Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation in Dogs

Disseminated intravascular coagulation, also known as DIC, is a syndrome that affects your dog's coagulation response, the mechanism that allows his blood to clot. DIC occurs at the result of a abnormal, but complex physical process that changes the way the way that coagulation compounds in your dog's blood work. Rapid clotting, abnormal clotting and excessive bleeding can occur. Read on to learn more about disseminated intravascular coagulation in dogs.

Causes and Risk Factors for Canine DIC

Disseminated intravascular coagulation may occur in dogs who are already very ill with another life-threatening condition. It's a complication of diseases that cause changes in the way your dog's blood clotting mechanisms work. Healthy dogs don't get DIC.

Diseases that can lead to DIC include:

  • Cancer, such as mammary cancer or hemangiosarcoma
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Heat stroke
  • Heartworm infestation
  • Pancreatitis
  • Von Willebrand's Disease
  • Trauma
  • Shock
  • Sepsis
  • Inflammatory conditions
  • Immune-related conditions
  • Multiple organ dysfunction syndrome (MODS)
  • Bloat
  • Vitamin K deficiency

Dogs of both genders are equally prone to develop disseminated intravascular coagulation. This disease can strike dogs of any age or breed. DIC can be fatal to dogs.

Symptoms of Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation in Dogs

In healthy, normal dogs, clotting components in the blood allow blood to clot before bleeding becomes severe. While severe bleeding usually occurs anyway as a result of severe injury, most of the injuries your dog sustains are minor—bumps, bruises and scrapes that quickly heal up on their own. You might not even notice them, if your dog's blood is able to clot properly.

Clots form when even the smallest blood vessels are damaged; a compound called antithrombin helps dissolve old blood clots when they are no longer needed. Dogs with DIC don't produce enough antithrombin, so they can experience excessive clotting. This causes an inflammatory reaction in the immune system, which leads to excessive bleeding. Dogs with DIC can have excessive clotting and excessive bleeding at the same time.

Dogs usually don't get DIC unless they're already pretty sick. The following symptoms in dogs who are already seriously ill may indicate DIC:

  • Paling of the mucous membranes
  • Bruising and small red spots on the skin
  • Lethargy, weakness and depression
  • Bloody vomit, urine or stool; bloody discharge from any of your dog's body orifices
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing

Diagnosing and Treating Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation in Dogs

Your vet will need to examine your dog thoroughly to look for any signs of excessive bleeding or clotting. Blood tests can help your vet confirm the diagnosis.

The earlier you catch disseminated intravascular coagulation, the easier it will be to treat. Treatment may involve IV fluid therapy, plasma and whole blood transfusions, and anticoagulant drugs. Because disseminated intravascular coagulation occurs as a secondary illness, your dog's prognosis may ultimately depend on the success of his primary treatment. If the underlying cause of DIC can be resolved, then the disseminated intravascular coagulation syndrome can usually be successfully cleared up, too.

If your dog is seriously ill, monitor him for signs of disseminated intravascular coagulation disorder. This serious condition usually carries a very poor prognosis, but early treatment and successful management of underlying conditions can improve your dog's prognosis.