• Open Access

Anti-Erythrocyte Antibodies and Disease Associations in Anemic and Nonanemic Dogs


Corresponding author: Dr Steven Dow, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, Department of Clinical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523; e-mail: sdow@colostate.edu.


Background: Flow cytometry has been used to detect anti-red blood cell (RBC) antibodies in dogs with immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA), but the prevalence of anti-RBC antibodies in anemic and nonanemic dogs with a variety of different diseases has not been assessed previously.

Hypothesis: We hypothesized that anti-RBC antibodies would be more common in anemic dogs and in dogs with immune-mediated disorders and cancer.

Animals: Blood samples from 292 dogs were analyzed prospectively by flow cytometry for anti-RBC antibodies.

Methods: Blood samples from 147 anemic and 145 nonanemic dogs were evaluated by flow cytometry to detect surface-bound immunoglobulin (Ig) G and IgM antibodies on RBC. Disease associations with RBC antibodies were determined, as was the correlation between disease status and the percentage of Ig+ RBC. The specificity and sensitivity of flow cytometry and clinical variables for the diagnosis of IMHA were compared by Bayesian analysis.

Results: Anemic dogs were significantly more likely to be positive for anti-RBC antibodies (IgG, IgM, or both) than nonanemic dogs. Anemic dogs also had significantly higher percentages of Ig+ RBC than nonanemic dogs, whereas dogs with IMHA had significantly higher percentages of Ig+ RBC than dogs with all other diseases. Dogs with IMHA, infectious diseases, and immune-mediated thrombocytopenia were significantly more likely to have anti-RBC antibodies than dogs with other medical or surgical diseases.

Conclusions: Anemic dogs with immune-mediated diseases and infectious diseases were at the highest risk for the development of anti-RBC antibodies, and flow cytometry for the detection of IgG on RBC was highly sensitive and specific for the diagnosis of IMHA.