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The Link Between Fleas, Ticks & Anemia

April 09, 2020

When your dog is infested with fleas and/or ticks, there are several potential health problems that may occur. One of the most common symptoms is a drop in the number of red blood cells or hemoglobin, which is called anemia. Red blood cells are made in the bone marrow and the spleen, and they are vitally important to keep your dog healthy.

Anemia will affect your pet when the body is losing red blood cells due to damage or inability to develop new cells at a proper rate. This can happen when fleas and ticks are feeding on them. Certain tick diseases (Ehrlichiosis or Anaplasmosis) also affect the production of red blood cells. It’s important to have them tested for these diseases if they have been recently infested with ticks.

If your dog has been diagnosed with a tick disease, they will be given medication from your veterinarian to treat the disease. But as a pet owner, there’s a lot you can also do to help support your dog’s health and boost up the growth of new red blood cells. This includes having a good diet, providing supplements and specific foods.

Signs of Anemia

Symptoms of anemia include pale gums and lethargy or low energy. Your dog’s gum color should usually be pink if they are healthy, so pale pink or whitish gums are a sign that they may have a problem. Anemia can also cause a low appetite, so make sure your dog is eating enough during this time of healing.

Dietary Support for Anemia

When a dog is showing signs of anemia, they need to have a diet that is rich in protein, iron and vitamin B12. There are several different ways of adding these important nutrients, including adding specific foods into their diet or through adding various supplements. Included below are foods that you can add to your dog’s diet, and it’s best to choose one or two at a time and then observe any effects or intolerances (all dogs will digest foods differently, like us!).

Foods Rich in Iron, Protein & Vitamin B12

The following are foods rich in all the recommended supplements (iron, protein and B12). You can start off with adding a small amount (1⁄4 cup) of one variety of food to their breakfast, and the same amount of a different food in the evening with dinner. Again, it’s best to start off with only a couple different choices so that you can easily find out which one is working the best.

  • 1. Beef liver (raw or cooked) is one of the best choices to start with, and has been proven to successfully help dogs suffering from anemia. In some parts of the world where tick disease is rampant, owners will often keep beef liver as part of their dog’s regular diet.
  • 2. Green vegetables like kale, chard, and spinach are high in iron. They can be chopped up and steamed for 30 sec - 1 minute, then mixed in with your dog’s meal. If your dog is picky with his veggies, you can add a tsp. of salmon oil or the oil from a can of tuna or sardines to help with palatability.
  • 3. Nutritional Yeast is very high in Vitamin B12 and other B vitamins, plus it has a cheesy taste which most dogs will love. You can add 1 tbsp to one of their meals every other day as an added supplement.
  • 4. You can rotate in other foods that are high in protein and iron (as well as other essential vitamins and minerals). These include salmon, lamb, tuna, sardines, chicken, eggs, black beans, and anchovies.

Supplements for Anemia

If you choose to add vitamin supplements instead of specific foods, a high-quality vitamin B complex is recommended to use once a day with a meal. Also, vitamin C helps the body absorb iron so it’s a great idea to add this vitamin on a daily basis. The usual dosage for vitamin C is between 500 - 2000 mg, depending on the size of your dog.

What To Watch For With Food Changes

When adding different foods or supplements to your dog’s diet, always be aware that they may have a digestive issue if they have a sensitive stomach. You can add probiotics to their diet once a day to help curb any potential problems. For any food change, keep a close eye to make sure they are eating well and having normal stools. That’s also why it’s a good idea to start slow by adding only one or two different types of food first, then observing how well it’s helping them.

Wrap Up

The key to improving anemia includes veterinary care, a good diet and using these supplements. Soon you will notice them becoming more energetic, their gum color improve and generally going back to their normal healthy lives!

Jeanette Johnstone
Veterinary Technician, Co-Founder - AMOR Animales de Nosara Rescue



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