What Is IMHA?

 |  Jul 14th 2009  |   27 Contributions


I recently received an email from Mica's mom letting me know about something called Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA) which is commonly linked with Immune-Mediated Thrombocytopenia.

Shortly after getting the first email I received a second from another Dogster member requesting a post on this horrible disease, and letting me know about Daisy Mae who is recovering from a relapse of IMHA.

IMHA was something I had never heard of, when I read about it I knew how important it was to get the word out. This scariest part of IMHA is how suddenly it comes on, 60-75% of cases do not have apparent causes, and it has a very high mortality rate.

There are two good articles to go to for more information, both on the Mar Vista Animal Medical Center website. The articles IMMUNE MEDIATED HEMOLYTIC ANEMIA and IMMUNE-MEDIATED THROMBOCYTOPENIA discuss both diseases, which when present together are often called "Evans Syndrome."

I thought who better to explain this devastating disease than someone who has experienced it firsthand, Mica's mom.

Our perfectly healthy and lovely 9 year old Belgian Tervuren was lost within 6 days of onset of 2 blood immune diseases, IMHA & IMTP: Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia & Immune-Mediated Thrombocytopenia. When present together, it is often called "Evans Syndrome."

IMHA occurs when the immune system attacks its own red blood cells (RBCs) prematurely & at a MUCH faster rate than new ones can be produced. It is life threatening & requires prompt, aggressive treatment. A lack of oxygen carrying RBCs may damage vital organs, while a high risk of death from blood clots occurs due to damaged RBCs.

CAUSATION: It may be caused by an exposure to toxins, from cancer, an infection or even vaccines. Bee/wasp stings & tick-borne diseases (TBD) have also been implicated, as has the ingestion of ONIONS, GARLIC or PENNIES, or owner administration of Vitamin K and acetaminophen. It may be deemed IDIOPATHIC [id E-oh path ick] (no known cause) like Mica's, which is MOST often the case. IMTP adversely affects the blood platelets, which helps blood to clot normally accompanies IMHA in 50-70% of ALL IMHA cases. It can lead to excessive bleeding.

PLEASE NOTE that bleeding can be interior and/or exterior in nature. For Mica it was the complications of IMHA that presented the greatest challenge. Symptoms of IMHA can appear suddenly or be more gradual. Mica's onset was sudden, in less than 24 hours. Her energy level was down a bit one day, but she otherwise seemed well. After midnight she vomited once. By morning her breathing was labored and she was very weak. Later that day in ICU she became severely jaundiced.

SIGNS TO WATCH FOR: Your pet may exhibit subtle weakness or lethargy. They may have an increase in heart & respiration rates (excessive panting) & have PALE GUMS or ears. They may vomit or stop eating altogether. With IMTP they may have unexplained bruising or bleeding.

EVERY SINGLE CASE is different with this illness, which is why treating it successfully is SO difficult. Supportive care comes 1st to try & stabilize a pet's condition. Next, immune suppression drugs try to stop the ongoing destruction of blood cells. Finding then treating the underlying cause IS critical. MICA'S ANEMIA BECAME SO SEVERE THAT SHE NEEDED CRITICAL LIFE-SUPPORT THAT INCLUDED THE HELP OF OTHER DOGS.

Did you know that dogs give blood, just like humans? If they didn't, there wouldn't be enough blood to provide the tens of thousands of transfusions dogs need every year. As with humans, blood must be readily available or a patient may die. THAT'S WHY CANINE BLOOD DONATION IS SO IMPORTANT. Mica's condition improved significantly after multiple transfusions, & she fought valiantly-like the good Terv she was for nearly a week when complications of the IMHA finally took her from us.

PLEASE consider talking with your vet about involving your dog in a blood donation program. Blood transfusions like Mica received GREATLY increase a dogs chance of recovering from IMHA, IMTP & other illnesses or injuries. IMHA & IMTP are devastating diseases. IMHA is the MOST common blood immune disorder in BOTH dogs & cats, and its mortality rate is staggering. At times it can be managed, but today there is no cure.

RESEARCH IS DESPERATELY NEEDED. Please consider Mica's IMHA Research Fund.. .even a dollar at a time adds up! THANK YOU!

Sadly Mica did not make it, she passed to Rainbow Bridge. Her mom has started Mica's IMHA Research Fund, dedicated to funding research that leads to effective diagnostic tools, treatments and a cure for immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) and to raise awareness of immune-mediated (IM) disease.

Mica's IMHA Research Fund is a non-profit foundation and it's name represents it's mission. IMHA gave Mica her wings, and her quest for a cure left her a legacy. It would greatly please the wonderpup that in her memory others could join her and benefit in finding a cure. If these efforts on our behalf could save even one life, or spare one you love like we did Mica- the sheer indignity, pain and uncertainty of IMHA then it would be worth it.

We appreciate any donation. We accept as little as a dollar at-a-time. Honestly what pains us most other than one never giving a second thought to IMHA research, is that most people who make a donation feel that what they have to give is not enough. Please feel good that what you contribute IS good, and goes to cause not only near & dear to our hearts, but one that Many we have come to know (and LOVE) touched by this disease watch & wait for such a miracle [that] a cure would be, and none too soon.

To join Mica in her fight go to Mica's IMHA Research page. Our condolences to Mica's family, and all the other pups touched by this disease. We wish Daisy Mae a speedy recovery.

Thank you to the Dogsters who brought IMHA and IMTP to my attention. Let's hope this article helps get the word out about this horrific disease and saves more lives in the process.

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