What are Bleeding Disorders?
Feline bleeding disorders are often caused by hereditary gene mutations as in von Willebrand’s disease or hemophilia. Cats can exhibit platelet disorders which can ultimately lead to the development of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy if untreated. Any unusual bleeding from a wound or unknown injury source warrants further investigation.
Bleeding disorders are conditions that impact the quality of your cat’s blood. Not all blood disorders are life-threatening, but they can be fatal without prompt medical attention. Most disorders of the blood are chronic conditions that can be managed, but not cured.
Symptoms of Bleeding Disorders in Cats
A thorough examination by your veterinarian is needed whenever your cat exhibits abnormal bleeding.
- Excessive or prolonged bleeding from an injury
- Excessive bleeding after surgery
- Bleeding without an apparent injury
- Bleeding gums
- Bruising without apparent cause
- Tiny pinpoint red spots on the whites of the eyes or gums
- Blood in urine or stool
- Pale gums
Causes of Bleeding Disorders in Cats
A number of disorders can impact the consistency of the blood, clotting factors and blood flow.
- Thrombocytopenia: insufficient number of blood platelets
- Thrombocytopathy: inadequately functioning blood platelets.
- Kidney failure
- Drugs such as aspirin
- Hereditary disease: von Willebrand’s disease
- Liver failure
- Medication such as Warfarin
- Rat poison
- Hereditary disease: hemophilia
- Disseminated intravascular coagulation: blood clots form when they should not
- Vasculitis: inflammation of the blood vessels
- Infectious diseases
- Autoimmune deficiencies
Diagnosis of Bleeding Disorders in Cats
Your veterinarian will perform a complete examination. He will look for bleeding in the eyes and gums and any bruising on your cat’s skin. Your cat will be examined for any enlargement in the abdomen or organs in the abdomen. Your vet will listen to your cat’s heart and lungs. A complete blood count will be done to determine the number of platelets and red blood cells.
A buccal mucosal bleeding time test may be needed. In this procedure, a small cut is made on your cat’s gums and the time elapsed for a clot to form is measured. This procedure may be necessary to evaluate platelet functioning and to test for von Willebrand’s disease. If testing indicates von Willebrand’s, a blood sample will be tested to measure the amount of von Willebrand’s factor present.
Your veterinarian will attempt to determine the number and location of the sites of bleeding in your cat. He may order additional tests, such as x-rays or biopsies to examine the bleeding sites.
Titers for infectious diseases may be needed if platelet numbers are low. Your vet may order blood work to test for specific antibodies to infection.
Aspiration or biopsy of the bone marrow may be required if the platelet count is low. This procedure requires anesthesia and sedation.
Testing to measure the coagulation concentration factor in your cat’s blood may also be required. In this type of testing, blood is collected and clotting is chemically activated. The time needed for the blood to clot is measured.
To determine whether hemophilia is present, blood samples are collected and the concentration of soluble coagulation factors in the blood is measured.
Treatment of Bleeding Disorders in Cats
Treatment of your cat should focus on determining the underlying cause of the bleeding disorder. If your cat has lost a significant amount of blood, a blood transfusion may be needed. It may be possible to stop the bleeding in single sites through bandaging or packing with gauze.
If your cat has a low platelet count, the suspected cause will determine the course of treatment. Since autoimmune disease and infectious diseases are often to blame in significantly decreased platelet counts, treatment may include corticosteroids to suppress the immune system or antibiotics to address the infectious causes of the low platelet count.
A plasma transfusion may be needed if your cat is determined to have von Willebrand’s disease. Medication made also be administered to aid in the release of the deficient factor.
If toxin ingestion is determined to be the cause of the bleeding disorder, your cat may receive vitamin K therapy with or without a transfusion.
Hemophilia or liver failure may show a temporary response to plasma transfusion.
Recovery of Bleeding Disorders in Cats
Follow-up with your veterinarian is critical. Bleeding disorders are chronic conditions and ongoing treatment is necessary.
If your cat is begins bleeding excessively, try to stop the flow of blood and contact your veterinarian. If you notice bleeding, even small amounts, and there is no apparent cause for the bleeding, contact your veterinarian.