It has been 5 months since I lost my beloved six year old, black female cocker spaniel Shakira to the AIHA disease. I believe all dog owners should be aware of this fatal and sudden disease and learn in advance what to expect once the dog get it. Cocker Spaniels like Shakira are particularly susceptible to AIHA.
Shakira “black” and Habibi.
Here is a some great information from about.com
“WHAT IS AUTOIMMUNE HEMOLYTIC ANEMIA (AIHA)?
Lets define the terms of the disease one at a time.
“Autoimmune” literally means the immunity against the
self.”Hemolytic” is the destruction of red blood
cells. “Anemia” is a clinical sign, not a disease.
Anemia is defined as a decrease in the number of red
blood cells (RBC’s) or the amount of hemoglobin,
resulting in a decrease in the oxygen- carrying
capacity of the blood.
In AIHA, markers called antibodies, stick to the red
blood cells and cause the body to believe the red
blood cells are a “foreign invader”. This causes the
immune system to “kick in”, attack the red blood cells
and destroy them. The mechanism by which the immune
system mistakes the red blood cells for a “foreign
invader” varies somewhat according to the cause. It
usually involves adherence of the offending agent
(parasite, drug or toxin) to the surface of the red
blood cells. The immune system wishes to attack the
offending agent, but manages to injure the red blood
cells as well. When the spleen and the rest of the
immune system is working to rid the body of the old,
diseased or damaged red blood cells, it is doing its
job properly. However, when a large percentage of the
cells are affected, and they are removed faster then
they are replaced, AIHA results. The destruction of
red blood cells often leaves recognizable cellular
debris in the blood stream. In particular, a form of
damaged red blood cell known as a spherocyte occurs.
Finding spherocytes on a blood smear almost guarantees
that some form of hemolytic anemia is occurring. Since
this disorder does not stop the production of red
blood cells, there are usually immature red blood
cells in the bloodstream which can be detected on the
blood smears as well.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF AUTOIMMUNE HEMOLYTIC ANEMIA?
The symptoms or clinical signs of AIHA can appear
suddenly or they may be gradual and progressive. The
signs are usually related to the lack of oxygen and
manifest themselves in the form of weakness, lethargy,
and an increase in the heart and respiration rate.
Pale mucous membranes (gums, ears, eyelids) may be
observed. The dog also may appear to be jaundice. This
is due to a build up of bilirubin, one of the
breakdown products of hemoglobin. Vomiting or
abdominal pain may be present. Owners may note the
presence of blood in the urine or stool Also an
increase in temperature may be observed in some dogs.
A diagnosis of AIHA is made on the basis of these
clinical signs as well as a complete blood count (CBC)
and other testing. A Coomb’s test should be performed
to confirm the diagnosis. A small percentage of dogs
that have AIHA will test negative on the Coomb’s test.
Because many times autoimmune hemolytic anemia can
strike with the speed of lightning with no warning
whatsoever, the loss of a beloved canine companion to
the disease can cause the owner even more grief then
had the dog died of old age or a long lingering
illness. The speed at which the loss can come may
leave the owner with many diverse emotions such as
guilt, doubt and fear. The owner may question all the
events leading up to the death of their dog. Some of
the questions running through the mind of one who has
recently lost their dog to AIHA may be, “why didn’t I
see the symptoms sooner or would it have made any
difference if I had gotten my dog to the vet quicker”.
If the dog survived AIHA for a period of time and then
worsened and was euthanized, the owner may have
feelings of guilt that perhaps they should have given
the dog more of a chance to recover. Others may feel
they allowed their dog to suffer too long before the
euthanasia. Although there are no concrete answers to
these questions, the following insights from those who
have survived the loss of their dog to AIHA may help
you deal with your loss and grief.
American Cocker Spaniel (one third of all cases)
English Springer Spaniel
Old English Sheepdog
Female dogs appear slightly predisposed to AIHA/IMHA,
even when spayed.”
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