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What is Thrombopathia?

Thrombopathia is also referred to as hereditary thrombopathy, platelet disorder, thrombocytopenia, immune mediated thrombocytopenia and autoimmune thrombocytopenia.

Blood is made of plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets (thrombocytes). The platelets main function is to stop bleeding. Unlike red or white cells, platelets are circulating cell fragments. When the body bleeds, the blood vessels send out signals to the platelets.  The platelets then rush to the damaged site to help stop the blood loss.  The disc-like platelets are sticky and bind together at the site of injury. They can actually change their form and reach out with long filaments, similar to the tentacles of an octopus.  They spread and adhere across the injured area to stop the bleeding.  This process is called platelet adhesion.

The platelets in dogs with thrombopathia do not respond normally to the blood vessel’s signals. Therefore, the site of injury does not clot/seal and excessive bleeding can occur. Excessive blood loss can cause your dog to go into shock. If your dog is experiencing severe blood loss he must be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Thrombopathia is an autosomal recessive inherited disorder, which causes abnormalities in platelet signal transduction.   The decreased platelet function can cause patients to bleed excessively during an injury or surgery. Thrombopathia has been documented in Basset Hounds and in the Finnish Spitz.

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Symptoms of Thrombopathia in Dogs

Symptoms may include:

  • Excessive bleeding when losing the deciduous teeth
  • Gingival bleeding
  • Frequent nose bleeds
  • Hematomas develop on the ears
  • Prolonged and excessive bleeding from minor cuts
  • Excessive bleeding during estrus
  • Excessive bleeding during minor surgery
  • Skin is easily bruised
  • Abdominal lesions
  • Blood in stool and/or urine
  • Gastrointestinal tract bleeding
  • Iron deficiency and anemia

Causes of Thrombopathia in Dogs

The mutated gene associated with causing thrombopathia in Basset Hounds is RASGRP1.  Thrombopathia is an autosomal recessive disorder, which means both parents must have the mutated gene to pass it along to the litter.  Puppies born to parents with the mutated gene RASGRP1 have a 25% chance to inherit the disorder and a 50% chance of being a carrier.  Dogs diagnosed with thrombopathia should not be bred.

Diagnosis of Thrombopathia in Dogs

If you are taking your dog to a new veterinarian, it is recommended that you bring his previous medical records with you.  The veterinarian will want to go over the patient’s medical history.  Please let your veterinarian know what symptoms you have observed.

The veterinarian will perform a physical examination on the patient, which may include taking his weight, pulse and blood pressure.  The veterinarian will evaluate the patient’s overall health condition. If the dog was bought in with an injury, the first thing the veterinarian will focus on is to stop the bleeding.

The veterinarian may recommend a urinalysis, fecal exam, a complete blood count, platelet function test, an activated partial thromboplastin time (APTT) and a coagulation test such as DT.  There is also the RASGRP1 gene test available for Basset Hounds. If the fecal exam determines that there is blood in the stool sample, abdominal x-rays and ultrasound may be suggested.

Treatment of Thrombopathia in Dogs

There is no known cure for thrombopathia in dogs.  Dogs with thrombopathia should be closely monitored and supervised.  If your pet has an injury that causes him to bleed it is very important to remain calm and keep his activity level to a minimum.  The more he moves around, the more likely he is going to keep on bleeding. Injuries that cause excessive bleeding should be treated by a veterinarian. It is recommended that nail trims be performed by a veterinarian, to prevent the nail being cut too short, which will lead to bleeding. 

Patients that are diagnosed with anemia or iron deficiency he will be prescribed B12 and supplements.  Dogs that have severe red blood cell deficiency may need to have a blood transfusion.  Canines that have gastrointestinal bleeding may be treated with antibiotics and gastrointestinal protectants such as sucralfate.

The veterinarian may recommend changing a dry food diet to wet food.  Additionally, hard toys and treats should be avoided to prevent your dog injuring his gums.

Recovery of Thrombopathia in Dogs

Although there is no cure for thrombopathia, dogs can have a normal lifespan. Your dog may have a few adjustments to his life but he can still lead a happy and full life.  Follow up visits will be necessary to monitor your dog’s health.  Regular blood tests may be recommended to ensure he does not have a low red blood count.  

It is important to contact your veterinarian before you administer any over the counter medication to your dog. There are over the counter medications that should not be taken by dogs with thrombopathia.

If your dog should need to undergo surgery, the surgeon must be made aware of your pet’s disorder.  This way the veterinarian surgeon will make arrangements to have blood ready for transfusions.