What are Clotting Disorders of the Platelets?
If your kitten is affected by a congenital clotting disorder, she has likely had the condition since birth. Other clotting disorders in the platelets of cats may manifest later in life or secondary to another disease. If you suspect your cat has a clotting disorder, it is extremely important that you visit a veterinary professional with the expertise to diagnose and treat this potentially fatal condition.
Blood coagulation, or clotting, is the body's first response during injury repair. Blood clotting involves the accumulation of platelets at the site of injury to stop the flow of blood out of the body. When inherited or acquired conditions disrupt the clotting process, uncontrolled bleeding can occur.
Symptoms of Clotting Disorders of the Platelets in Cats
There are many possible causes of bleeding disorders in cats. A cat suffering from a clotting disorder related to platelets may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:
- Small, lightly-colored bruises
- Black stools or blood in stools
- Prolonged bleeding at injection or injury sights
- Extreme bleeding or bleeding that is disproportionate to the severity of an injury site
Your cat may also suffer from a bleeding or clotting disorder unrelated to platelets. Vascular defects or problems with clotting proteins can cause excessive bleeding. Cats with clotting disorders related to blood vessels or clotting proteins might suffer from:
- Delayed bleeding
- Internal bleeding
- Bleeding deep in the tissues
Platelet disorders can be divided into two broad categories, insufficient platelet formation and defective platelets. The most common clotting disorders in the platelets of cats include:
- Acquired Thrombocytopenia: If your cat's immune system begins recognizing platelets as foreign, it can begin killing off the tissue. This form of immune-mediated platelet disorder typically affects cats later in life.
- Drug-induced Clotting Disorders: Drugs such as estrogens and antibiotics can reduce a cat's platelet count and manifest as a functional clotting disorder.
- Poisoning: Some cats may eat or lick chemicals and medications that suppress the body's ability to produce platelets. This destruction of platelets may lead to a clotting disorder with rapid-onset symptoms.
- Chediak-Higashi Syndrome: This is a congenital disorder, which means a cat is born suffering from Chediak-Higashi Syndrome. Among the many symptoms of this disease is a defect in platelet formation. The hallmark of Chediak-Higashi is a pale gray coat color.
- Platelet Disorders Secondary to Other Diseases: Clotting disorders are sometimes symptomatic of other conditions and diseases. Leukemia, peritonitis, feline distemper and certain parasitic infections have been reported as contributors to clotting disorders of the platelets in cats.
Causes of Clotting Disorders of the Platelets in Cats
Clotting disorders of the platelets in cats can occur for several different reasons. The most common causes of clotting disorders of the platelets in cats are:
- Congenital disorders (i.e., disorders present at birth)
- Autoimmune disorders
- Reactions to certain hormones or drugs
- Accidental poisoning
Because the etiologies of clotting disorders can be disparate and complex, you must visit a veterinarian to have your cat thoroughly examined and diagnosed. It is simply not possible to diagnose or treat a cat with one of these disorders at home.
Diagnosis of Clotting Disorders of the Platelets in Cats
A typical veterinarian will approach the issue of clotting disorders from several angles. Likely, your veterinarian will begin with a thorough physical exam and collect a medical history.
Several tests are necessary to pinpoint the exact cause of clotting disorders of the platelets in cats. For example, a kitten who is suspected by a veterinarian to have a congenital clotting disorder will require specific immunoassays, biochemical tests that confirm whether a genetic defect is present.
Blood and urine samples will be collected from all cats who present with the serious symptoms of a clotting disorder. Partial prothrombin time tests might be ordered to measure clotting times. Your vet may also create small abrasions on mucosal tissue, such as the inner cheek or gums, to time onset and quality of coagulation. Your veterinarian may also refer you to a specialist or larger facility, where platelet function tests can be performed.
Treatment of Clotting Disorders of the Platelets in Cats
If your cat suffers from a congenital clotting disorder, regular platelet transfusions may be ordered. Platelet count can be increased with a platelet transfusion. If your cat has lost large amounts of blood, whole blood transfusions can replace lost iron or red blood cells.
If a clotting disorder manifests as a symptom of poisoning, your veterinarian may administer antidotes or detoxifying agents such as activated charcoal. Your cat will be monitored closely and given intravenous fluids and nutrition until health is restored.
Veterinarians will treat the underlying cause, if possible, of secondary clotting disorders. Following treatment of the underlying cause, the clotting will resolve itself. If the underlying cause of your cat's clotting disorder is not treatable, your veterinarian may counsel your family on coping and management strategies to minimize your cat's excessive bleeding.
Recovery of Clotting Disorders of the Platelets in Cats
Cats suffering from clotting disorders will need to be monitored closely. Chewing hard foods, for example, may lead to excessive or prolonged bleeding from the gums. Anemia or lethargy may result from this sort of blood loss.
Your veterinarian may decide your cat requires blood transfusions prior to blood draws or surgery to prevent excessive loss or uncontrolled bleeding. It is up to your veterinarian to decide whether your cat requires transfusions.
Follow-up appointments are important for cats with all kinds of clotting disorders. Cats with congenital disorders will require close monitoring and regular examinations throughout life. Cats who have been poisoned or have suffered from clotting disorders as the result of drugs or medication will require one or two follow-up visits to monitor liver function and ensure adequate recovery.