menu icon

Understanding Thrombocytopathies in Dogs


Thrombocytopathies are disorders in dogs of the blood palate and abnormalities in how the platelets (cell fragments) work. This can be a generic condition passes from parents but can also be acquired. The platelets are an important part of the sealing process when a dog gets a wound, in a normal dog they will gather in the blood vessels where there is damage and start a clotting process. In dogs with Thrombocytopathies the platelets are not able to group together and adhere or bond as they should to create a seal and prevent excessive bleeding. This means dogs with wounds can bleed a lot even from the smallest of cuts. It affects any breed but the Finnish Spitz, Great Pyrenees, Gray Collies, Cocker Spaniels, Otter Hounds and the Basset Hound are more prone to hereditary canine Thrombopathia.


Symptoms to look for

Blood clotting is vital to the well being of your dog and when the platelets have a defect in how they signal to each other this stops them from clumping as they should which prevents the clotting. Therefore the main symptom of dogs with canine Thrombopathia is bleeding and even the smallest of wounds could be life threatening. Symptoms will include;


Ear flaps on basset hounds may have blood build up

Prolonged bleeding when having a procedure either surgical or diagnostic

Spontaneous bleeding

Excessive bleeding

Mucosal surfaces often bleed (gums, nose, mouth, anus)

Puppies often reveal they have a blood disorder when they have excessive bleeding losing their first tooth

Causes of Acquired and Hereditary Thrombocytopathy

As said hereditary or genetic means the dog was born with it having gotten it passed to him from his parents. It is important when buying a new dog to have a close look at the health history of the parents to avoid having a dog with the hereditary condition. Acquired thrombocytopathy has two main causes, some drugs can cause it and it can be a secondary condition to another systemic disease. Drugs that can cause it include;


Anti-inflammatory drugs (nonsteroidal)

Painkillers like aspirin


Systemic diseases that can cause it include;

Parasitic disease


Kidney disease

Liver disease

Pancreas inflammation

Diagnosing Thrombocytopathies

When you take your dog in to the vet he or she will take a full background and medical history, ask for a description of the symptoms you have observed and then perform a complete physical on your dog. Things that may be ordered include a complete blood count, a biochemical profile, an electrolyte panel and a urinalysis. If the bleeding has been severe there may be a sign of anemia in the blood count however often platelet counts may still be normal in dogs with hereditary thrombocytopathies apart from perhaps in otter hounds.

Other tests might inlcude a von Willebrand disease assay, platelet function testing and then APTT (activated partial thromboplastin time and coagulation tests like PT will help rule out other causes like coagulopathy (another disease that affects the blood's clotting ability). The mucosal bleeding can also be measured with a small cut made in the dog's inside cheek to then see the length of time it takes for clotting to occur.

About Hereditary Thrombocytopathy in Basset Hounds

There is a test that can be carried out that tests the RASGRP1 gene in basset hounds to see if he or she is a carrier. A Basset Hound must receive the mutated gene from both parents to develop the disease. Those who are just carriers usually do not show symptoms, but if they are then bred with another dog who also is a carrier, their offspring then have two copies of the mutated gene and there is a risk they will develop the disease.

If a puppy is born to two parents who are carriers, they have a 25% chance of developing the disease and a 50% chance of becoming carriers themselves. This is why it is so important to undertake genetic testing when breeding and to only buy from trusted breeders. The only way this mutation can be bred out of this breed is if known carriers are no longer bred together.

Caring for Your Dog

If a dog gets a confirmed diagnosis there are several actions that can be taken depending on the cause. Dogs with acquired thrombocytpathies caused by a drug can be taken off that drug and given an alternative treatment. If the cause is another disease then as well as treating the platelets problem that underlying cause also needs to be treated.

To increase his or her platelets the dog may be given a platelet transfusion and this is also a way to treat the underlying cause if it is von Willebrand disease. The transfusion can act as a preventative measure against future bleed outs and can be done if they are currently bleeding excessively to help them. If anemia has developed because of the bleeding a transfusion of packed red cells or whole blood will be given too.


Before they undergo any surgery the vet will take steps to prevent excessive bleeding during the procedure and things like injections will also be kept to a minimum. Should intravenous injections, invasive procedures or intravenous cauterization be needed they will apply extended pressure afterward to minimize the bleeding as much as possible.

While this is potentially a life threatening disease it is rare for dogs to bleed out and die at home. Try to keep their activity to a minimum if they do cut themselves so that the blood does not pump quicker out of the wound. Avoid hard foods in their diet as this can cause gum bleeding. Also if it is the hereditary condition do get your dog fixed so that he or she cannot pass it in to a new generation of dogs.