"Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation (DIC) in Dogs

"Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation (DIC) in Dogs

Health & Safety

The bloodstream is made up of many components which includes proteins that are found in blood plasma which work in conjunction with platelet cells. The job of the platelet cells is to control bleeding which it does by forming a plug to close an injury or wound. Platelets are formed in a dog's bone marrow and they migrate to the bloodstream thus circulating throughout a dog's system. When dogs develop disseminated intravascular coagulation or DIC, their platelets start working even when there is no sign of an injury which results in blood clots forming in their blood vessels causing all the problems.

The Causes

As previously mentioned, the condition develops because a dog's platelets try to plug non-existent injuries which results in blood clots forming in a dog's bloodstream. The clots then disrupt normal blood flow which then negatively impacts a dog's organs and can lead to excessive internal and external bleeding. The condition can also develop as a secondary disorder to an existing health issue and studies have shown that any breed can develop DIC at any stage of their lives. The most common causes that lead to a dog developing the condition are as follows:

  • Gastric dilation-volvus
  • Heartworm disease
  • Heart failure
  • Heat stroke
  • Breakdown of red-blood cells by the immune system
  • Inflammation of stomach and intestines
  • Generalized (systemic) infectious diseases
  • Liver disease
  • Cancer
  • Nephrotic syndrome
  • Pancreatitis
  • Shock
  • Thrombocytopenia
  • Trauma
  • Snake bites

Symptoms Associated with the Condition

When dogs develop disseminated intravascular coagulation, there are certain symptoms associated with the disorder which are as follows:

  • Small red/purple spots develop just under a dog's skin which is a condition known as petechiae
  • Excessive bleeding even when the wound is minor
  • Excessive bleeding during surgery
  • Excessive bleeding after an injection
  • Bleeding from nose, mouth and other orifices
  • Blood collecting in a dog's abdomen and/or chest

Diagnosing the Condition

A vet would ideally need to have a dog's full medical history and be told how the onset of any symptoms first presented themselves. The more information a vet can be given the easier it is for them to establish a preliminary diagnosis. The vet would thoroughly examine a dog suspected of suffering from DIC and would typically recommend carrying out the following test to confirm a diagnosis:

  • A complete blood count which would establish levels of fibrinogen
  • A full biochemistry profile
  • An electrolyte panel
  • A urinalysis to establish if there are any underlying systemic diseases that could cause the symptoms
  • A blood clotting profile

Treatment Options

Dogs suffering from DIC would need to be hospitalised so they can be given intensive supportive care. The underlying cause of a dog's condition would need to be treated aggressively and their activity restricted to prevent further injuries from occurring even when the wound is relatively minor. Dogs need to be given vital fluid therapy and oxygen should their breathing be compromised. They may also need blood transfusions to stabilise their condition. Once the vet has identified the underlying cause, they would set in place the best treatment option to suit the underlying cause of a dog’s condition.

Living with a Dog with DIC

Dogs diagnosed with DIC would need to remain in hospital until a vet has been able to stem the bleeding while at the same time treating the underlying cause of the problem. Sadly, all too often the underlying causes of why a dog develops disseminated intravascular coagulation are severe health issues and as such the prognosis is usually extremely poor with many dogs succumbing to their systems. With this said, urgent treatment is needed to prevent their condition from getting any worse which again, sadly is not always the case because all too often dogs succumb to the systems before a treatment can be set in place.

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