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Bruising and Bleeding in Cats

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Inappropriate bruising or bleeding arises in animals for many reasons, including disorders associated with platelets, clotting factors, or the vessels in which blood travels. These disorders are rare in the cat, but can occur in any age or breed of cat.

Bruising or bleeding may occur in association with many systemic illnesses or disorders. Clinical signs may be mild and subtle, such as a small bruise on the skin, or signs may be severe and life threatening. Unexplained or abnormal bruising or bleeding should never be ignored. Examination by a veterinarian should be sought immediately in pets that appear to be pale, lethargic, weak, or in distress.

When evaluating an animal with abnormal bleeding, it is important to establish a definitive diagnosis as to the type of clotting abnormality present, and to identify any underlying causes. The therapy of coagulopathies varies, and must address not only the underlying cause, but must also treat the specific defect in clotting.

Causes

There are many causes of bruising and bleeding. Although it is not unusual for a normal cat or dog to have a small bruise or an occasional fleck of blood in the stool, it is not normal or acceptable for bleeding to be widespread, prolonged, severe, or recurrent.

Platelet disorders can arise when platelet numbers are decreased or when platelets fail to function properly. Platelet numbers are decreased when they are not produced adequately in the bone marrow, when they are destroyed, or when they are prematurely removed from the circulation. Thrombocytopenia is defined as a decreased platelet count. Generally speaking, animals with platelet counts less than 25,000 may bleed spontaneously and are at risk for life-threatening hemorrhages.

Dysfunction of platelets can occur as an inherited, congenital disorder, or may develop as an acquired condition later in life.

Disorders that Decrease Platelet Numbers or Function

  • Immune mediated destruction of circulating platelets or the cells of the bone marrow that form platelets (rare in cats)
  • Various disorders of the cells of the bone marrow, such as cancer, myelophthisis and myelofibrosis
  • Viral infections – feline leukemia virus, feline immunodeficiency virus, panleukopenia virus
  • Bacterial infections – Salmonella
  • Certain parasites – heartworm disease, Plasmodium infection
  • Neoplasia (cancer) in the body
  • Drugs that alter platelet production or function – chloramphenicol, griseofulvin, chemotherapeutic drugs, etc.
  • Disorders of the spleen
  • Vasculitis (inflammation of the vessels)
  • Disseminated intravascular hemolysis (DIC), a complex, life threatening hemostatic defect that occurs secondary to many systemic diseases
  • Congenital platelet function disorder, namely Chediak-Higashi syndrome in the cat
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Vaccination with modified live viruses

    Vascular Disorders

  • Vasculitis – inflammation of blood vessels
  • Hyperadrenocorticism – a disease where the adrenal glands produce too much cortisone hormone in the body (rare in cats)
  • Diabetes mellitus – sugar diabetes
  • Uremia – an increase in waste products not cleared by diseased kidneys

    Clotting Factor Disorders

  • Inherited deficiencies of clotting factors that result in hemophilia (rare in cats)
  • Toxicity with warfarin or warfarin-like products that antagonize Vitamin K. This is the most common cause of bleeding problems in cats. It often arises when cats hunt and eat rodents that have been poisoned with warfarin type products. It may also arise when cats directly ingest bate containing warfarin or similar toxins.
  • Liver disease that prevents the manufacture of clotting factors
  • Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), which is widespread bleeding due to the consumption of platelets and clotting factors

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