When the immune system attacks itself – Florence’s story
Florence, a 2-year old female entire whippet, was referred to Eastcott’s Internal Medicine team due to a history of lethargy and reluctance to play. Examination revealed pale mucous membranes, a fever and increased heart rate with bounding pulses. She was very anaemic, with a red blood cell count of 15% (reference range 35%-55%) and she was jaundiced as well due to the excessive breakdown of her red blood cells. A series of tests were performed and she was diagnosed with immune mediated haemolytic anaemia (IMHA).
IMHA is an autoimmune disease and an important cause of morbidity in dogs. Auto-antibodies incorrectly attack and damage red blood cells leading to anaemia. Red blood cells have a major role for the body as they transfer oxygen to the tissues, therefore, the body compensates with a fast heart and breathing rate. The main signs of this condition are lethargy, weakness and loss of appetite.
The cornerstone for Florence’s therapy, was a blood transfusion. Two transfusions were needed to stabilise her. She also required immunosuppressive medication in order to inhibit the auto-attack of red blood cells. Fortunately, Florence continues to do well at home with herred blood cell count remaining normal whilst she continues to gradually reduce her medications.
Thankfully, the Pet Blood Bank (PBB) exists in the UK, similar to the NHS human blood bank. Brave dogs donate blood to save other dogs like Florence. IMHA is only one of the numerous causes of anaemia in dogs, and a blood transfusion is crucial in many situations to save these animal’s lives. Blood stocks are always in high demand. If you think that your dog could be a hero to save another dog’s life, please contact our Referrals’ blood transfusion nurse Leanne Price (Leanne.Price@EastcottVets.co.uk).