What are Blood Disorders?
In some cases, symptoms of a blood disorder may not present themselves. No matter, if you notice your cat behaving in a different manner, or note any physical differences, it may be time to contact a licensed professional.
A blood disorder is an affliction that affects the quality of your cat's blood. It can affect three different areas of the blood: white blood cells, red blood cells, and the platelets. A blood disorder can be inherited or, more often than not, caused by another outside factor such as bacterial or viral infections, nutritional deficiencies, and cancer. If your cat shows any of the outward signs of a blood disorder that includes sluggishness, weakness, or pale gums, then it is important to seek a prompt evaluation from a qualified professional.
Symptoms of Blood Disorders in Cats
As a variety of complications can cause your cat to develop a blood disorder, the symptoms can vary widely. In certain cases, the cat may demonstrate no outward indication of a disease. Listed below are the symptoms that can be spotted:
- Abnormal bleeding
- Abnormal skin color
- Loss of appetite
- Bloody urine/stool
- Rapid breathing
- Poor coordination
- Pale or abnormally red mucous membrane (gums and inner cheeks)
- Signs of infection (e.g. fever, vomiting, etc.)
A blood disorder tends to disrupt one of the three cellular elements: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. The following shows each element with the corresponding type of blood disorder listed underneath:
Red Blood Cells
- Hemolytic anemia
- Neonatal Isoerythrolysis
- Primary Leukemias
- Aplastic anemia
- Microcytic anemia
White Blood Cells
- Pelger-Huёt Anomaly
- Chédiak-Higashi Syndrome (inherited disease found only in Persian cats and humans)
- Von Willebrand's disease
Causes of Blood Disorders in Cats
A blood disorder may be inherited or be the result of another condition:
- Bacterial or viral infections
- Inflammation (e.g. kidneys, lungs, etc.)
- Cancer (e.g. Leukemia)
- Radiation therapy
- Nutritional deficiency (e.g. lack of iron)
- Side effect of medication (e.g. aspirin, penicillin, etc.)
- Inherited disorders
- Toxins (e.g. copper, zinc, chemicals, etc.)
- Lung or kidney disease
- Congestive heart failure
Diagnosis of Blood Disorders in Cats
In order to diagnose any type of blood disorder, your veterinarian will conduct a thorough examination. Your cat's breed, as well as their health and symptom history, will be taken into account. Alongside any tests needed, your vet will focus on any outward signs of a blood disorder by checking the gums and cheeks of your cat, as well as search for any bruising or indicators of weight loss.
Several different tests may be needed to determine the exact nature of your cat's disorder. A CBC (Complete Blood Count) is highly suggested. With CBC tests, your vet will get a clear indicator of valuable information of red and white blood cells, plasma, and the platelets. One particular element your vet will look for is the number of blood cells. For instance, a leukogram is a blood test that can count the amount of white blood cells in the bloodstream.
Since the types of blood disorders vary as they can be caused by several different factors, your vet may want to order additional tests. A fecal test as well as a urinalysis may be required. Both exams will yield results of whether your cat has bloody stool or urine, while a fecal test can further prove if your cat is the host of parasites. Another additional test your vet may want to perform is an X-ray, as that can reveal a variety of underlying causes such as lung disease or skeletal deformities.
Treatment of Blood Disorders in Cats
Your cat's treatment will always depend on the particular blood disorder and the root cause of it.
A blood transfusion is typically used in emergency cases. This occurs in cats with anemia, those with severe blood loss or blood clotting disorders, and cases in which the red blood cells have been promptly destroyed. Any blood transfusion poses a risk. Minor, less common risks include fever and vomiting. Other adverse reactions are immunodeficiency viruses and the transmission of feline leukemia, both of which typically come from infected donors.
Blood Production Stimulants
If your vet determines a cause to be with the production of blood cells, then they may order the use of hormones to counteract the decreased production. One of the hormones that may be prescribed is erythropoietin, which is more commonly used in the treatment of anemia caused by chronic renal failure. It is important that your cat is monitored over the course of taking the medication as anti-EPO antibodies can form.
Due to some causes of blood disorders being certain cancer, the cancer itself must be addressed in order to successfully treat the blood disorder. Most of the treatment, in this case, is directed at preventing your cat from contracting any infections due to a lower immune system. Your vet may recommend a more nutritional diet as well as keeping the cat indoors to prevent both their exposure to infections as well as from spreading the disease to others. It should be noted that cats that develop cancer such as feline leukemia rarely live beyond three years.
Recovery of Blood Disorders in Cats
It is important to follow-up with your vet during and after your cat receives treatment. Blood disorders are on-going, and some may never go away. Many of the treatment options can also prove to be high-risk, so allowing your vet to keep a close watch will help to make sure your cat does not relapse or succumb to any side effects. Try to maintain a balanced diet for your cat post-treatment, and keep watch on their activity level to determine whether or not they are lethargic. If any signs return, or if your cat's condition worsens, contact a professional immediately.