Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute

Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute

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Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura


What is idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP)?

ITP is a disease that attacks the blood platelets.  It can be a primary autoimmune disease, secondary to lupus (also autoimmune) and various types of infections, or caused by certain drugs.  About a third of dogs with ITP also have immune mediated hemolytic anemia.

 How do I know if my dog has ITP?

Dogs with ITP can be lethargic, anorexic and show various signs of blood clotting deficit, including bruising, nosebleeds, bleeding from mucus membranes, and bloody stools.  Perhaps the most important diagnostic step is ruling-out other possible causes – warfarin (rat poison) toxicity, hemangiosarcoma, blood-clotting disorders, effects of chemotherapy, etc. – to make sure the most effective treatment is given in a timely manner.  Specific diagnosis of ITP is made with blood tests, including a platelet count and a test designed to detect platelet autoantibodies.

 What does having ITP mean for my dog?

This disease can be life-threatening.  Dogs with primary (autoimmune) ITP are very ill and will probably require emergency care and hospitalization.  Affected dogs can suffer serious internal hemorrhage. Initial treatment is usually focused on controlling the bleeding and will be followed with drug therapy.  Splenectomy may result in cure.  Otherwise, long term care would require life-long medication.    

 How common is ITP in Aussies?

Extremely rare.  However, it is important to keep in mind that breeders should approach all chronic autoimmune disease as a single health concern; different types of autoimmune disease frequently occur in affected families.

 Is ITP inherited?

Yes.  All autoimmune diseases are genetically predisposed:  The dog must have the genes to get the disease, but not every dog with the genes will become ill.

 Is there a screening or DNA test ITP?

Not at this time.

 What does ITP mean for my breeding program?

Breeders should approach each autoimmune disease as part of an overall health and breeding issue because different autoimmune diseases frequently occur in an affected family.  See Autoimmune Disease & Breeding.