Autoimmune haemolytic anaemia (AIHA) is defined as a condition where the immune system fights against the body that it belongs to, in the case of AHA the body thinks that red blood cells are foreign bodies, so attacks and destroys them. Red blood cells are the mechanism that transports oxygen around the body, in normal healthy pets and humans each red blood cell bonds with 4 oxygen molecules, but AIHA can limit this bonding or make the cells have a shorter life span. AIHA triggers Haemolysis, this is the process by which the red blood cells are ‘broken open’ so they are not able to function as normal.
What Are The Sub Types of Autoimmune Haemolytic Anaemia?
Under the classification for AIHA there are two distinctive types that your pets can be affected by. Primary or idiopathic AIHA is where your dog or cats body generates antibodies to attack its own immune system due to the immune system not working properly. Idiopathic AIHA is thought to account for approximately ¾ of all diagnosed cases of AIHA in dogs. Secondary AIHA needs a trigger to become active, this trigger can be an underlying infection, cancer, neoplasm, a reaction to medication and even a snakebite. The disruption caused by the underlying health issue causes the surface of the red blood cells to develop incorrectly, which results in the body perceiving them as foreign invaders, which triggers a hyper immune system and attack.
What Are The Symptoms Of AIHA?
Anaemia is a broad term used to encompass any condition where there is a reduced number of red blood cells, haemoglobin or both. One tell tail sign that your dog or cat is suffering with anaemia is very pale gums, along with becoming easily fatigued and being far more fatigued than usual. This is due to the lack of oxygen circulating around the body and making its way into tissues and organs. In severe cases your dog or cat may seem confused and possibly faint due to the lack of oxygen to the brain. Because the immune system in your pet has marked too many red blood cells for removal due to self-attacking, the liver, kidneys and spleen becomes vastly overworked trying to process and breakdown the cells, it results in urine being dark orange or even brown. If you think your pet is suffering from AIHA, you need to consult your vet immediately as once it reaches the stage where not enough oxygen is getting to tissue and organs, the body begins to shut down. The treatment for AIHA can be complex and a long road. If your pet is suffering from primary AIHA, they will need to be placed on immunosuppressive medications which taper off after time to stop any side effects. If the AIHA is secondary, a diagnosis is needed for the under lying health condition, once that is manage the AIHA the condition should stabilise. However, due to the immunocompromising that has occurred, relapses are common so you will need to keep monitoring your pet.
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What is CBD and Can It Help Manage AIHA?
CBD or cannabidiol is one singular component found within the cannabis plant, which has 421 different building blocks in total. In cannabis, there are different categories of building blocks, CBD falls into the cannabinoid family, of which there are 85. Cannabis related products such as oils have been linked to a variety of health benefits, which research yielding new results on almost a daily basis. One area of study includes managing autoimmune diseases with full spectrum or whole plant CBD products (these are products where all 421 compounds remain in situ). Mammalian bodies have an endocannabinoid system (ECS), this system allows cannabis to bind with specific receptors located around the body. CB1 receptors are found in our brains and spinal fluid, with CB2 receptors being found onto of cells. When cannabis binds with these receptors, it relays messages to the brain to increase, stabilise or decrease certain activities or functions. This rebalancing or homeostasis effect is what makes cannabis such an important medicinal marvel, as most traditional medicine can either inhibit or increase function rather than promote equilibrium. In the case of autoimmune diseases this is especially important, as you don’t want to suppress an autoimmune response to a level where it opens the body up to new antibodies, rather you want to return to state of equilibrium and maintain normal function. Research is ongoing as to how CBD (whole plant extracts) can do this, but it is thought that it binds with CB2 receptors in the spinal fluid to stop cell infiltration, inflammation and reduces the aggressiveness of the autoimmune response. Research dating back to the 1970’s have replicated experiments where prolific cannabis users had an increased rate of cell immunity, but the results varied depending on what cannabis compounds were used. Whilst the research isn’t conclusive in terms of categorising the full range of benefits that CBD products have, it is painting a clear picture that whole plant for full spectrum oil is the better option to go for, as the mammalian ECS system is built to work with the 421 compounds present in cannabis. Don’t allow THC to put you off from purchasing a full spectrum oil for your pet, this can be negated easily by looking for products that are derived from plants with naturally have different frequencies of compounds.
AIHA is an immune system response that can cause your pet severe health problems, if you think your pet is suffering AIHA, consult your vet immediately for emergency treatment. Before you purchase CBD oil for your dog or cat, it is worth consulting your vet about using it in conjunction with other medicine your pet may already be taking to ensure that there are no adverse reactions. CBD has been shown to help re-modulate the immune, increase cell immunity and promote healing with research and positive results increasing day by day.