Spherocytosis In Dogs

Spherocytes are compared against normal, mature red blood cells.
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Spherocytes are abnormal small, dense red blood cells, commonly found in canine blood work. Regular sized red blood cell's lose their biconcave shape and form into spherocytes. Immune-mediated hemolytic anemia often is linked to spherocytosis. Any dog breed can have IMHA, it often appears spontaneously, with no underlying cause.

Possible Causes

Spherocytosis in dogs can be inherited or caused by nonheredity reasons. such as genetic mutations, toxins or nutritional deficiencies. Veterinarians may inquire about the history of the dog, vaccine and medical records, travel history, possible consumption of foreign objects and exposure to ticks. At times, veterinarians will review the blood work several times and repeat the blood test, attempting to find the cause, only to have the outcome determine that there is not any underlying cause.

Diagnostic Tests

Baseline blood tests are performed by a veterinarian to determine if the dog has immune-mediated hemolytic anemia. The types of test conducted by the veterinarian are a reticulocyte count, complete blood count, blood smear, slide agglutination test, serum chemistry profile, direct Coombs test, and a thoracic and abdominal radiography.


The severity of clinical signs will determine the course of treatment needed for the dog. Hospitalization frequently is required for treatment, and needed for monitoring and supportive care. Treatment is case-by-case and follows four main principles: preventing hemolysis, treating tissue hypoxia, deterring the formation of thromboemboli and providing continuous supportive care to the patient. Veterinarians will provide a combination of medications, valuable nutrition and constant monitoring of progress in the patient. Treatments take up to at least three months or longer. At times, the severity of the blood disease is caught early, and in this case the patient will be treated as an ongoing outpatient.

Long-Term Prognosis and Management

Blood test results showing signs of a steady decrease in spherocytes and an increase in reticulocytes prove that the patient is having a positive reaction to therapy. Once the dog is showing successful signs of treatment and good health, the veterinarian will release him from the hospital. Quarterly check-ups are conducted during the first year after release from the hospital. Bi-annual check-ups are required every year afterwards. If any sign of spherocytes show in the blood work during routine check-ups, the dog will be put immediately under the care of the veterinarian and treatment will begin immediately. Good prognosis is possible if response to the treatment is positive. Toleration to medications, and the absence of thromboembolism and infections are crucial to recovery.