This is a quite rare but often fatal hemolytic anemia of the newborn that sometimes occurs when a bitch with one blood type is mated to a dog with another. The puppies who inherit the blood group of the sire develop hemolytic anemia when they ingest colostrum that contains antibodies designed to attack their red blood cells. These antibodies are manufactured by the dam only if she has been previously sensitized to the sire’s blood group antigens – which can occur when fetal cells of a different blood type cross the placenta.
Affected puppies are born healthy and start to nurse vigorously. But once they drink the dam’s colostrum, the dam’s antibodies begin to destroy their red blood cells. They start to show clinical signs within hours to days, stop nursing, and fail to thrive. They develop hemolytic anemia within one to two days after birth and some or all will die.
Early clinical signs of the disease include dark red-brown urine, weakness, failure to thrive, and jaundice. Death can occur in 24 hours. Blood tests, urinalysis, and blood typing can diagnosis the condition.
Treatment: As soon as you suspect hemolytic anemia, stop all nursing and notify your veterinarian. The puppies may require blood transfusions from a compatible donor to restore their red cells. Puppies from subsequent litters should not be allowed to receive colostrum from the dam, unless the sire and dam have compatible blood types.