What is Clotting Deficiency?
A clotting deficiency is diagnosed by a difficulty in slowing blood loss during an injury. It can be caused by genetic issues in proteins, enzymes or platelets, or it can be a symptom of something else like liver disease or a heart condition.
When a person or animal is wounded, blood can change from liquid to gel and from gel to solid in order to seal over the wound. This has multiple benefits, including wound closure and prevention of blood loss, which prevents access to infection-causing organisms. Clotting is a complex process that requires a number of proteins, enzymes, and specialized cells like platelets. If any one of these are missing or impaired, clotting can be deficient. Clotting disorders can be either genetic or due to disease in other parts of the body, such as the liver.
Symptoms of Clotting Deficiency in Cats
Symptoms of clotting deficiency are sometimes much more subtle than a wound that will not stop bleeding, though this is certainly a clear sign if it does occur. Many of the bruising symptoms that can be seen in humans are difficult to see in cats because of their thick coat of fur. Symptoms include:
- Bleeding tendency during surgeries (e.g. spaying and neutering).
- Deep bruising for no reason (this is difficult to see on all but light-colored cats)
- Bleeding gums
- Anemia and anemia-related symptoms
- Bleeding at injection sites
- Black stools from bleeding into bowels
Causes of Clotting Deficiency in Cats
Because clotting can be the result of a deficiency in proteins, platelets, hormones or blood vessels, there are many different types of clotting disorders, both acquired and congenital. They include:
- Cardiomyopathy-Related Clotting Disorder
- Blood Vessel Disorders like Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
- Congenital Blood Protein Clotting Disorder like Hemophilia A or B
- Platelet-Related Clotting Disorder, which is acquired by illnesses like feline leukemia or distemper or acquired by poison or drug ingestion.
- Congenital Platelet Disorders like Chediak-Higashi Syndrome.
- Acquired Blood Protein Disorders due to poisoning, diseases, tumors, or severe injuries
Diagnosis of Clotting Deficiency in Cats
If the symptoms of clotting deficiency are found, then diagnosis will require a number of tests to help understand the underlying cause of the disorder. Blood proteins, platelets, and enzymes will be tested with a blood panel to determine which component of the blood is preventing healthy clotting. If a cat is older and has shown no signs of clotting issues until adulthood, then vets will look for acquired clotting disorder diagnoses. This will require looking for poison and symptoms of poisoning, and trying to find peripheral diseases that can cause clotting problems as a symptom. Kittens with congenital clotting issues are usually diagnosed early. Many are anemic as young kittens and have weak appearance and slow growth. Reduced healing is quite commonly caught when these kittens are altered at a few months of age.
Treatment of Clotting Deficiency in Cats
The best treatment for a cat's clotting disorder will depend on the kind of clotting disorder it has. The blood factor which is affected, whether it is congenital or acquired, and what caused the cat to acquire the disorder are some of the major factors which can influence which treatment works best.
Blood transfusions are one of the most common treatments, and are a supplemental treatment in any cat who has lost too much blood as a complication of not clotting. In some cases, they also work as preventative medicine when used proactively. Whole blood is not necessary in many cases. Platelets or certain isolated blood proteins can be transferred instead. Transfusions are not typically a cure, but are instead a long-term maintenance routine for the illness.
Treatment of a Primary Condition
Cancer, feline leukemia, toxoplasmosis, kidney disease, cardiomyopathy or another primary condition can have clotting deficiencies as a symptom. This can mean a wide spectrum of treatment possibilities such as surgery, medication, chemotherapy, or radiation. Some of these conditions can be cured, others managed, and others treated into remission. The level to which each can be managed will determine the prognosis.
The consumption of poisons by curious cats is one of the most common ways in which they can acquire clotting disorders. This can be due to eating household plants, licking birth control pills or ingesting other medications that make them curious. If the poison has been ingested fully enough to have implications on clotting, then it is likely past the point in which the digestive tract can be emptied. Instead, a transfusion or series of transfusions may be needed, or a medication to counteract the actions of the ingested chemicals. The specifics will be based on the cause of the poisoning.
Recovery of Clotting Deficiency in Cats
Congenital deficiencies will require management throughout the life of the cat. This may call for regularly scheduled medications or transfusions, continuing for life. Special precautions will need to be taken if surgery is necessary, and cats may be recommended to be without feline companions in your household to reduce the risk of transmission of diseases treated via vaccine, as vaccines may be recommended against in the case of hemophilia. There is no permanent cure. If the deficiency is a secondary symptom of something else, and the primary condition is curable, the clotting deficiency usually resolves with the primary condition. This may not be true, however, in some poisoning cases.