What is Immune Mediated Hemalytic Anemia (IMHA)?
In short, IMHA is a viscous autoimmune disease. It’s a difficult and expensive disease to treat. Female dogs are more likely to contract IMHA as are middle-aged to older dogs and Cocker Spaniels, English Springer Spaniels, Old English Sheepdogs, Irish Setters, Poodles, Labradors, Golden Retrievers and Dachshunds.
What Happens To A Dog With IMHA?
A dog with IMHA will get sick very quickly. You’ll notice lethargy, pale skin, pale gums, maybe jaundice or a yellow coloring to the skin and eyes, decreased food and water consumption and an overall ‘mopey’ attitude. What’s happening inside the dog’s body is dangerous. The dog’s healthy red blood cells are being destroyed by IMHA. The cell destruction is done at such a breakneck speed that if treatment isn’t started quickly, death is certain. With this cell destruction, the white blood cells are thrown off, the platelets get out of whack. High levels of billirubin leads to the jaundice coloring and is indicative of disease or anemia. Basically everything in the body is affected when a diagnosis of IMHA is determined.
Why Red Blood Cells Are Attacked
There’s no clear answer as to why the body goes after the red blood cells. Something interesting I discovered is that allergies are the result of autoimmune disease, so is canine inflammatory bowel disease and Addison’s. Pollen and grass allergies are obviously less severe than IMHA but at the core, they’re all autoimmune diseases.
Treatment Options For IMHA
Treatment varies but generally a blood transfusion is needed. Often multiple blood transfusions will have to be given if your dog has any chance at surviving.
The blood transfusion gives the body time to rebuild the healthy red blood cells. This rebuilding can only take place with the help of medications such as steriods, typically prednisone, corticosterioids and other immunosuppressive medications. Plasma and oxyglobin are sometimes given to dogs as well.
Speaking of expense, most veterinarian offices will not be able to handle IMHA cases like this, they’ll need to be hospitalized at an emergency veterinarian hospital, which ups the expense, but ups the chance of survival as well!
Contributing Factors and Causes
Contributing factors and causes include: ingesting stuffing, cotton and material (which doesn’t pass and sits in the stomach), vaccinations within a month of diagnosis of IMHA, hemastatic cancers such as hemangiosarcoma which is typically found in German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers, tick borne illnesses, like lyme disease and rocky mountain spotted fever, severe bacterial infections like sepsis and toxins can all lead to IMHA. Consuming metal objects with high levels of zinc or eating pennies that were made before 1982 can also throw the body into an autoimmune system war zone. Dr. Matthew at Northwood Animal Hospital jokingly told me that most cases he’s seen have come from idiopathic factors, in other words, “We look like idiots scratching our heads trying to figure out the cause.” Veterinarians are often left without definitive answers and pet parents like myself feel lost, hopeless and incredibly sad when their dog can’t beat IMHA.
Healing After Losing A Pet From IMHA
If you have had a pet that has survived or passed away from IMHA, please feel free to share your story with us. Sharing my experience including the horrible news of Boston’s has helped me grieve my sweet boy.
Healing from a pet death is never easy. You take all the time you need.
Here’s a couple tips I can give you, hope it helps:
Remember the good times…remember that your pet is no longer suffering.
I’m still in shock a little and feel lost without Boston with me. He was my spooning buddy, my feet warmer, my cuddle buddy, the best nanny dog for my granddaughter, the best partner when I roller bladed and rode my bicycle. He was the best pit bull advocate and changed many hearts and minds about his breed. He met hundreds of children since 2008 and provided a positive ‘pit bull’ relationship. He’ll be remembered forever and I love and miss him so much.
Thank you Joyce Kreps for confirming that I needed to take Boston to the vet on January 6.
Thank you to Dr. Hobson and the staff at Care Animal Hospital. You all treated Boston with kindness.
Thank you to Dr. Jason Matthew and staff at Northwood Animal Hospital in Anderson, Indiana. You all were patient with my questions, loved my dog, treated him the best you could and supported me throughout the process.
Thank you to the supporters who called Northwood and donated money towards Boston’s vet bill. Without your help I wouldn’t have been able to even think about treating him.
Thank you to our supporters through my GoFundMe page. People from all over the United States, fellow pet sitters, strangers, friends and family. I love each and everyone of you. Thank you for your generosity and sharing the struggle with me.
Kelley Stewart, CEO|Pet Sitter
sit-stay-play In-home pet sitting & more.LLC
http://www.vin.com/animalicious/default.aspx?pid=756&catId=5860&id=5774643 and https://www.vetinfo.com/dimha.html