disorderly conduct: common blood disorders in pets

Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Jun 26 2013

Our pets are susceptible to disease everywhere in their bodies, from the tips of their ears to the tips of their tails. We’re all familiar with common conditions, like ear infections and arthritis, but some pets develop disorders in their blood that may become life threatening. Today’s blog will cover some of the most common blood disorders in dogs and cats.

I thought we’d start with parasitic diseases, as we could all use a reminder that it is flea and tick season again:

  • Babesia. These organisms are transmitted to cats and dogs via ticks. They cause red blood cell destruction and can lead to anemia and low platelet levels.
  • Bartonellosis. Also known as Cat Scratch Fever, the Bartonella organism lives in feline red blood cells and can cause anemia. It is transmitted by fleas.
  • Mycoplasma haemofelis (infectious feline anemia). Spread by fleas, mycoplasmas cause red blood cell destruction and can cause life threatening anemia.
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Transmitted through tick bites, RMSF is a vascular disorder that causes leaky blood vessels. This results in clinical signs in many organ systems.

Next, we should address autoimmune diseases, where the body inappropriately targets its own cells for destruction.

  • Immune mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA). In this condition, the immune system seeks out red blood cells, destroying them and leading to life-threatening anemia. IMHA can be quite severe and may require hospitalization for blood transfusions.
  • Immune mediate thrombocytopenia (IMTP). Much like IMHA, IMTP is an immune mediated destruction of blood cells, only in this case, it is the platelets that are the targets of an overactive immune system. Because platelets help our blood clot, low numbers cause uncontrolled bleeding.

Von Willebrand’s Disease is a blood clotting defect. It is neither immune mediated nor is it spread by parasites. It is hereditary, however, and is common in several breeds, including Doberman Pinschers. Without the ability to form a blood clot, affected dogs can experience prolonged or excessive bleeding. Testing is recommended in all susceptible breeds prior to surgery to prevent possibly fatal consequences. Treatment can require transfusion of Von Willebrand’s factor or plasma.

Blood disorders can be quite severe, and as our pet’s blood nourishes every part of their bodies, when there’s trouble with the blood, our pets are in trouble, too. Any one of these blood disorders can easily require lengthy hospitalization, blood or plasma transfusions, and other lifesaving support. Thankfully, blood disorders aren’t too common, and those that are spread by fleas and ticks can be avoided by using flea and tick prevention on your pets. And of course, protecting your pets with Petplan pet insurance is a great way to maintain peace of mind, should your pet become ill in the future.