This is a life-threatening disorder characterized by anemia [decreased numbers of red blood cells (RBCs)].  In this disease, the body has a begun to destroy its own RBCs, usually for an unknown reason.  When the destruction occurs rapidly, your pet may become icteric (jaundiced).  Other signs include difficult, labored, rapid breathing, pale gum color, lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and blood colored urine.  As the anemia can worsen in a short period of time, intensive treatment is may be needed to try and save your pet.

Diagnostic tests are needed to support the diagnosis and rule out complicating conditions.  Tests such as serial blood counts, reticulocyte counts, testing for infectious diseases,  radiographs, ultrasound, bone marrow examinations, and immune tests are often needed.  Clotting tests and biochemical profiles help determine secondary effects the disease may be causing on other systems.  Sometimes the disease is primary, a primary immune system dysregulation.  Sometimes, it is secondary to neoplasia (cancer), infections, or drug/vaccine administration.

Treatment is directed in two areas.  Supportive treatment is used to stabilize the patient until the immune system destruction can be controlled.  Supportive measures may include oxygen, blood transfusions, IV fluids, cage rest, and antibiotics.  Corticosteroids are often the initial drugs used to control the immune system.  High doses are generally required initially.  Doses can be reduced slowly as long as the disease remains under control.  Some patients require lifelong medication.  Side effects associated with corticosteroids include increased thirst, urination, and appetite, weight gain, panting, hair thinning and a predisposition to developing diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes).  As the dose is reduced these side effects will diminish.  However, if the dose is reduced too quickly, IHA may recur.  If an individual fails to respond to corticosteroids, other immunosuppressive drugs or a splenectomy may be recommended.  There are several types of immunosuppressive therapies available, but no one treatment works well in every patient.

The prognosis with this disease is very guarded.  Up to 30 or 40% of patients can die within the first few weeks.  Lack of oxygen delivery to the organs or thromboembolism (blood clots) are common causes of death in these patients.  Unfortunately, some patients experience this complication once the initial crisis seems to be controlled, weeks after the initial event.