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What is Platelet Dysfunction?

When platelet concentrations are below the normal 40,000 per microliter of blood, bruising and bleeding can occur with your dog. Platelet dysfunction is a description of a low blood platelet count for your pet. If the count is too low, your dog may be at risk of spontaneous bleeding episodes. Any canine regardless of breed can suffer from this condition and the severity depends on the how low the numbers are. Usually, the lower the number the more likely the bleeding will occur. 

Small blood cells called platelets (thrombocytes) play an important role assisting blood clotting and repair for your dog during injury – any dysfunction can be serious.

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Symptoms of Platelet Dysfunction in Dogs

  • Large hemorrhages under the skin in areas such as the abdomen
  • Small red dots on pale parts of the skin, gums or even the eyes 
  • Pale colour within the mucous membranes
  • Prolonged bleed after an injury that is hard to stop 
  • Blood in the urine 
  • Blood in the feces
  • Dark bruises on the skin from unknown causes 
  • Eye hemorrhages in severe circumstances 
  • Persistent nose bleeding 
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy 
  • Lack of appetite 

Types  

  • Thrombocytopathies are defined as a condition affecting the blood platelets that have unusual functioning of the platelets (such as they don’t bind or clot together to prevent blood loss)
  • There are two main types of platelet dysfunction in dogs  
  • Acquired thrombocytopathies which means that the condition has occurred because of a severe reaction to or against some drugs such as antibiotics and painkillers,  or cancer medications 
  • Hereditary thrombocytopathies (your dog is born with this condition)

Causes of Platelet Dysfunction in Dogs

  • There are four main body processes that can result in this platelet dysfunction in your dog 
  • Number one is a smaller number of platelets being produced by your dog’s bone marrow 
  • Secondly, the immune system can be confused and attack the platelets, because in its compromised position it doesn’t recognise the platelets so it tries to remove them 
  • Another cause of this condition can be because your dog’s system is using a larger than normal number of platelets in the clotting process which depletes the number available 
  • And finally, the bodily system’s overzealous removal of the platelets from the general circulation

Diagnosis of Platelet Dysfunction in Dogs

Diagnosis of this condition requires a thorough physical examination of your dog to check his health and to see if there are any signs of other diseases. Your veterinarian will ask you about your dog’s history, and then run a series of tests to narrow down the cause of this condition. These tests include immune system function tests, bone marrow aspiration, x-rays, hemogram including a platelet count, coagulation profile to test the clotting process, and serum biochemistry tests to check the status of your dog’s general health and whether there are any abnormalities in the organs.

Your veterinary specialist may also do tests specific for infectious diseases, or a urinalysis to detect infections or protein loss. While this seems extensive, it is necessary as you want to refine the cause of the problem to enable effective treatment. While this type of disease cannot be cured, it can be managed and your dog can lead an otherwise healthy and happy life.

Treatment of Platelet Dysfunction in Dogs

Platelet dysfunction in your dog cannot be cured and there is no vaccination but it can be managed, although it depends on the severity of the condition. Mild bleeding may be managed by applying pressure to bleeding wounds, and maintaining the pressure for a longer period, allowing the blood clotting to occur. Severe bleeding may require your dog to have a blood transfusion of fresh platelets, (from blood or platelet rich plasma). This is not a cure all procedure, it will assist at the current crisis, but as platelets only last for approximately 8 days, it is not a forever cure. A lot depends on the type of platelet dysfunction your dog has.

Changing any medications your dog is on may improve the condition if it is an acquired type of platelet dysfunction (some cancer medications can trigger platelet dysfunction). Management of a disease that can sometimes trigger this condition will also help (such as spotted fever or ehrlichiosis). Your veterinarian specialist will be able to advise of the specific treatment once he has isolated the cause and severity of this type of ailment.

Recovery of Platelet Dysfunction in Dogs

Dogs that have a fairly mild type of platelet dysfunction can lead happy normal lives, although care when they are injured is important. Stemming any blood flow may always need your help to apply firm pressure for a length of time, to allow the blood clotting to occur effectively. Keeping your dog healthy with a quality diet and good living conditions certainly helps. Most veterinarians would advise against breeding a dog with this condition as it could be passed onto the young. Taking precautions to ensure breeding cannot occur is the easiest form of prevention. Letting any new veterinarian know about your dog’s condition if an accident occurs will save time and possibly your dog’s life if they are aware that your dog may need a transfusion in the case of surgery.