Bovis ISSN 2398-2993

Anemia: overview

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

Contributor(s): Jennifer Allan , Mike Reynolds

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  • 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