Thrombocytopenia in dogs

Thrombocytopenia in dogs

If a dog has thrombocytopenia is suffers from an abnormally low concentration of platelets in the blood. Platelets are blood cells responsible for clotting the blood to make bleedings stop when the dog sustains an injury. A dog suffering from thrombocytopenia will therefore suffer from unusually long bleeding, e.g. after accidents and surgical procedures. Female dogs can also suffer from prolonged bleeding during the oestrous cycle. Thrombocytopenia in dogs can be caused by a wide range of things, from rickettsial infections to certain types of cancer.

Symptoms of thrombocytopenia in dogs

Small red spots on the white parts of the eyes of the dog
Small red spots on the gums
Small red spots on the skin
Bruises on the skin
Blood in urine
Blood in stool
Nose bleeds
Bleedings that won’t stop as fast as they normally would  

Thrombocytopenia treatment

The exact treatment for Thrombocytopenia in dogs will naturally depend on the underlying reason. Instead of merely trying to hamper the effects of thrombocytopenia, the vet will therefore try to find the cause of the abnormally low concentration of platelets and treat this problem. The veterinarian will also need to know about all types of medications and natural remedies that you have given your dog, since such drugs can cause Thrombocytopenia in dogs.  

While waiting for specialized test results for infectious disease, the vet can decide to give your dog antibiotics, usually tetracyclins. Tetracyclin is good in situations like this since this type of antibiotic is effective against rickettsia, which are bacterial agents known to cause thrombocytopenia in dogs. Ricksettsia are for instance behind Ehrlichiosis as well as Rocky Mountain spotted fever in dogs.
Simply transfusing platelets from a healthy dog to the diseased dog is seldom a good choice since transfused platelets tend to last no more than a few days – at most. Transfusing whole blood, i.e. blood that contains plasma and all blood cells, is a better alternative and can be the only way to save the life of a dog with a major haemorrhage. Packed red blood cells without plasma can also prove lifesaving in such situations. Preparing platelet-rich plasma is not easy and it is hard to obtain such preparations for dogs.

Vincristine is a drug used for chemotherapy in dogs suffering from cancer, and it has been showed to accelerate the release of platelets from the bone marrow. In dogs where the bone marrow works as is should, administering Vincristine can increase the platelet release, thereby decreasing the severity of the thrombocytopenia.

In dogs with suspected sequestration of platelets, have the spleen removed –  a so called Splenectomy – can be helpful since the spleen is the organ where a majority of the platelets are destroyed and sequestrated in a dog.

In cases where the immune system is destroying the dog’s platelets, corticosteroids can be administered. Corticosteroids are cortisone-like drugs. Thrombocytopenia caused by the dog’s own immune system can for instance be treated with Prednisone. If the dog does not respond will to corticosteroids, Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) and Azathioprine (Imuran) are two other alternatives. These drugs are very powerful immunosuppressant agents and they can produce serious side effects. They will weaken the immune system of your dog significantly.  Dogs with immune-mediated thrombocytopenia can also need to have their spleen removed. Most veterinarians will start with medication, such as the ones mentioned above, and only retort to surgery if the dog does not respond well to the medicine.

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