Alloimmune Hemolytic Anemia

Hemolytic anemia is a hematologic disorder characterized by inadequate circulating red blood cells or insufficient hemoglobin due to premature destruction of red blood cells. Alloimmune hemolytic anemia, also called alloimmune hemolysis, is the production of antibodies that are directed against red blood cells (RBCs) of another individual of the same species. The condition typically occurs following transfusion of ABO incompatible blood and rhesus disease of the newborn. It can also occur following allogenic transplantation when cells are transplanted from a donor.

Female nursing dogs transmit antibodies to the puppies via colostrum, the yellowish fluid rich in antibodies and minerals that is produced after giving birth and before producing real milk. The antibodies develop in the mother during unmatched blood transfusions. Newborn puppies with this disorder are usually normal at birth, but develop severe hemolytic anemia within two to three days and become weak and jaundiced.

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Hemolytic disease of the newborn is more than just an anemia. Although the anemia itself can be quite serious and result in severe hypotension and even death, there is a second threat to the puppy. Jaundice in newborns occurs not only due to the destruction of red blood cells, but also because the liver of the newborn puppy cannot handle quickly enough the removal of RBCs. The toxic effect of bilirubin can cause serious damage to the brain. A veterinarian can perform a test to check for alloimmune hemolytic anemia before the newborn is allowed to receive maternal colostrum. Diagnosis is confirmed by screening maternal serum, plasma, or colostrum against the paternal or newborn red blood cells.


  1. Hemolytic Anemia (adapted from The Merck Veterinary Manual)
  2. Ed Uthman. Understanding Anemia

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