Thrombocytopenia In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

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Thrombocytopenia in dogs is a condition where the number of platelets, also known as thrombocytes, circulating in the blood becomes too low. Platelets are important for the clotting process in a dog’s body and are needed to prevent blood loss.

A low platelet count can lead to problems like spontaneous bruising and bleeding. Thrombocytopenia is a common condition in dogs, and as many as five percent of all dogs who come into veterinary hospitals have it. It can be a condition on its own, or it can be a sign of another underlying medical problem.

If you see the signs of thrombocytopenia in your dog, then you must see your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Here’s what you should know about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for thrombocytopenia in dogs.

Symptoms Of Thrombocytopenia In Dogs

Blood test on to a dog

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Although bleeding is a common symptom of thrombocytopenia in dogs, some dogs do not show signs of bleeding, and this largely depends on how low the platelet count is.

There are other disorders that cause bleeding without causing a low number of platelets, so you should always check with your vet so they can form a diagnosis.

Here are a few other symptoms you might see in dogs who suffer from thrombocytopenia:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Heart murmur
  • Small pinpoint sized areas of bleeding, usually in mucus membranes like inside the mouth
  • Bleeding under the skin, especially in the abdomen or groin
  • Blood in urine
  • Coughing
  • Pale mucus membranes
  • Black, tarry, or bloody stools
  • Excessive nasal mucus
  • Nose bleeds
  • Bleeding in the eyes
  • Wounds don’t heal
  • Collapse

Causes Of Thrombocytopenia In Dogs

Veterinarian wrapping bandage around a dog's leg

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There are many possible causes of thrombocytopenia in dogs. Conditions that decrease platelet production in the bone marrow, cause too many platelets to be used in blood clotting, destroy platelets via the immune system, or remove platelets from the blood stream can all lead to thrombocytopenia.

Here are a few specific causes of a low blood platelet count in dogs:

  • Exposure to certain medications, vaccines, or toxins
  • Chemotherapy or radiotherapy
  • Bone marrow disease, including anemia or leukemia
  • Lymphoma
  • Extreme blood loss
  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Endotoxic shock
  • Vasculitis
  • Certain cancers
  • Autoimmune diseases such as lupus
  • Heartworm
  • Bacterial infection
  • Spleen disorders
  • Pancreatitis

Treatment For Thrombocytopenia In Dogs

Veterinarian examining a dog from a shelter. Blood test

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Treatment for thrombocytopenia in dogs depends on the underlying cause.

In cases where the platelet count is so low that it becomes life-threatening, a dog may need a blood transfusion. A full blood transfusion may also be needed in cases of anemia. Some infections may be treated with antibiotics.

For some conditions, such as immune-mediated thrombocytopenia where the immune system response is causing the problem, a vet may use corticosteroids or other immunosuppressive drugs.

They may also treat cancers with chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery, or other techniques depending on where the cancer is located and how severe it is.

Most dogs can get treatment and have a good chance of recovery depending on how serious the condition is and the causes. If you see the symptoms in your dog, then you should contact your vet. Early detection is often a big factor when it comes to successful treatment.

Has your dog ever suffered from thrombocytopenia? How did you and your vet treat it? Let us know in the comments below!