What IMHA Looks Like: IMHA Is Not To Be Taken Lightly—Know The Symptoms

IMHA is a condition in which the immune system destroys the dog’s own red blood cells. The result is severe anemia that can be fatal.

As a result, potential symptoms include:

  • loss of appetite
  • weakness
  • panting
  • listlessness
  • dark urine
  • pale gums
  • lethargy

What causes IMHA?

Sometimes, IMHA can be triggered by immune response to a real problem that gets out of hand, such as:

  • infections
  • toxins
  • cancer

Often, however, the trigger cannot be determined. Though that doesn’t mean there wasn’t one.

Thank you, Susan Rakay, for Sharing Nikki’s story. Susan has lost her dog to IMHA, and she wanted to raise awareness of this condition because, with IMHA, time is of the essence.

What IMHA Looks Like: IMHA Is Not To Be Taken Lightly—Know The Symptoms

Nikki’s story

It will be a year this coming Saturday that I lost Nikkilodiean to something I knew nothing about. She was my first dog ever but other dog owners I spoke to knew nothing about this disease either.

I took very good care of my little girl, vet visits when needed, grooming every month and brushing her teeth every day.

But one day when I brushed her teeth her gums looked white and she was breathing as if she had a cold.

I thought it was a cold so I took her to the vet.

The diagnosis

Nikki was diagnosed with a severe case of IMHA. 

I immediately took her to the vet hospital in Phoenix and they did a blood transfusion, put her on IV, did a test to check for internal bleeding and another blood test. They could find no bleeding anywhere but she keeps getting weaker and weaker.

What IMHA Looks Like: IMHA Is Not To Be Taken Lightly—Know The Symptoms

Immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) is a disease in which the body attacks its own red blood cells.

Nikki stopped eating and got to the point where she didn’t recognize me and she just wanted to sleep.

The vet kept telling me to give it time but after three days I was seeing no improvement and didn’t want her to be in pain.  Nothing they did made any difference and I saw her slipping away before my eyes.  They said they didn’t think she was in pain but I knew she was dying. I wanted to take her home (200 miles away) to the place she loved.

During the day, I brought her to my vet during the day and she spent the nights with me.

To make it work, I slept all day and stayed up with her at night.  On the third day of doing this while I was sleeping my vet called and said to get there as soon as possible.  I dressed very quickly and rushed to the vet that was only two miles away but by the time I arrived my beloved little girl had already passed.

My vet and the animal hospital said I did everything I could for her. (I’m still paying the vet hospital bill of over $4,000).

But I know that if someone, anyone had told me about this disease/illness I would have kept an eye out of it and gotten her to the vet/hospital sooner and she may have lived.

I want to put the word out there about this.

Please be aware and if you see these symptoms in your dog, get them to the vet IMMEDIATELY no matter what the time is (even if it is the middle of the night pay the extra money and get your dog there quickly) as it may save their life!

What symptoms should you watch for?

Your dog will be obviously weak. He or she will have no energy and have lost interest in food. Urine will be dark orange or maybe even brown. The gums, as well as the whites of the eyes, will be pale or even yellow-tinged. There may be a fever. You (hopefully) brought your pet to the veterinarian’s office as soon as it was clear that there was something wrong.

Related articles:
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: What Can Your Dog’s Gums And Tongue Tell You?

IMHA in Dogs: Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde—Razzle’s Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia
Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia: Annie’s Lost Battle with IMHA
Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA) Survivor: Pete’s Story
IMHA Complications: Daphne Didn’t Make It

Further reading:
Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA) in Dogs

Categories: ConditionsImmune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA)LethargyPale gumsReal-life StoriesSymptoms

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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