Anemia in Horses


Anemia in horses is defined as low blood volume. There are a variety of different causes of anemia, and it usually occurs secondary to some other health issue the horse may be experiencing.

Symptoms and Types

  • Unusually poor performance
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Hair loses luster
  • Heart murmur
  • Pale mucous membranes


Anemia can be classified as acute (rapid onset) or chronic (persistent or long-lasting).  Acute anemia is caused by rapid blood loss, such as with a traumatic injury or ruptured blood vessel.  Chronic anemia is sometimes a bit more complicated and can have many causes, some of which include cancer (especially types that affect the bone marrow), chronic kidney disease, gastric ulcers, or severe nutritional deficiencies.


The diagnosis of anemia is very straightforward, but finding the cause of the anemia is often not as simple. A simple blood test that measures packed cell volume (PCV) will tell the veterinarian if the horse is anemic and if so, how badly affected. The PCV does not tell the veterinarian why or how the horse became anemic.  Sometimes, further diagnostics are required to find the cause, particularly if the anemia is severe and the horse is greatly debilitated.

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