A shocking diagnosis of Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anaemia (IMHA)

Tank presented with acute onset jaundice, lethargy and loss of appetite.

After a careful collection of  Tank's history, coupled with a thorough physical examination, the likely diagnoses were prioritised, with immune-mediated hemolytic anaemia (IMHA) on the top of that list.  A microscopic examination of a blood smear caught his body's immune cells (white blood cells) in the act of consuming his red blood cells, as well as clumping of the red blood cells (agglutination). Biochemical analysis of his blood showed severe anemia, a significant elevation of bilirubin (a breakdown product of red blood cells) and elevation of his liver enzymes.

All these findings together made for a confident diagnosis of Immune Mediated Haemolytic Anaemia (IMHA), and Tank was quickly placed on immunosuppressive medications, blood thinners and aggressive fluid therapy. IMHA is a life-threatening immune condition, which is suprisingly not uncommon in cats and dogs.

This disease may develop due to certain medications or blood infections, including from heartworm and tickborne parasites, but in most cases the cause is not able to be determined. In all cases, the immune system attacks its' own red blood cells. This can lead to jaundice and anaemia, which then leads to a state of increased coagulation resulting in tiny blood clots. These clots can wreak havoc in the organs throughout the body, causing multiple organ failure and eventually death.

The condition carries a guarded prognosis, but with aggressive therapy in a veterinary hospital patients can make a successful recovery. In approximately 30-40% of cases, patients do not require lifelong immunosuppressive therapy.

Tank is now at home with his family recovering from his frightening episode, and visits us frequently for checkups to adjust his treatment as necessary.