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Bleeding Disorders in Dogs

Bleeding disorders are caused by the failure of the blood to clot normally, leading to excessive bleeding even with minor cuts. In dogs, bleeding disorders can be traced to a variety of causes that include the following—

-Thrombocytopenia: a condition which is characterized by an abnormally low
number of blood platelets which are very important in blood clotting.
Platelets plug any torn part of blood vessels thus preventing blood from
oozing out of the torn vessel.

-Thrombocytopathy: a condition characterized by the failure of the platelets
to effective plug up any defect in the walls of the blood vessel. Platelets
need to stick or clump to each other in order to plug the vessel wall.

-Decreased concentrations of soluble coagulation factors which are found in
blood plasma or the liquid part of the blood. Coagulation factors produce a
substance known as fibrin which functions to hold the clump of platelets
which is formed on a tear in the blood vessel wall.

The amount of blood which has been lost or the location of the bleeding in the body are the major factors which can determine the effects of the bleeding disorder on your dog. Losing a considerable amount of blood often leads to anemia resulting in the decrease of oxygen-laden red blood cells. Anemic dogs have pale gums and are easily exhausted due to low oxygen in the body.

Bleeding anywhere in the body can easily be detected by specific signs. Bleeding within the upper respiratory passages is manifested by nosebleeds while bruising indicates bleeding under the skin. Discolored urine may also signify bleeding within the urinary tract. Bloody stools or black tarry feces often indicate bleeding within the gastrointestinal tract. Pin-point reddish spots on the white of the eyes on a dog’s gums may also indicate bleeding in these parts of the body.

There are also times when bleeding is not as obvious to the dog owner particularly when it occurs inside the body cavity such as in the chest or abdomen. Bleeding in the chest often results in breathing difficulties while abdominal swelling may be linked to bleeding from within. When bleeding occurs in the brain or spinal cord, a dog may exhibit seizures, collapse, or paralysis.

There are many diagnostic procedures that will be conducted in order to correctly diagnose a bleeding disorder. Aside from taking a complete medical history, your vet will conduct a thorough physical examination to look for evidence of bleeding.

A complete blood count will reflect an abnormally low platelet count as well as the number of red blood cells which are left circulating in the body.

Bleeding inside the mouth usually needs to be evaluated if it is caused by the failure of platelets to function or whether it is caused by Von Willebrand’s disease. Your vet will evaluate the Buccal Mucosal Bleeding Time to determine the specific root of the bleeding.

Other tests which may be conducted to measure the effective coagulation factor concentration include one-stage prothrombin time (OSPT), activated coagulation time (ACT), and activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT). These tests involve getting a small amount of blood which is placed inside a special tube. There is artificial activation of the blood clotting and the time that will elapse until the blood will clot is noted.

Treatment is aimed at the disorder which is causing the bleeding. Supportive care including—blood transfusion, stopping of an ongoing blood loss in nosebleeds, corticosteroids to suppress the immune system and the administration of antibiotics to prevent secondary bacterial infections— is very important to prevent serious complications.