Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA) is a life-threatening immune system disorder that tends to occur more frequently in certain breeds, including Poodles. The disease is generally found in dogs between three and eight years of age, and is more common in females than males.
With IMHA, the immune system produces antibodies that attack and destroy the body's own red blood cells. Antibodies are supposed to be a defense against illness and germs that are harmful to the body. The destruction of a Poodle's red blood cells can lead to anemia, which means the tissues are unable to receive adequate oxygen.
IMHA can progress rapidly to a life-threatening situation and can be fatal even when a Poodle receives prompt, appropriate treatment.
A disease not fully understood
The causes of IMHA are still largely unknown. In most cases, there is no indication why the immune system, designed to protect the animal, suddenly targets its weapons against the animal itself. Some theories are that IMHA is triggered by toxins, parasites, cancers, infections, or even some drugs—but exactly why this happens is not fully understood.
Know the symptoms
If you notice one or more of these symptoms in your Poodle, you should seek immediate veterinary care:
- Pale gums
- Dark-colored urine
- Eyes that are tinged with yellow rings
The first steps in treating IMHA are to stabilize your Poodle and help suppress the immune system. This may include blood transfusions and will most likely involve administration of immunosuppressive drugs. Treatment is generally continued until the Poodle is in remission, at which point the dosage is slowly decreased.
Hopefully, veterinary science will develop disease-modifying drugs to slow or halt the progression of IMHA. In addition, the discovery of a gene that identifies dogs at risk could pave the way for therapeutic trials to prevent the disease from developing.