Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia

Joanne Carson PHD founder of Epi-Guardian Angels with her “wild child” Zoe

Another Canine Disease we are hearing of more and more cases of is AUTOIMMUNE HEMOLYTIC ANEMIA. Have you all heard of this one? This can be brought on by vaccinations. Please read on….

It has taken me a whole year to be able to sit down and write about my sweet little Asia who died when she was not yet 3 years old. Her loss was so painful I couldn’t even verbalize it. Now, if her story can save just one epi’s life by having titers instead of boosters, her loss will not have been in vain.

The major point I want to make with this article on autoimmune hemolytic anemia and autoimmune thyroiditis is to encourage you to have titers done instead of having annual vaccination boosters for all your dogs, not just your epi’s. Titers reflect the quantity of antibody level in the blood.

Dr. Jean Dodds, who has done thousands of titers in the last 12 years, says that 97% of the dogs who have parvo titers have enough immunity and do not need parvo boosters. She also found that 98% of the dogs who have distemper titers have enough immunity and do not need distemper boosters. A parvo/distemper titer is $20. to $30. for both. A small price to pay for peace of mind….

My beautiful red Dobie Asia collapsed and I rushed her to the vet’s. Her diagnosis was Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA). When I asked what the prognosis was I was told she would probably die within two weeks…

I cannot tell you the shock and disbelief of such a diagnosis. Asia was still an adolescent puppy and she was my “heart dog.” I loved her with every fiber in my being. It was her little face looking up at me from her pillow next to mine every morning with those huge pussywillow brown eyes that would put a smile on my face for the rest of the day..

Every bit of research I found on the computer that day validated what I had been told. The recovery rate of Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia was very low. Most died within 2 to 3 weeks. These were long odds that I would tackle every minute of every day. Asia was my “baby” and I couldn’t loose her. She was a rescued epi that crawled into my heart on Christmas Day 1999 and found her “forever” home.

The big question was “WHY”? That same day I opened a bill from the vet with last months charges. I was stunned to find a charge for a parvo/distemper booster exactly 30 days before Asia collapsed and was diagnosed. Asia was hypothyroid and also had autoimmune thyroiditis. It was written on her chart and it was very clear that she was NOT to receive parvo boosters. When I took her in for her distemper booster I heard my vet tell the tech to only give Asia a distemper booster.

I called the vets to confirm what booster she had been given and when I heard the story, my heart sank. It seems while Asia was being taken in the back for her distemper booster, two other dogs got into a fight in the hall and there was chaos trying to get them under control. Evidentially the vet tech was badly shaken that when she took Asia back for her booster she accidentally gave her a “combo” booster which included parvo. She didn’t realize how deadly this was until Asia was diagnosed with AIHA.

I called Dr. Dodds who was very concerned by the news. She explained that because Asia was hypothyroid and had autoimmune thyroiditis, the parvo booster over stimulated her immune system which ended up destroying her red blood cells. Basically her immune system turned on her.

The next two weeks were a daily tenacious fight for Asia’s life by myself, Dr. Dodds, my vet and the ER vet. I spent nights in the ER sleeping on the floor next to Asia while she received blood transfusions of oxygloblin. Dr. Dodds would come by the ER to stay with Asia while I went to get something to eat. I spent the days by her side at home comforting her, monitoring her breathing, her pulse and trying to get her to eat to keep her strength up. She slept under an infrared lamp next to me to keep her warm. She never complained, never whimpered and there was always a warm lick for my cheek.

Asia had blood tests every other day to monitor her platelet count. Day after day I watched helplessly as her blood counts dropped lower and lower. It was an emotional roller coaster. I never gave up even when my vet told me she was dying. I couldn’t accept that, I couldn’t believe that. I just believed that my love and care along with all the medications and the transfusions would pull her though. I couldn’t imagine a world without that adoring face looking up at me with all the love in her heart.

Unfortunately, one of the major complications of autoimmune hemolytic anemia is thrombosis (over active clotting). One night the ER x-rays showed tiny spots on her lungs and she was having problems breathing. I held my breath and prayed like I have never prayed before. There was not much else anyone could do. Everyone I knew was praying for Asia and sending supportive e-mails. The next day while I was holding Asia, she threw a blood clot to her lungs and she was gone in seconds. I don’t remember the next few weeks because I was in shock and so much pain. I just remembered crying day after day after day.

Why did I loose the love of my life? It is clear to me. Asia was hypothyroid and she also had autoimmune thyroiditis. She accidentally received a parvo booster which caused AIHA exactly 30 days later. 90% of the dogs who are hypothyroid also have autoimmune thyroiditis. When a dog has autoimmune thyroiditis, you have to be adamant and not let the vet give the combination vaccination booster that includes parvo. You need to do titers first.

Below are links to other articles I have written to encourage you to do titers instead of vaccinations. Additionally, Guardian Angel Jan & Kirk wrote an article on a recent news report on vaccinations that you should print out and take to your vet.

Here is what you need to do to avoid AIHA:

1. Determine if your pup has an autoimmune disease. If your pup is hypothyroid there is a 90% chance it has autoimmune thyroiditis. Check this out with your vet or Dr. Dodds. If your pup has an autoimmune disease DO NOT allow it be vaccinated with the distemper/parvo combo. The actual number of dogs contracting AIHA from modified live parvo virus vaccine is not yet known but there have been too many cases to ignore it. The safe thing to do is titers.

2. INSIST on your vet doing titers instead of the annual distemper/parvo vaccination booster. Any large commercial lab can do titers and also Dr. Dodd does titers. The parvo/distemper titer runs between $20. and $30. Remember, there is no law that requires you to vaccinate for anything except rabies. You can also do titers for rabies and even New York state accepts titer reports in lieu of a rabies vaccine. Doing titers could possibly save your pups life.

3. Print out all the articles on autoimmune hemolytic anemia/immune mediated hemolytic anemia, vaccinations and autoimmune thyroiditis and put them in a file. You don’t have to understand everything that is in these articles but you should have them handy in case you need to explain to your vet why you want to do titers instead of vaccinations.

I hope you find all this information helpful. It is one more piece in the puzzle of keeping our epi’s healthy. I really care that you keep your pups with you as long as possible. The pain of loss is unbearable and doesn’t go away….

Joanne Carson, Ph.D.

FounderEpi Guardian Angels

your source for information, support, treatments and solutions for veterinarians and owners of dogs with canine epilepsy

1 Comment

  1. This article is very enlightening. We just put our little Boo Boo down today after a week of weakness that we didn’t understand. Took her in today and she was diagnosed with AIHA. We were shocked because we thought her sluggish behavior was neurologic. She was only 5 and brought sunshine to our home. She was born deaf and had one working eye but overcame that with spunk, love and constant happiness. The vet said her hematocrit was the lowest they had ever seen and suggested a blood transfusion might not help. We decided not to go through with that and steroids because she would never have her quality life back. Thank you so much for this article as will remember that if ever get another dog. We 2 other surviving dogs.

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