Red blood cells or RBCs have the vital task of carrying oxygen into the body tissue because they seat a protein commonly known as Hemoglobin.
A diet rich in iron will help increase the red blood cell count and even prevent their decrease over time. This is because hemoglobin is supercharged with iron. It moves the oxygen from the lungs onto the rest of the body and collects the carbon dioxide byproduct, and sends it back to the lungs to be exhaled.
Therefore, a meager count of red blood cells will likely lead to Cat Anemia and other complications. Now, since we have established what these cells do, let us discuss the signs of low red blood cells and what we can do to help increase their count.
It is essential to mention that this protein gives blood its distinctive red color, so to say there are many of them in the blood would be a gross understatement. Ironically, the same cells do not live in the body longer than two months, and one can argue that this is due to the massive workload they carry that they have such a short lifespan. So then, the bone marrow’s job is to create anew about half of the red blood cells from scratch and have them circulate and repeat the cycle.
Most of the energy in the body comes from oxygen, so it comes as no surprise that lethargy is one of the main symptoms to watch out for as a low red blood cell count will quickly translate into weakness and fatigue. Another symptom is discoloration and gums’ paling, meaning the gums will turn pink instead of red and sometimes white in severe cases. All these factors are key when assessing cat anemia.
What Can Cause Cat Anemia?
Blood loss is the loudest indicator of cat anemia since it can be noticed with relative ease, but it is far from being the only sign or the worst. Cats are agile and graceful animals, so it may seem odd to conceive a cat losing blood to this degree, but it all comes down to the current red blood cell count that the particular cat happens to have at the time. Consequently, decreased appetite, increased heart rate, increased breathing rate, and extreme thirst are also over-the-counter indicators that something is not right with your feline friend.
Another not-so-clear and far more menacing pointer could be at play called Hemolysis or Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA) on cats which happens when the body starts acting against itself by destroying the red blood cells. Put simply; the body creates antibodies that are wrongfully targeting its red blood cells while it continues to think it is still acting accordingly or correctly. AIHA may also have a secondary root that involves a toxin or underlying disease altering the red blood cells’ surface, which will force the immune system to attack otherwise healthy cells in a failed effort to counteract the malignant source. It will treat the body’s red blood cells as foreign invaders and declare war on them. This type of AIHA can be prompted by many different underlying diseases such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), blood parasites like Feline Hemotrophic Mycoplasmosis, Feline Leukemia, and even Cancer.
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Other idle triggers include allergic drug and chemical reactions to medications like Acetaminophen, bee stings, and even stress if some of the diseases mentioned above are already present. AIHA will destroy the red blood cells and leave an excess of hemoglobin in its wake, which in turn will overwork the liver as it tries to break down this excess as part of its functions. Overworking the liver will cascade into more significant and worse issues from then on, such as excess bilirubin from all the broken down hemoglobin. This excess can spill into the urine, turning it black and will cause the skin and other mucous membranes to turn yellow.
Similar conditions can also cause cat anemia, such as infections, genetic defects like Thalassemia, sickle cell anemia, G6PD enzyme deficiency, and blood clots in small blood vessels. All of these lead to the destruction of red blood cells.
How Do We Know If AIHA Is The Cause?
Symptoms such as lethargy, poor appetite, vomiting, and anorexia are ever-present, thus making it particularly difficult without further and deeper probing. The definitive way to properly diagnose AIHA is to perform a Complete Blood Count (CBC) test. It is used to detect anemia in cats by measuring different values inside a blood sample, with the acceptable threshold being about 25-45% red blood cell volume. Additionally, another test called Packed Cell Volume (PVC) will dictate the red blood cell percentage within the blood sample. A microscope may also be employed to evaluate the red blood cell’s shape and size during this examination. The PVC should not be lower than 25%.
What Is The Fastest Way To Increase Red Blood Cells?
Anemia is a severe disease, and it most likely will require a blood transfusion, multiple ones at times, to assist the body in making and replenishing its red blood cell count while also buying time for the evaluations to locate the root of the issue. But, unfortunately, it also happens that this is the fastest way. As we discovered earlier, it would take around two months before the red blood cell levels return to normal and live out their usual and beautifully short lifespan.
Low red blood cells levels also account for low iron levels, so iron-rich food is firmly advised. Not only can you make sure that the cat food is rich in this mineral, but including lean meat such as turkey, beef, chicken into the steady diet may help counteract the iron deficiency. Of course, we must consist of fish as it is a big favorite for cats but remember that your veterinarian must approve all these exercises.
Moreover, depending on the underlying cause, particular antibiotics or toxin antidotes such as Doxycycline and Prednisolone may help relieve the symptoms after the pertaining test is carried out and read. And, again, while it is okay to be proactive about your cat’s health, you should not pursue or administer any of these drugs to your cat without first getting the approval from your veterinarian. These are very particular drugs for particular scenarios; only a pet’s doctor can determine when and if it’s needed.
How Do We Prevent Anemia In Our Cat?
Let’s make sure all these tips discussed above are employed, especially the dietary ones. Enforcing them will help us ensure our cat is getting all the nutrients necessary for its immune system’s proper development and function. Furthermore, scheduling routine exams, staying current on all and any vaccinations, and parasite prevention shots are also steps on the right track.
We’ve learned there are many akin and correlating situations that can cause cat anemia, so we can all agree that it is more deserving of ensuring your cat is getting the best care available at all times. Safeguarding that the diet is iron-rich, checking for any possible blood loss, and just looking out for your cat, not looking extra lethargic are all good pointers to keep track of.
The latter may seem like a laughable endeavor due to the slothful nature cats can have. Still, as loving owners, we have the outright responsibility to look out for them, and, most of the time, we are the only ones who can notice any odd behavioral changes in our pets.
As a side note, keeping your cat off of Acetaminophen and any sort of Aspirin is also strongly advised and just an altogether good idea.
Shawn Manaher is a serial entrepreneur but when he isn’t working, he loves dogs. He’s owned different pets over the years, and always gives a part of his heart to each pet.