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Immune-Mediated Thrombocytopenia in Dogs

Immune-mediated thrombocytopenia causes excessive bleeding in dogs.

Immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (IMT) is a condition during which a dog's immune system malfunctions and begins to target and destroy normal platelets (thrombocytes). Because platelets are crucial for proper blood clotting, thrombocytopenia results in abnormal and sometimes uncontrollable bleeding.

Causes of Canine Immune-Mediated Thrombocytopenia

IMT can be primary or secondary to another condition. The primary condition is not well-understood with regards to what causes it.

Secondary IMT can be triggered by the following conditions:

Signs of Immune-Mediated Thrombocytopenia in Dogs

Signs of IMT in dogs can include:

  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Bloody noses
  • Bright red spots or splotches on the skin or mucous membranes
  • Vomiting with blood
  • Pale mucous membranes
  • Tarry, black stools
  • Neurologic signs such as seizures, head tilt, or wobbliness
  • Blindness
  • Inability to stop bleeding when injured
  • Blood in the urine
  • Coughing up blood
  • Collapse

In cases of secondary IMT, there may also be additional signs present which are associated with the primary condition.

IMT is more common in middle-aged dogs than young or older ones. It's also more common in spayed females than males, and the primary form has a higher prevalence in cocker spaniels, poodles, German shepherds, and Old English sheepdogs.

Diagnosis of Immune-Mediated Thrombocytopenia in Dogs

Thrombocytopenia is diagnosed by checking platelet numbers on a CBC. When blood is examined under the microscope, there may be a high number of young, large platelets. That indicates that the body is producing more platelets in an attempt to make up for their premature destruction.

In addition, other testing may help identify conditions such as ehrlichiosis, cancer, heartworm disease, DIC, and lupus.

Coagulation tests may help identify other causes of thrombocytopenia such as ingestion of rodent poison.

Treatment of Canine Immune-Mediated Thrombocytopenia

The treatment for IMT involves suppressing the immune system's over-response. Corticosteroids are the most common medication family used to treat the condition. If a primary disease is identified as contributing to the cause of IMT, that needs to be aggressively treated concurrently.

Dogs sometimes need to be hospitalized for intensive care when the condition is severe. They could need blood transfusions if anemia is present along with the thrombocytopenia. They may need oxygen or intravenous fluid and steroid treatment.

IMT can be fatal, and dogs that respond well to treatment may have relapses in the future. Dogs with IMT should not be given any medications that aren't completely necessary. Vaccination schedule should be determined on an individual basis with the individual's veterinarian. Blood work is done routinely to identify potential relapses early.

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Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation: DIC in Dogs

Ehrlichiosis in Dogs

Immune-Mediated Anemia in Dogs

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