IMHA in cats affects young and middle aged cats more frequently than older cats and it is perhaps one of the deadliest conditions your pet can develop.
The official term for this disease is Immune mediated hemolytic anemia, and it causes exactly what the name implies, anemia.
However in this disease, it is literally caused by your cats own system attacking itself.
This disease is extremely rapid in development, and if not treated as soon as possible, it is fatal.
IMHA is very difficult to understand, and because of this difficulty, there are no known preventive measures.
Some cats do respond to treatments, but in most cases, the outcome of this disease will most likely take your cats life.
Cat’s immune systems are an extremely powerful and intricate set of mechanisms.
If it is healthy and not compromised by lack of proper nutrients, it is able to overcome almost any type of an attack by bacterium, viral, or fungi infections.
This system is made of thousands of cells as well as products that secret from these cells.
In a healthy cat with a fully powered immune system, these cells recognize any invasion and rapidly destroy them.
It is also very easily identifies that the cells and the products produced by your cat are not invading and totally ignores them as any type of a threat.
However, with IMHA in cats, something goes terribly wrong with this system and the worst possible scenario happens to your cat.
Its own system starts to attack itself.
When this attack occurs, your cat has absolutely no defense against it and the system starts to destroy the vitally important red blood cells in your cat.
When your cat develops this disease, it is usually accidental; but there is also an attack that is on purpose, called an autoimmune process.
This is an attack by your cats system against anything it thinks that may be foreign intruders.
In this form of attack, any type of cell in your cat’s body is assaulted, but in most cases the attack is against the red blood cells, and IHMA in cats is the result.
Anemia is a deficiency of red blood cells and can occur from excessive bleeding, your cats failure to produce enough red blood cells, or some type of destruction of the red blood cells.
The term immune mediated implies that this destruction is being carried out by your pets own system.
The actual development of IMHA in cats is extremely complicated and as such, it is very difficult for the medical professional to fully understand.
There are a few occasions when the actual cause may be determined and treated, but in the majority of cases the exact cause is never found.
The reason for this is simply; it is so rapid and so destructive that most cats will not survive it.
With severe cases of any type of anemia, your cat’s tissues do not receive the required oxygen that they need as the heme, which is a critical part of hemoglobin and helps to carry the oxygen, is destroyed.
What makes this disease so very dangerous to your cat is that the destruction of the red blood cells is so sudden and so severe.
Once this occurs the reserve kept in your cats bone marrow as well as they production of new cells simply cannot keep up with this destruction.
If this destruction cannot be identified and stopped, your cat will die.
There are several drugs that can stop the destruction, but that is what makes this disease so very difficult to treat, in that there are often other complications.
There are four different forms of IMHA in cats; Primary, secondary, intravascular, and extravacular.
The primary form has no known cause and is the result of your cats own antibodies attacking the red blood cell membranes.
This form is rare in cats, but common in dogs.
Secondary is the result of the same antibodies attacking your cat, but it is caused by a weakened immune system caused by an underlying disease.
The most common underlying disease is cancer, feline leukemia virus, red blood cell parasites, or reaction to a recently administered drug.
The Intravascular form means that your cat’s cells are being destroyed within the blood vessels, and extravacular form implies that they are being destroyed out side of the vessels.
Your pet will show some very distinctive symptoms that they have developed IMHA in cats and the quicker they can be reacted to the better chance they have of surviving.
The first symptom will be a very sudden yellow tint in your cat’s gums or their eyes, followed very quickly by dark urine that has very little yellow in it at all.
Your cat may also develop a very rapid breathing, and if this occurs, your cat is in distress.
The first objective of treatment of IHMA in cats will be to stop the attack on the red blood cells and then supporting your cats overall health, if possible.
The drugs that can stop this life threatening condition, corticosteroids, have some drawbacks.
They can usually stop the attack on the red blood cells, but they can also interfere with your cats system in dealing with germs.
This makes it very difficult to treat as your veterinarian does not really know if it is too much or too little to be effective and still prevent further damage.
There are several other drugs that may be used if corticosteroids do not work, but your veterinarian will have to be very careful with advanced immune suppressants.
There has been very little research on how effective they actually are and how serious the side effects may be.
IMHA in cats can be stopped in some cases, while in others your cat may have to be on medications for the rest of their lives.
But in the majority of cases they may never get the chance as this disease is that deadly.