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Clotting Disorders of the Platelets in Dogs

What Are Clotting Disorders of the Platelets in Dogs?

Clotting disorders in dogs encompass any condition that interferes with the blood’s ability to clot effectively. Coagulopathies, as they are termed, can stem from issues either with platelets or clotting factors present in the blood.

Platelets, small cell fragments within circulating blood, play a crucial role in initiating clot formation and halting bleeding. Even in the absence of significant injury, clot formation is a continual process in a dog’s body, addressing any minor tissue hemorrhages. Adequate numbers of healthy platelets are essential for effective clotting.

Thrombocytopenia, the deficiency of platelets in the blood, can impede blood clotting. Additionally, if platelets are not sufficiently healthy to fulfill their function, a condition known as thrombocytopathy arises. This condition undermines the ability of platelets to effectively respond to bleeding and initiate clot formation.


There exist two primary types of thrombocytopathies in dogs:

  • Hereditary thrombocytopathies: These are inherited genetically and are transmitted through specific lines of dogs from one generation to another.
  • Acquired thrombocytopathies: These are uncommon and develop as a result of exposure to toxins or infections.


Symptoms of thrombocytopathies in dogs comprise:

  • Nosebleeds
  • Bleeding from the gums or gingiva
  • Petechiae, small bruises under the skin
  • Presence of blood in the urine or feces
  • Excessive bleeding from cuts or wounds


Causes of inherited thrombocytopathies and the breeds commonly associated with them include:

  • Von Willebrand disease (vWD): Doberman Pinscher
  • Canine Scott syndrome (CSS): German Shepherd
  • CalDAG-GEFI deficiency: Basset Hound, Spitz
  • Glanzmann’s thrombasthenia: Otterhound, Great Pyrenees
  • P2Y12 receptor mutation: Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

Inherited thrombocytopathies manifest as bleeding after injury, where platelets may form normally but fail to organize into a clot due to specific genetic conditions.

Causes of acquired thrombocytopathies encompass:

  • Aspirin toxicity
  • Rare complications from infections such as leptospirosis, ehrlichiosis
  • Complications arising from severe liver or kidney disease


Veterinarians employ various tests to diagnose thrombocytopathies in dogs, including:

  • Complete blood count (CBC): This assesses the quantities of different blood cells, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
  • Manual platelet count and cytology: This evaluates platelet numbers, size, shape, and aggregation.
  • Chemistry panel: This examines levels of liver enzymes, kidney function indicators, blood sugar, and protein levels to gauge organ health.
  • Prothrombin time (PT) and partial thromboplastin time (PTT) tests: These measure blood clotting speed and ensure the functionality of clotting factors not related to platelets.
  • Buccal mucosa bleeding time (BMBT) test: This directly evaluates platelet function by creating a small, controlled cut on the dog’s gum to measure the bleeding response.
  • Von Willebrand factor assay: This assesses von Willebrand factor deficiency in dogs susceptible to inheriting the condition.
  • Genetic testing: This identifies carriers of inherited traits, aiding in the prevention of breeding dogs predisposed to developing the disease.


Treatment approaches for thrombocytopathies in dogs differ based on the type and require veterinary intervention.

Inherited thrombocytopathies: Dogs with inherited clotting disorders should avoid surgery whenever possible. In instances of trauma or necessary surgery, cryoprecipitate transfusions or desmopressin injections may be administered to control bleeding temporarily. These treatments aim to halt bleeding in the short term, as there is currently no permanent cure for thrombocytopathies.

Acquired thrombocytopathies: Treatment focuses on addressing the underlying cause. In cases where thrombocytopathies lead to severe bleeding, transfusions of red blood cells or platelets may be necessary.

Living and Management

Recovery and management of clotting disorders in dogs rely significantly on identifying the underlying cause and observing the pet’s response to treatments. Your veterinarian will collaborate with you to devise an optimal treatment strategy based on your dog’s medical background.

Spontaneous bleeding can occur unpredictably with an active thrombocytopathy. If your dog experiences bleeding, it’s essential to keep them calm and restrict vigorous activities or play. Crate rest is advisable, and in some cases, sedatives may aid in calming the pet. Keep a vigilant eye on your dog for any signs of bleeding, particularly around the nose or mouth. Check for the formation of small bruises, which are most noticeable on the inner ear flap or sparsely haired areas on the abdomen.

In the event of a wound or cut, maintain your pet’s composure and apply gentle pressure for 4 to 5 minutes. Promptly contact a veterinarian for further assistance. If bleeding persists from the nose or mouth beyond 10 minutes, immediate veterinary attention is necessary.

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