What Is Thrombocytopenia?
Thrombocytopenia is a commonly presented haemostatic disorder for the Internal Medicine Team at Pride Veterinary Centre. Thrombocytopenia is classified as having a lack of platelets within a patient’s blood stream, that can be mediated by either the patient’s own immune system attacking their platelets causing their destruction or can be resulting from secondary initiating factors, such as; vector-borne infectious diseases (parasites), FIV, FIP, FeLV (Feline diseases), bacterial or viral infections, and neoplasia (cancer).
Platelets are responsible for clot formation at the site of any compromise to a blood vessel. When there are too few platelets available to produce a clot to plug a damaged vessel, elevated bleeding times and spontaneous bleeding occurs.
Whilst thrombocytopenia can affect any breed or age group, predisposed breeds include; Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, and Old English Sheepdogs.
What Are The Signs Of Thrombocytopenia?
The clinical symptoms of thrombocytopenia are excessive bruising or discolouration of the skin (ecchymosis), lethargy and weakness, pale mucous membranes with “petechiae” (small red spots on mucous membranes caused by leaking capillary blood vessels), dark “tar-like” diarrhoea (melena; present if bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract), nose bleeds (epistaxis) or bleeding from the eye (scleral and retinal bleeding).
How Is Thrombocytopenia Treated?
In patients with severe thrombocytopenia that are spontaneously bleeding, they present with an anaemia in combination with a lack of platelets which needs to be addressed by administering a blood transfusion.
In a patient that is purely anaemic, thanks to the Pet Blood Bank UK, we can implement blood component therapy, this is where blood has been collected from a donor patient and centrifuged until the components within the blood separate. The Red Blood Cells are siphoned off and stored as Packed Red Blood Cells, and the plasma gets frozen and stored. A benefit of component therapy is that it makes the transfusion safer as it has been proven to reduce the amount of transfusion reactions.
As the name implies Packed Red Blood Cells contain purely red blood cells so the platelets found in whole blood have been filtered out. When a patient has severe thrombocytopenia and anaemia, it must undergo a ‘whole blood’ transfusion.
Platelets are very delicate and disintegrate rapidly post collection, so platelet viable whole blood is unable to be stored, thus necessitates a voluntary blood donor coming to Pride Veterinary Centre to undergo a blood donation and the ‘whole blood’ being transfused immediately into the compromised patient.