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Life-saving blood transfusion for dog diagnosed with IMHA

Amy Holloway

In October 2017, Sasha the Doberman was a healthy, energetic three-year old dog – the centre of her owners’ world. Then, on 20th October her owners Paul and Jane, noticed she was not her usual self and on Saturday morning she didn’t jump up onto their bed, as she normally would. Growing increasingly concerned Paul visited our website and looked at the symptom checker. This convinced him to make an appointment with us.

Sasha the doberman was diagnosed with IMHA and needed a lifesaving blood transfusion


On examination, Sasha presented with a slightly elevated temperature and yellow-tinged mucus membranes – gums, eyes and ears. Our vet JT ran a series of tests and quickly diagnosed Immune Mediated Haemolytic Anaemia (IMHA). JT explained it was a very serious illness and Sasha was started on medication straight away.


It was partly thanks to Vet JT's quick diagnosis of IMHA that Sasha the dog has made such a good recovery from IMHA

Vet JT with Sasha

What happened next:


Sasha’s blood count was low but Paul was keen to take her home so he was advised to keep a close eye on her condition. By Sunday morning she was very poorly and Paul returned to see us. Sasha’s blood count was continuing to drop but Paul took her home again to see if the medication would start to take effect. By the evening Sasha’s condition had deteriorated further and she was so weak she couldn’t even lift her head. Her mucus membranes were now a vivid shade of yellow.

On the Monday morning we admitted Sasha and she was hospitalised straight away. Vet Jo Penny explained the options available to Paul. They could refer Sasha to a specialist centre, but she would receive a similar level of treatment with us and be closer for Paul to visit.

Our experience in successfully treating other cases of IMHA, and the fact visiting would be easier for Paul and his family, convinced him that Sasha was well placed at Clent Hills Vets and would receive the highest level of care and treatment.


The search for a blood donor:
Vet Jo Penny helped Sasha through her ordeal and found her blood donor

Vet Jo Penny


For Sasha’s condition to improve she needed a blood transfusion but due to us treating a number of cases of IMHA that month our stocks were low.

At this stage Paul was emotionally drained but his sons encouraged him not to give up on Sasha. Jo Penny knew finding a donor would be difficult but she persevered and someone came forward to offer their dog as a blood donor – one of our clients in fact!

It took 24 hours to administer the blood transfusion, which gave Sasha’s body enough time to start responding to steroid medication, to boost her immune system.




Paul and Jane visited her twice a day that week and staff were very flexible about letting them visit at any time. Sasha had lost considerable weight during her ordeal so Paul brought in her favourite foods to encourage her to eat. Slowly Sasha started to feel better.

On Friday 27th October JT suggested Paul take Sasha home for a few hours. He assessed her again the next day and Paul was told he could take her home to complete her recovery. A difficult week followed as Sasha was urinating frequently and had chronic diarrhoea every 2 hours day and night. However, supported by Paul and Jane’s enduring love and care she began to improve.

Head vet Alun Edwards monitored Sasha's recovery from IMHA

Head Vet Alun Edwards

Her lengthy recovery process, following her return home, has been closely monitored by regular appointments with our head vet Alun Edwards. Sasha has put on weight, is much stronger and pretty much back to her normal, energetic self.

Paul says: “I can’t speak highly enough about everyone at Clent Hills Vets, from the nurses who looked after her every night to the three vets who treated her and have monitored her recovery. Sasha got everything she needed. She means the world to us and I also sincerely thank the donor’s owner who ultimately helped save Sasha’s life.”


What is IMHA?


Immune Mediated Haemolytic Anaemia (IMHA) is a condition where the body’s immune system, which normally fights infection, starts to damage and destroy red blood cells. This results in the affected animal becoming anaemic (having a low red blood cell count).


What causes IMHA?


In some dogs and cats IMHA occurs without any underlying cause. In this situation it is referred to as primary IMHA. However, in other cases there is an underlying reason or trigger factor that results in the body damaging and destroying red blood cells, and this is termed secondary IMHA. Possible trigger factors include certain infectious or inflammatory diseases, particular classes of drugs or, sadly in some patients, underlying cancer. In Sasha’s case Paul is convinced it was brought on by an insect sting but JT explained this could have been a coincidence.


What are the signs of IMHA?


  • Common clinical signs that are seen with IMHA include:
  • Being quiet and lethargic
  • Pale or sometimes jaundiced (yellow) mucous membranes
  • Increased breathing rate and effort
  • Decreased appetite
  • Running a fever (increased body temperature)


The importance of dog blood donors:
Sasha the doberman is the centre of Paul and his wife's world


Sasha’s owner Paul is a blood donor but he had never considered that dogs need blood donated too. Clent Hills Vets is committed to raising awareness of the importance of dogs donating blood to support sick and injured dogs who need lifesaving blood transfusions. Please talk to us if you are happy for your dog to become a donor and we will see if they are suitable based on certain criteria such as being the right age, weight and temperament.

For more details please call 01527 889810

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