Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Where did my platelets go?

Recently, a two-year-old Italian Greyhound came to NorthPaws with mysterious bruising over many areas of his body and legs along with strange red spots on his gums. Bloodwork was quickly performed to diagnose an underlying condition. Whereas the normal platelet range is between 200,000 and 500,000, this patient's platelets were around 27,000!

Platelets are critical for proper blood clotting. When platelet counts fall below a certain number (~60,000), we start to see small areas of bleeding under the skin and gums from broken capillaries. There are many potential causes for a drastic decrease in platelet numbers, including several tick transmitted infections and some cancers, but the most common cause is an immune disease known as immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (ITP), which results in destruction of platelets. In this case, the immune system, which normally functions to remove foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses, thinks the body’s own cells are foreign and tries to get rid of them. 

Treatment for an immune disease like this involves using drugs that suppress the body's immune system so that it stops attacking its own cells. These medications often have to be given for many months to ensure there is no relapse. Luckily, this patient's condition was caught early. After only a week on the medication, his bruises are gone and his platelet count is back up to 304,000. Needless to say, we will be keeping a close eye on him and monitoring his progress for the next few months, but we are glad he is feeling better!