What is Low Platelet Count?
Low platelet count is termed, “thrombocytopenia” and refers to a level of circulating platelet counts below 200,000 µL (microliter). Like all cellular blood components, platelets are made inside the bone marrow and circulate the body for about a week before they are absorbed and replaced with new platelets. Since platelets are formed inside the bone marrow, disease, cancer, infections, drugs, and toxins that target the bone marrow can cause a low platelet count in cats. Thrombocytopenia in cats can be caused by a variety of underlying conditions and is not a condition that is known to cause noticeable symptoms, which is why veterinary evaluation is an absolute must.
If your cat has a tendency to bruise easily or is prone to nosebleeds (epistaxis), your feline could be suffering from a low platelet count. Platelets are disc-shaped cell fragments present in blood plasma that circulate in the body through the bloodstream. When a cat injures herself, these platelets, or thrombocytes, pile up on each, glued together with a special protein called the von Willebrand's factor and form a clot to prevent the cat from bleeding out. When a cat’s platelet count becomes too low, however, there are not enough circulating cell fragments to form a proper clot and there is nothing to prevent the blood from leaving the body.
Symptoms of Low Platelet Count in Cats
Symptoms of a low platelet count in cats can be difficult to detect and some felines may not have any symptoms at all if the platelet count is not severely low. The first sign a cat owner may notice is increased bleeding from a scratch or cut. The owner may apply pressure to the cut, but the time it takes for the wound to stop bleeding will seem excessive and is a reason to be concerned. A veterinarian may also note a similar sign of thrombocytopenia before or during surgery. Additional symptoms of a low platelet count in cats includes:
- Localized red areas on the skin and gums.
- Retinal hemorrhage
- Hematochezia (presence of blood in the stool)
- Hematuria (presence of blood in the urine)
- Epistaxis (nosebleed)
- Bleeding from the gums
Causes of Low Platelet Count in Cats
Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation (DIC)
Disseminated intravascular coagulation is a condition in which the body uses more platelets than it can make. DIC causes the blood to clot, blocking the vascular system and using all the available circulating platelets before new ones can be made, resulting in a low platelet count.
Splenomegaly is the term used to describe an enlarged spleen. The healthy spleen stores approximately 40% of the body’s platelets, but when the spleen grows in size, more and more platelets are taken from the body to be put into storage, causing the circulating platelet levels to drop.
Immune-Mediated Thrombocytopenia is an autoimmune disorder in which the cat’s immune system not only kills infections, but also targets platelets as harmful invaders to the body.
Leukemia is bone marrow and blood cancer, in which cancer cells outnumber megakaryocytes (the cells in the bone marrow that make platelets) and few platelets will be made. Chemotherapy drugs used in cancer treatment can also cause a low platelet count due to the destruction of cancer and healthy cells.
Feline leukemia virus (FeLV), feline panleukopenia (FPV), feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) are known to affect blood platelet counts.
A low platelet count in cats can also occur for idiopathic, or unknown, reasons, as well as a secondary, adverse effect of the feline panleukopenia vaccine.
Diagnosis of Low Platelet Count in Cats
Your veterinarian will begin diagnosis of a low platelet count in your cat with a review of her medical history and a physical examination. The veterinarian will ask you what symptoms you have noticed your cat displaying at home, her current medications and the possibility of exposure to poison. A complete blood cell count (CBC) is likely to be the doctor’s next diagnostic test, as a CBC will measure the amount of platelets in a sample of blood. The vet will then carry out other diagnostic tests based on his findings and what he suspects to by the underlying cause of the conditions.
Treatment of Low Platelet Count in Cats
Treatment of a low platelet count in cats focuses primarily on treating the underlying disease or condition. However, if a great deal of blood has been lost due to a low platelet count, your veterinarian may advise a blood transfusion to take place. Talk to your veterinarian about an appropriate treatment plan for a low platelet count in your cat.
Recovery of Low Platelet Count in Cats
After treatment, pet owners will be asked to follow-up with the veterinarian on a regular basis. Cats with a history of a low platelet count condition may be advised to remain an indoor cat in order to prevent fights with other cats or accidents that could cause excessive bleeding. Pet owners should also remember that cats diagnosed with severe thrombocytopenia cannot undergo certain surgical procedures and new veterinarians should always be reminded of this to avoid unfortunate situations.
Low Platelet Count Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
On feb6,2017, my cat had a platelet count of 364 10^9/L. On feb 8 2017, my cat had a platelet count of 295.000 10^9/l. On sept 22nd 2017 my cat had a platelet count of 252.000 10^9/L. My cat is about 4 and a half years old, and is not a small, female domestic short hair.
What does this mean? Should I be concerned? What could happen if this is left untreated? How can I treat it, if I can? Prevention tips?
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Hi. My male orange tabby was diagnosed with very low platelet count 6 months ago. He had spontaneous bleeding from eyes and mouth. We tried steroids for a couple of months but the cat wouldn't let us near him. Just did follow up blood work and # was 22,000. Need another suggestion for treatment. No underlying issues- he has seen vet 10 times in last 6 months
There are three general causes for low platelet counts: increased use (for clotting), increased destruction (from infection or immune disorders) or a decrease in production (bone marrow, liver or kidney issues). Understanding the underlying cause will help to determine a better course of treatment; a bone marrow biopsy may be useful. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
What happened? My Puss was advised to have a blood test following the discovery that she has high blood pressure. She is 15. Vet advised a blood test that showed ok kidneys but slightly low white count and lower than normal platelets. Wants to do another blood test a 10 days later.And suggested a virus test (£40) even though puss has been vaccinated since kitten at the practice. Could be getting v expensive for tests on an elderly cat where most of the results may be untreatable. Is my cat becoming a ‘lab rat’ ... treating the tests and not the cat. She’s special so diffucult to know how far to proceed. Blood tests £150 ea.
+ blood pressure £70+ea. Next ...bone marrow... plus she’s asthmatic ... ? bronchitis for two and a half years. Refused investigations as the outcomes do not seem treatable but Vet still wants to test test and £££
What do I do?
How was follow up testing?
How was your follow up testing? My cat has low platelets, but also has vomiting and weight loss. We are trying steroids and testing again in 10 days.
Jbarnardart what happened ? The same thing just happened to me today - go back in a week for re test
Jbarnardart what happened ? The same situation happened to me today please let me know
Belated thank you! Tang has the immune mediated type. We have found an efficient way to administer the 3 ml of prednisilone- he is in a huge dog crate in our living room. No running away. 7 days of 3 ml, then taper to 2 ml for a few weeks, then back to vet for blood tests. His immune system is attacking the platelets. We'll post after first blood test post-prednisilone. Crossing fingers because otherwise healthy.
I took my cat to the vet for a healthy visit, just routine check up and vaccines. Vet convinced me to get baseline labs since he is now 6 years old. Calls me the next day, says his platelets are very low. She wants to see him ASAP to do a manual recheck of platelets. She Acts like it's an emergency but then is fine with waiting a week cause she wants to be the vet to see him not one of the other vets there but adds take him to emergency vet if he starts bleeding.
He is not lethargic, eating fine, very active, recently had oral surgery which he healed wonderful from.
I am not sure how freaked out I should be
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