Low Blood Platelets in Dogs

Dogs with thrombocytopenia generally have low blood platelets. This condition can affect dogs of both sexes, all ages and breeds. Since this condition can cause serious health problems, pets suffering from thrombocytopenia should be treated by a veterinarian in order to avoid complications in the future.

Blood Platelets

The platelet count in circulating blood should be between 150 and 400 million per milliliter of blood. Platelets are small, irregularly shaped cells that do not have a nucleus or any DNA. They are also called thrombocytes and are present in the blood. They unite with other substances in the blood to form clots and thus help to stop bleeding and blood loss. Platelets gather around a bleeding wound and block the flow of blood with the help of Vitamin K, calcium and fibrinogen. They react in the presence of air with fibrinogen to form thread like structures known as fibrin that trap blood cells.

This mesh of blood cells hardens to form a clot. Formation of a clot requires calcium and Vitamin K as well.

Causes of Thrombocytopenia in Dogs

Thrombocytopenia is a condition that’s caused by a low count of blood platelets. The platelet count in dogs with thrombocytopenia is as low as 10,000 to 40,000 platelets per milliliter of blood. When the number of platelets in the blood is low, it can result in excessive bleeding after an injury or spontaneous bleeding that can occur without an injury. Thrombocytopenia occurs when the number of platelets lost from circulation is more than the number manufactured by the blood marrow.

Thrombocytopenia can occur when the body or the bone marrow in particular fail to produce platelets. The condition can also arise when there is an increased rate of removal of platelets from the blood. The immune system of the dog can destroy the platelets and cause thrombocytopenia as well. The different causes of thrombocytopenia indicate different types of diseases that need to be treated.

Symptoms of Low Blood Platelets in Dogs

Low blood platelets symptoms include:

  • Nasal bleeding
  • Blood in the urine
  • Blood in the feces
  • Excessive and prolonged bleeding after an injury or surgery
  • Bruises on the skin
  • Small red spots on the gums, white parts of the eyes and the skin
  • Weakness
  • Large hemorrhages under the abdominal or belly skin
  • Bleeding from the eyes
  • Lethargy 
  • Loss of appetite

Diagnosis of Low Blood Platelet Count

A physical exam and an evaluation of the pet’s medical history can help the vet identify the possible cause of thrombocytopenia. A complete blood count, a platelet count, a coagulation profile, urinalysis, chemistry panel, X-rays and bone marrow aspirate can further help diagnose the condition and identify its cause.

Treatment of Thrombocytopenia in Dogs

Antibiotics are prescribed to fight infections that could be the cause of the low blood platelet count. Corticosteroids and immunosuppressants are also prescribed to lower the action of the immune system to prevent it from destroying the platelets. If the platelet count is very low, blood transfusions might be required.

Thrombocytopenia is easy to cure but since this can be a life threatening condition if left untreated, it’s vital to correctly diagnose and treat it at the earliest.