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What is Thrombocytopathy in Dogs?

Thrombocytopathy refers to a blood disorder involving abnormal platelets.  Platelets are a blood component whose function is to control bleeding when there’s been injury or damage to blood vessels.   Thrombocytopathias may be acquired or inherited with the former more common than the latter for most dogs. The one exception would be von Willebrand’s disease which is an inherited condition found in a number of breeds including the Doberman Pinscher and Greyhound.

Acquired thrombocytopathia is usually either drug induced or secondary to diseases such as coagulation disorders, infectious agents, or immune mediated diseases.  Certain snake venoms can also cause platelet dysfunction, as can cancer.

What are some signs of thrombocytopathy?

One or more of the clinical signs which might be seen with this condition typically involve hemorrhage including, but not limited to: 

  • melena (blood in the stool)
  • hematuria (blood in urine) 
  • epistaxis (nose bleed)
  • petechial or ecchymotic hemorrhage (rash on the skin secondary to bleeding)
  • prolonged or excessive bleeding at venipuncture (collection of blood from a vein)
  • trauma
  • surgical sites
  • prolonged buccal (cheek) mucosal bleeding time.

How is thrombocytopathy diagnosed?

Diagnosis of acquired thrombocytopahy is often challenging since there currently are no specific tests for it. If there are other coagulation deficits or thrombocytopenia (a low platelet count), then a specific thrombocytopathia may not be diagnosed. This condition is suspected when there is a bleeding disorder despite a normal clotting profile and a normal platelet count. In these animals, a prolonged buccal (cheek) mucosal bleeding time longer than 4-5 minutes is supportive evidence of a thrombocytopathy.

Direct DNA testing can currently be done for the five different mutations which cause vonWillibrand’s disease, the inherited form of thrombocytopathy.

How to treat thrombocytopathy?

Treatment depends, of course, on the underlying cause.  For example, in dogs with an acquired form from a drug should discontinue the medication.  If secondary to disease, then the causative condition needs to be diagnosed and should be treated, if possible.

Blood transfusions may be necessary for some patients.

There are no at-home treatment options for either the acquired or inherited form of this condition.      

What is the prognosis for thrombocytopathy?

Some patients are unlikely to develop any serious bleeding problems while others will experience more severe.

  • If drug induced or infectious, the prognosis is excellent for a full recovery once the offending medication has been discontinued or the infectious disease is appropriately treated.
  • The prognosis may be more guarded for those patients with immune mediated disorders.
  • For those patients diagnosed with von Willebrand’s disease, the prognosis varies depending on the severity of the condition.

How to care for dogs with thrombocytopathy?

There are several things which can be done for these patients regardless of whether their condition is acquired or inherited.

  • minimizing injections into the muscle and under the skin
  • restrict activity during a bleeding episode
  • avoid hard food to prevent gum bleeding  


About the Author:

Dr. Deb has been an Expert on JustAnswer since June 2011 with over 6,700 satisfied customers.

Dr. Deb, Veterinary Expert

Dr. Deb earned her VMD from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine and graduated in 1986. She has been a practicing veterinarian for 30 years with her primary focus being dogs and cats. She has worked with local animal shelters and was involved with the Trap, Neuter, Release programs. She has been involved in breeding and showing dogs for over 20 years. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, canoeing, biking, hiking and anything outdoors.

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