Thrombocytopenia in cats can cause spontaneous bleeding to occur and it can modulate from moderate to severe.
It can also cause small red spots to suddenly appear on your cat’s eyes or their lips, as well as nose bleeds that may be very mild at first, but can easily develop into a serious situation.
If this condition becomes severe enough, you may see blood in both the urine and the stool of your cat.
If this condition does become severe, it can also result in severe bruising and bleeding that can threaten your cat’s life very quickly.
It can be an inherited or an acquired condition and it affects all breeds and age groups.
What Is it?
Thrombocytopenia in cats is a blood disorder that is characterized by an abnormally low number of platelets that are circulating in your cat’s bloodstream.
This can be a very dangerous situation in your cat as these platelets play a critical role in the process of coagulation or blood clotting as well as plugging any damaged blood vessels.
To fully understand the role of platelets, it is helpful to understand exactly how they operate in your cat.
A normal cat has over 600,000 platelets per micro-liter of blood.
A micro-liter is an extremely low measurement as it is only about one millionth of a quart in actual measurement.
They are irregular disc shaped fragments of large cells that are called megakaryocytes and are found in the bone marrow of your cat.
They are the smallest cellular shaped structures in the blood and act very quickly when the blood vessel is damaged.
When damage does occur and they are operating properly, they will naturally group together at the site where the damage has happened.
From here they will form a plug like shape that immediately stops the bleeding.
The average life span of platelets in your cats system is only between five and ten days, as and a result, it is critical to your cat’s health that they are constantly being replaced.
However, if the platelets are not being replaced or for some reason do not function properly, any type of an injury either internally or externally in your cat is now putting your pet at a tremendous risk.
Thrombocytopenia in cats does not always result in bleeding; but it will cause your pet to become weak.
When examined, the low platelet count will show up and identify an underlying disease that is either forming in your cat, or has already developed.
For this condition to become severe, your cats platelet count has to fall below 40,000 which sound like a drop from 600,000, until you realize how small they are and how long they actually last in your cats system.
There are not a lot of symptoms that identify Thrombocytopenia in cats, but the symptoms that do surface will be very easy to spot and will be severe enough that it will help to identify that something is wrong with your cat.
The first signs are usually very small red spots that will develop in your cat’s sclera, which are the white parts of their eyes.
These signs will almost always be accompanied by spots showing up on the gums. However, if it is severe enough, you may see spots also start to appear on their skin in several areas.
These symptoms will then be followed by your cat suddenly bruising very easily and this is a real warning sign as cats hardly even bruise.
Once this occurs, your cat will soon develop Epistaxis, which is nose bleeds. If it is advanced, you will also see blood both in their urine and their stools.
There are several potential causes of thrombocytopenia in cats.
However it is very important to understand that this condition can be the result of a loss of platelet count in your pet, or the malfunction of the platelets in performing their assigned tasks.
The actual cause may be an inherited or acquired.
Perhaps the most common cause of thrombocytopenia in cats is actually brought on by the owner.
While it certainly will not be intentional giving your cat aspirin can trigger it.
Aspirin is one of the most toxic agents that you can give your cat and you should never give any dosage, including children’s aspirin to your cat.
Other acquired conditions will include failures of your cats organs, especially the kidney or liver, as any of these conditions will cause the counts to lower dramatically.
Causes of the platelets not operating properly will include your cat’s bone marrow not producing properly, or an immune system malfunction.
This is where your cats own system is destroying the platelets thinking they are actually attacking the system.
Other causes include a consumption of the platelets faster than the bone marrow can produce them.
There are several other conditions that may affect your pet that are very similar to Thrombocytopenia in cats and in many cases, can actually trigger it.
Vasculitis is an inflammatory disease of the blood vessels that cause very small defects in the lining of the vessels and as a result, leakage occurs.
Once the leakage happens, your cats platelets will rush in to plug these leaks and it can cause the platelets to be utilized as a rate much faster than they can be produced, causing thrombocytopenia.
Hemophilia is also very similar condition and this is where there is an insufficient quantity of coagulation proteins being produced. The most common cause of this condition is any type of liver failure.
If your cat ingests Warfarin, or rodent poison, it will also simulate this condition as it very rapidly destroys the platelets. It is designed to do this and it is very effective in what it does.
It stops your cats ability to metabolize vitamin K to such an extent that coagulation proteins cannot be activated at all.
Thrombocytopenia in cats can be successfully treated, but the key will be how successful you are at catching it very early so your veterinarian can properly treat whatever the actual cause is.
In severe cases, it may require a blood transfusion, but this is not always effective and is also very expensive unless you have pet insurance.
In the majority of cases, antibiotics are used for infectious diseases, and Corticosteroids are used for immune mediated diseases where your cats system is attacking itself.
Both treatments have produced successful results, although Corticosteroids do have potential side effects.