ISSN 2398-2993      

Anemia: overview


Jennifer Allan

Mike Reynolds

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Synonym(s): Anaplasmosis, babesiosis, eperythrozoonosis, theileriosis, trypanosomosis, leptospirosis, bacillary hemoglobinuria, water intoxication, postparturient hemoglobinuria, copper, congenital erythropoietic porphyria, iron, congenital dyserythropoiesis, aplastic anemia, m. wenyonii


  • Anemia is a complex problem and in itself is not a diagnosis, but a clinical sign.
  • It can be caused by a number of diseases and can affect cattle at all life stages.
  • Anemia is defined as a decrease in the red cell mass. Measured by either:
    • Red blood cell (RBC) count.
    • Hemoglobin concentration (Hb) or
    • Packed cell volume (PCV).
  • There are two types of anemia:
    • Regenerative:
      • Whereby the body retains the ability to produce erythrocytes from the bone marrow.
      • Regenerative anemia is usually caused by blood loss, either through hemorrhage (internally and/or externally) or through RBC destruction by parasites or bacteria (hemolysis).
    • Non-regenerative.
      • Bone marrow is damaged, resulting in inadequate erythrocyte production. 
      • If left for long periods regenerative anemia can become non-regenerative anemia as the bone marrows reserves become exhausted and cannot meet demand. 
  • Treatment depends on the type of anemia and the causative agent.
  • Most cases of anemia will warrant a guarded prognosis and so this should be communicated to the farmer prior to investigations or treatment being initiated.


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Causes of regenerative anemia

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Causes of non-regenerative anemia

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Further Reading


Refereed Papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Navarro M A et al (2017) Pathology of Naturally Occurring Bacillary Hemoglobinuria in Cattle. Vet Pathol 54 (3), 457-466 PubMed.
  • Zhang Z et al (2017) Effect of phosphorus deficiency on erythrocytic morphology and function in cows Ziwei.  J Vet Sci 18 (3), 36-43 PubMed.
  • Consulting S A C & Services V (2016) Mycoplasma wenyonii infection in dairy cows. Vet Rec 179 (24), 619-623 PubMed.
  • Kawahara N et al (2016) Water intoxication in adult cattle.  Jpn J Vet Res 64 (2), 159-164 PubMed.  
  • Consulting S A C & Services V (2015) Erythropoietic protoporphyria in Limousin calves. Vet Rec 177 (17), 432-435 PubMed.
  • Grünberg W (2014) Treatment of Phosphorus Balance Disorders. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract 30 (2), 383-408 PubMed
  • Gohil S et al (2013) Bovine babesiosis in the 21st century: Advances in biology and functional genomics. Int J Parasitol 43 (2), 125-132 PubMed.
  • Agerholm J S et al (2012) A molecular study of congenital erythropoietic porphyria in cattle. Anim Genet 43 (2), 210-215 PubMed.
  • Bidewell C A et al (2012) Case study of copper poisoning in a British dairy herd. Vet Rec 170(18), 464 PubMed
  • Otaka D Y et al (2012) Serology and PCR for bovine leptospirosis: Herd and individual approaches. Vet Rec 170 (13), 338 PubMed.
  • Suarez C E & Noh S (2011) Emerging perspectives in the research of bovine babesiosis and anaplasmosis. Vet Parasitol 180 (1–2), 109-125 PubMed.
  • Jones M L & Allison R W (2007) Evaluation of the Ruminant Complete Blood Cell Count. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract 23(3), 377-402 PubMed
  • de Waal D T & Combrink M P (2006) Live vaccines against bovine babesiosis. Vet Parasitol 138 (1–2), 88-96 PubMed.
  • Miller M et al (2006) Outbreaks of postparturient haemoglobinuria in diary herds. Vet Rec 159 (2), 59 PubMed.
  • Bolin C A (2001) Clinical signs; Diagnosis and prevention of Leptospirosis in cattle. Cattle Practice 267-273.
  • Njoroge E M et al (1999) Water intoxication in cattle. J South Afr Vet Assoc 70 (4), 177-179 PubMed.
  • Steffen D J et al (1991) Congenital anemia, dyskeratosis, and progressive alopecia in Polled Hereford calves. Vet Pathol 28 (3),  234-240 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Barrington G M (2018) Congenital Erythropoietic Porphyria, MSD Manual - Veterinary Manual. Available at: (Accessed: 5 June 2018).
  • Blakley B (2018) Overview of Copper Toxicity, MSD Manual - Veterinary Manual. Available at:
  • Lew-Tabor E A (2018) Anaplasmosis. Available at:
  • Morrison I (2018) Theileriasis, MSD Veterinary Manual. Available at: (Accessed: 18 April 2018).
  • Petersen C (2018) Trypanosomiasis, MSD Veterinary Manual. Available at:
  • NADIS (2017) Trace element deficiency in cattle, Animal disease service. Available at: (Accessed: 11 June 2018).
  • Stampfli H R (2017) Bacillary Hemoglobinuria, Merek Veterinary Manual. Available at: (Accessed: 5 June 2018).
  • Truyers I & Ellis K (2013) Case report: bovine congenital erythropoietic protoporphyria in a pedigree Limousin herd. Livestock (Electronic) 18 (2),  30-33. doi: 10.12968/live.2013.18.2.30.
  • Strugnell B & McAuliffe L (2012) Mycoplasma wenyonii infection in cattle.  In Practice 34 (3), pp 146-154. doi: 10.1136/inp.e1550.
  • Rusbridge S & Caldow G (2010) Clinical Forum: Bovine leptospirosis. UK Vet Livestock. Wiley 15 (4), pp 16-22. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-3870.2010.tb00285.x.
  • CHeCS (2009) CHeCS Technical Document. (September), pp 3-6. Available at:
  • Iowa State University (2009) African Animal Trypanosomiasis African Animal Trypanosomiasis. In Vitro 1-5.
  • Pasquini C P S (2008) Guide to Bovine Clinics. 4th edn.
  • Laven R A & Livesey C T (2004) The Diagnosis of Copper Related Disease : Do We Have the Necessary Tools ? Part 1 : Prevalence of Disease and the Diagnosis of Copper Toxicity. Cattle Practice 12,  265-270.
  • NRC (2001) Minerals. Nutrient Requirements of Dairy Cattle. doi: 10.17226/9825.
  • Council, N. R. (2001) Nutrient Requirements of Dairy Cattle. doi: 10.17226/9825.

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