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Vet Gazette

Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

Sporadic, Unaccountable Bruising Diagnosed As Auto-Immune Disorder

July 17th, 2015
Fourth-year students exam Max for signs of bruising.

Fourth-year students examine Max for signs of bruising.

Max is a twelve-pound bundle of white fluff. He shares a house with his owner Kathy Sisson, her daughter and grandson, two human friends, two rabbits, one mouse, one guinea pig, two dogs, and three cats. Needless to say, he gets along with all kinds of people and animals. “He is a happy-go-lucky little guy,” says Sisson.

Sisson became disabled three years ago and relies on her family to help her get around. “Max is my constant companion and best friend,” she says.

Because she is on a tight budget, Sisson was very worried when Max began to develop unaccountable, random bruising. She took him to a free clinic, organized by veterinary students in the Shelter Medicine Club, where the volunteer veterinarian suspected Max had a blood clotting issue and referred her to OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH).

Sisson was happy that the experts at OSU were close to home, but she was concerned about the cost. The clinic veterinarian told her about the Olive Britt Hope Fund.

Endowed by OSU alumna Olive K. Britt, the Hope Fund was created to provide assistance to pets of low-income owners who need life-saving treatment. The demand on the fund is greater than the income provided by the endowment, so many generous friends of the college donate to it every year. In addition, veterinary students often hold events like Ride the Heart of the Valley to raise money for the fund.

Sisson called the VTH and verified that a portion of her costs could be covered by the Hope Fund. She and her grandson brought Max in to see resident Dr. Rhonda Holt, who observed bruising on his ventral abdomen and thorax. Dr. Holt ordered complete blood tests and discovered a severe thrombocytopenia (decreased platelet number) of 25,000 g/ul, but a normal coagulation profile. Holt consulted with Dr. Craig Ruaux and they concluded that Max had immune-mediated thrombocytopenia, a serious auto-immune condition in which a dog’s body attacks its own blood platelets.

Dr. Holt prescribed two immunosuppresants, prednisone and azathioprine, as well a gastroprotectant omeprazole. On his two-week check up, Max showed marked improvement with normal platelet levels.

Commonly this condition responds well to treatment, and many dogs can eventually be weaned off medication. “The medications are necessary to stop his platelets from being destroyed by his body,” says Holt. “Keeping that in mind, we must be very cautious as we taper the dosage of his immune suppressive medications, and continue to monitor his platelet count closely.”

Max is doing well and Sisson is grateful to OSU for saving her best friend. “I don’t know what I would do without him,” she says.


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