Blood diseases in dogs: dogs may be prone to various serious blood disorders. A common blood disorder is blood that does not clot properly and therefore, does not allow to bring the bleeding to a halt in a timely matter. Coagulation disorders arise usually for three main reasons:
1) when there are an insufficient number of platelets
2) when there are damaged vessels
3) when there are deficiencies of basic substances that allow coagulation.
Coagulation takes place when platelets stick to each other and with the ruptured vessel’s lining. Any issue that causes interference with this process will likely result in a coagulation problem. Below are listed some common causes of coagulation problems:
Immune-mediated Thrombocytopenia (ITP)
This blood disorder takes place when a insufficient amount of platelets is produced. A dog normally has a 600,000 platelet count per micro-liter of blood, dogs affected by thrombpcytopenia have less than a 40,000 platelet count per micro-liter and therefore, may be prone to spontaneous bleeding. This mostly happens when there is an immune triggered event. In other words, the immune system attacks the body’s own platelets. Common symptoms of this disorder are:
Presence of blood in urine
Presence of blood in stool
Skin bruising (ecchymosis)
Small dots of blood in the whites of eyes, skin and/or gums (petechiae)
Diagnosis is mostly obtained by exclusion, in other words, by ruling out other possible causes of bleeding. Treatment involves containing the bleeding, resolving the underlying cause and administering corti-costeroids if the immune system is attacking it’s own platelets.
In this case the platelets are of a sufficient amount but they are not functioning as they are supposed to. This condition can be acquired from aspirin usage, warfarin poisoning (rat poison) cancers or kidney/liver failure or it may be genetically linked.
Treatment is relative on solving the underlying issue.
Von Willebrand’s disease
In this case a vital substance that allows the platelets to stick together and coagulate is lacking. This disease is hereditary thus, passed on genetically.
This disease is often discovered when after an injury the bleeding does not cease. Dogs affected by this disorder may be prone to nosebleeds that hard to stop ad may require packing. Other bleeding issues may occur with bleeding gums, heat cycles and post-partum. Some puppies are found to have this disorders when the bleed excessively after having their umbilical cord cut. Fading puppy syndrome as well may be related to having both parents as carriers of this disorder. A genetic test is available for proper testing. There is currently no treatment for this disorder, but a veterinarian may provide various tips on how to stop the bleeding. However, in some cases cauterization or stitches may be necessary.
Auto immune hemolytic anemia
In this blood disorder disease the immune system attacks the body’s own red blood cells.
Dogs with this disorder as suffer as well from a low platelet count, causing coagulation problems.
Typical symptoms are pale gums and eye margins due to anemia. Dogs may as well act lethargic and even listless. The destruction of red blood cells causes a consistent rise of hemoglobin making the liver work more on breaking it down, thus, causing jaundice. Jaundice is a yellowish tint of the skin and mucous membranes. Often the dog’s urine will be also dark. The heart may be overloaded with work in trying to disperse the thinned blood to all tissues. Treatment consists of prednisone which suppresses the immune system. In severe cases blood transfusion and plasma may be required.
Disseminated intravascul coagulation (DIC)
Even though this is not really a disease it may result from other diseases and conditions. What basically happens is that an abnormal amount of blood clots form mostly triggered by a disease or event, causing an over-usage of clotting ingredients to a point that the blood no longer can clot and uncontrolled bleeding takes place. Some causes of DIC may be:
Von Willebrand’s disease
Because DIC is a very serious disease prompt treatment is crucial as it may turn out lethal. Signs to watch for are: lethargy, petichiae, ecchymosis, weakness, blood in stool, urine or vomit, yellowish skin or mucous membranes, rapid breathing and rapid heart rate.
Aggressive treatment is needed and consists on trying to identify the underlying cause. Fluid therapy, blood transfusions and the anti-clotting medication Heparin may be used.
Blood tests are highly recommended anytime there are signs of bleeding disorders. Platelet count is often the key factor in bringing to a coagulation disorder diagnosis.
Buccal mucosal bleeding is another way to test how long the blood takes to clot by performing a small cut on the dog’s gum.
Anemia may be diagnosed by having a red blood cell count.
Von Willebrand disease may be diagnosed by submitting to a genetic test.
Other conditions may be diagnosed by exclusion
Treatment as we have seen is mostly focused on dealing with the underlying cause and cotrolling the bleeding. External bleeding is tried to stop by packing. Blood transfusions may be necessary if there is excessive blood loss. If the immune system seems to be attacking the platelets then immune suppressant medications are administered such as Prednisone and Dexamethasone.
Anytime a dog presents with symptoms of blood in stools, blood in urine, nose bleeds or blood in vomit and no underlying cause is found, it may be necessary to check for coagulation issues. Even though scary, the good thing is that most coagulation disorders may be treated with good results when caught early.
*Disclaimer: All remedies suggested are not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your pet is sick please refer to your veterinarian for a hands on examination. If your pet is exhibiting behavior problems please refer to a professional pet behaviorist.