gradual. Mica's onset was sudden, in less than 24 hours. Her energy level was down a bit one day, but she otherwise seemed well. After midnight she vomited once. By morning her breathing was labored and she was very weak and could not stand on her own. Later that day in ICU she became severely jaundiced.
SIGNS TO WATCH FOR:
Your pet may exhibit subtle weakness or lethargy. They may have an increase in heart and respiration rates (excessive panting) and have pale gums or ears. They may vomit or stop eating altogether. With IMT they may have unexplained bruising or bleeding. Every single case is different with this illness, which is why treating it successfully is so difficult. Supportive care must come first to stabilize a pet's condition. Next, immune suppression drugs may be used to try to stop the ongoing destruction of blood cells. Finding and then treating the underlying cause may be critical to the prognosis.
Mica's anemia became so severe that she needed critical life-support that included the help of other dogs. Please see CANINE BLOOD DONATION for additional information.
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