In this immune-mediated condition, the body is attacking and destroying its own platelets.
Platelets are a critical component of coagulation (clotting); therefore, this condition where platelets are destroyed, causes bleeding. Clinical signs can include pinpoint areas of hemorrhage or bruising, blood in stool or in vomit, urine, and lethargy, among others.
This condition can be primary or secondary. In primary ITP, the cause is often idiopathic (unknown), while in secondary ITP, the cause can be due to drugs, toxins, tick-borne illnesses and vaccinations and underlying neoplasia (cancer). Therefore, it is important to discuss your pet’s history with your veterinarian and follow their recommendation for a diagnostic investigation which includes labwork and imaging (radiographs and ultrasound).
Hospitalization is often recommended if a patient’s thrombocytopenia is severe, as this condition can be life-threatening. The average hospitalization stay is about a week.
Medications to treat this condition includes immunosuppressive medications, such as steroids. There are additional immunosuppressive medications that may also be recommended. Other therapeutic recommendations may include fluid therapy, blood products, gastroprotectant medications if needed, antibiotics in certain cases, and a possible recommendation for a chemotherapeutic agent, Vincristine.
Once discharged from the hospital, continue giving medications as prescribed by your veterinarian and return for scheduled physical exam and bloodwork rechecks. Repeating bloodwork (blood cell count in particular) is key to determining how to taper the pet’s dose over time. Do not alter dosages without consulting your veterinarian!
1) Veterinary Partner. Veterinarypartner.com
2) Tilley, L. P., & Smith, F. W. (2005). The 5-minute veterinary consult: Canine and feline. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
3) Yin, S. A. (2010). The small animal veterinary nerdbook. Davis, CA: CattleDog Pub.