"Immune Mediated Thrombocytopenia in Dogs
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"Immune Mediated Thrombocytopenia in Dogs

Dogs
Health & Safety

Immune-mediated thrombocytopenia is a disorder that affects a dog's platelets. It is a condition where a dog's own immune system turns on itself, destroying blood platelets found in the blood stream and without these platelets a dog's blood cannot clot as it should when they injure themselves or when they undergo any sort of surgery. When a dog bleeds excessively whether internally or externally, it can lead to them developing anaemia, but in a worst case scenario, it can be life-threatening too.

An Autoimmune Disorder

Immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (IMT) is an autoimmune disorder which describes how the body's own immune system attacks itself causing a tremendous amount of cell damage. Dogs suffering from the condition have their platelets totally or partially destroyed by their own immune systems and without enough of these platelets, the body cannot repair damaged blood vessels nor can blood clot as it should. In short, the body needs enough of these platelets to survive.

The Causes

Immune mediated thrombocytopenia in dogs can be a primary disorder, but it can also develop as a secondary condition because they are suffering from some other disease, illness or injury. However, when it comes to identifying the underlying cause it can prove extremely challenging and therefore often it remains a mystery.

What does seem to be the case is that females are more at risk of being diagnosed as suffering from the condition and that when it is a secondary disorder, all too often a dog may have developed some form of cancer which includes lymphoma or they may have been exposed to some type of drug that has had an adverse effect of their systems which includes certain types of antibiotics. Viral and bacterial infections are also thought to play a part in whether a dog develops the disorder. Ticks can also transmit diseases which could result in a dog suffering from IMT.

Signs to Watch Out For

Signs of there being something wrong depend largely on the underlying causes of a dog suffering from IMT and the severity of their condition. However, the most common symptoms to watch out for include the following:

  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting - very often dogs sick up blood
  • Blood in faeces
  • Blood in urine
  • Bruised skin
  • Nose bleeds
  • Bleeding gums
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing up blood

However, there could be bleeding in a dog's brain and this can result in them suffering seizures. Other signs of there being a serious problem include the following:

  • If there is bleeding in a dog's eyes, it can lead to blindness
  • Internal bleeding in the chest cavity or abdomen can prove fatal
  • Collapse

A dog might cut themselves very slightly, yet the bleeding goes on for too long so that a minor cut turns into a more serious problem.

Diagnosing the Problem

For the moment, vets are unable to diagnose the condition, but they would typically recommend carrying out blood tests to determine whether a dog is suffering from IMT or if it is another condition that's responsible for a dog's low platelet count.

Breeds Most Affected by IMT

There are certain breeds that seem to be more affected by primary IMT than others and this includes the following:

  • Bichon Frise
  • German Shepherd Dogs
  • Old English Sheepdogs

Treating the Condition

The first thing a vet would want to do is suppress a dog's immune system to prevent it from attacking its own body. This would in effect, stabilise a dog's condition. They may well then recommend putting a dog on intravenous fluids to replenish their levels. Supportive care is essential for dogs suffering from IMT and a vet would also need to carry out frequent blood tests to make sure a treatment is working. The bad news is that even when a dog responds well to treatment, they may well develop the condition again further down the line. As such, a vet would recommend they be checked over at regular intervals to make certain any relapses are caught earlier rather than later.

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