Cat’s anemia may require red blood cell jump; maybe transfusion

Ask the Vet

Q: My cat, “Bella,” has been pretty sick this week. Our veterinarian says that Bella is so anemic that she might need a blood transfusion. I didn’t even know they did that for cats. Anyway, she is only 5 years old and has always been a healthy kitty. We love her so much and are worried … can you help? S.W., Farragut

A: I’m sorry to hear that Bella is ill. Anemia is defined as having fewer than normal red blood cells. This occurs for three basic reasons: her body is not making enough red blood cells, her body is losing red blood cells or her body is destroying her own red blood cells.

Anemias can be classified as mild, moderate or severe.

One of the next tests your vet will do is check her reticulocyte count. This test looks at her immature red blood cells, and it is important to know if Bella’s bone marrow recognizes the anemia and is capable of making more red blood cells or not.

Your veterinarian will also want to rule out common causes of anemia, which include Feline Leukemia virus, Feline Immunodeficiency virus and blood parasites, such as Mycoplasma. Drug or chemical toxicities are also possibilities. Severe intestinal parasites could also make her anemic.

Chronic disease, such as liver, kidney or thyroid disease, can cause anemia. This is more common in older cats, but possible. Cancer can cause anemia, too. Hopefully this is not the case with Bella, since she is still relatively young.

Anemia is a condition or symptom, not a disease. Your veterinarian will continue testing to find the disease process causing the anemia. If the anemia is severe, transfusions are necessary if the body needs time for testing, treatment and/or medications. Best of luck to Bella.

If you have questions about your pet, e-mail Dr. Myers at