Dog's Platelet count low

lesliew76May 31, 2010

Hello everyone, I'm really hoping someone here can ease my mind a little.

We rescued our precious Lily in Sept of 2008, things were perfect up until Sept of 2009 when we noticed her eating was not what it used to be and her energy level was very low. We took her to the vet, over several weeks and many tests later it was discovered she was a carrier of Rocky Mountain spotted fever. IÂm not sure if she got it while with us or if she had it prior but she was covered in ticks when I brought her home, but the symptoms for RMSF did show up for over a year? Another question, I'm not clear what the difference of having it and a being a carrier are, some clarification would be nice :) We noticed after all the vet appts she hated to ride in the car. She used to love to go bye bye, so we figured she was scared she was going back to the vet. We were making progess on that then About 3 weeks ago, we noticed her energy level and appetite were again low. Then, about two weeks ago tomorrow, I came home from work and she was going through a seizure, the only one that I know of she has had. I took her to the vet and all we did was just wait until she came through it. My boyfriend and I were about to leave for a trip to Santa Barbara that following Saturday the 15th. We both seriously contemplated calling off the whole trip off. She is very attached to both of us and she can usually pick up on if one of us is feeling off or if we're worried about something. I'm hoping my concern didn't set off her seizure, I was a little concerned because she is only alone for about 45 min a day because I work days and my BF works nights. While we were gone, a lady I work with agreed to watch her, so that meant she was going to be left alone most of the day, this stressed me out a bit (I know dogs do it every day but I was worried). My coworker would check on her during her lunch hour. Well after the seizure my mom agreed to watch her and this eased my mind, her and my dad are self employed so they are home all day and they have a lab gussie and lily loves her and vise versa. Needless to say, I was extremely overjoyed and our trip went as planned and lily had a good stay with grandma and gussie. Ok, when we got back from our trip on the 20th, that weekend she was extremely lethargic and her eating wasnÂt right at all. I called Monday and could get her to the vet this past Friday. He did a blood test and found her platelets were low. He put her on prednisolone and doxycycline. Is this something she will have to take on and off when the symptoms come back for her RMSF? Is she going to get worse? Are these common meds for this?? IÂm sorry for all the questions but help from someone who has gone through this would be greatly appreciated


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I would absolutely use doxy and pred in a dog with thrombocytopenia. Definitely the correct choice of medications, unless the dog is a puppy, but clearly your Lily is not a pup.

However, if your dog truly had RMSF before, she does not have it again. Once infected, the body produces enough antibodies to protect her for life. RMSF is a disease that once you survive, you're done with it forever. There is no carrier state for RMSF, and it does not recur. Also the incubation period for RMSF is 2-14 days, not a year. Of course, she could have gotten bit by an infected tick recently- those buggers are hard to find sometimes.

Other causes of low platelet count are Ehlrichia, Babesia, Anaplasma, lepto, heartworm disease, von Willibrand disease, vitamin K antagonism (rodenticide toxicity), bacterial or fungal sepsis, immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (IMTP), or systemic lupus. Some of these diseases would cause other clinical signs and other lab abnormalities besides just thrombocytopenia though. Did your dog have low platelets back in Sept 2009 or just now? May be her current illness is completely unrelated to what is going on now.

I've had RMSF myself. I've treated dogs with all kinds of causes of low platelet counts, including my own dog with IMTP. I am obviously OK. My Kang didn't make it. There are lots of statistics for lots of diseases, but your Lily is NOT a statistic and she doesn't know her odds any better that we do, so give her every chance she had to get better. I am hoping for the best for her!

    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 8:02PM
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Thanks for the info meghane! So weird a vet would tell me she's a carrier, is there something that will show in a blood test for them to say that? maybe she had it before we got her? I'm clueless :)
From what i can recall, she did have low platelet count in 2009. She also had crystals in her urine. It seemed like she was on meds forever. What do you suggest i request when/if i go back to the vet? MRI, Ultrasound? I really want to get to the bottom of this, so I can at least sleep well at night.
Thanks for the help,

    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 9:26PM
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I guess if Lily had a positive RMSF titer without clinical signs, your vet might have said she's a carrier. Not the correct terminology though. The term carrier implies the symptoms could return at any time, but with RMSF that is not the case. She probably had a high antibody titer; if she was infected at any point in her life she would have a high titer though. The high antibody titer is actually what protects her from becoming infected again.

The most useful test would be another CBC to make sure the platelet count was coming back up in response to the pred and doxy. I'd do that at least every 2 weeks. Once the platelet count is back to normal, the vet will tell you how to safely taper Lily off the prednisone. You can't just stop pred without tapering because doing that can cause life-threatening Addison's disease.

If the platelet count doesn't start coming up within a couple weeks, the things I would recommend are x-rays of the chest, ultrasound of the abdomen, and bone marrow aspirates/biopsies. Basically at that point we'd be looking for causes of non-response such as cancer, bone marrow problems, etc.

A low platelet count is nothing to play with. Dogs die because of this by bleeding into their chest or abdomen or anything else. Also the thrombocytopenia may be just the beginning of her problems- sometimes dogs also lose red blood cells and white blood cells due to whatever is causing the disappearing platelets. Following up with the vet (same one or a new one) is extremely important with this disease. You NEED to take her back to a vet, the sooner the better to make sure her meds are working.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2010 at 6:11PM
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Will do! Thanks for the info.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 1:06PM
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