IMHA & ITP – Not Your Accountants

Last week on PetChat we started to talk about immune mediated diseases – what they mean and how they come about. And this week I’d like to expand on that topic by looking at the tales of some of these immune mediated diseases

Today we’re going to look at some blood diseases

The first disease is immune-mediated haemolytic anaemia. Now the clue to what this is, it’s all in the name!

Anaemia means a lack of red blood cells. Haemo-lytic: haemmeans red blood cell; lytic means to burst open. So what we have here is a breakdown of red blood cells cause by the immune system bursting the cell wall.

So why might this happen?

Well most of the time we don’t find a cause. In fact 50% of the patients haveidiopathic disease . (meaningwithout apparent cause,from Greek ’idios’ &’ pathos’- one’s owns suffering) It’s also true that some patients may have tumour or cancer.
However we will always start treatment and that may involve a series of medications or in some cases a blood transfusion. Because the red blood cells get broken down very very fast we might need to repeat the blood transfusion on a daily basis and treating with medication may need to continue for at least 6 to 12 months, and in some cases, for many years.

The other disease to consider is immune mediated thrombocytopenia. So, this is a similar mechanism but in this case, the immune system has targeted the thrombocytes: these are also called platelets, or the clotting cells in our blood. So dogs with this disease will present with bleeding from the gums or in the skin appearing as small red dots, or in some cases in the bowel or in the urine. Again many of the causes will not be found, and like our previous disease treatments are very similar and may need to be continued for months to years.

However unlike the previous disease, a blood transfusion is less than satisfactory at increasing the number of platelets in the circulation. We may use a transfusion to replace the red cells that were lost but we rely on the medication to treat the immune disease targeting the platelets.
Both of these diseases can be very dangerous and in many cases can be fatal, however with treatment many dogs are also going to live a long and happy life. And in some cases they are able to stop medication and are considered to be in remission with these diseases.

So how would you know if your dog has one of these diseases? Well certainly if you noticed red spots across the skin or on the guns or bleeding of the gums or dark black stool, or red urine; and then you should seek veterinary attention immediately. But signs may be more subtle than this and may appear as a dog that doesn’t exercise as much or becomes tired very easily. If you lift the lips on the dog and have a look at the colour of the guns they should be a bright pink colour. Dogs with anaemia will have pale pink or white gums. Judging the colour of the gums can be affected by the pigment in the dog, or the lighting in the room in which you’re situated. So take care to assess the colour of the dogs gums, but as always practice makes perfect!

For more information about this for any other disease conditions in dogs or for any other advice go to our website or Facebook. We’re more than happy to hear your feedback on what ER topics you are interested in.

Thanks and see you next week.