What does it mean when your pet has an autoimmune disease like immune-mediated thrombocytopenia?

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Immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (IMT) is a condition in which the animal’s immune system attacks and destroys blood platelets. Without platelets, blood cannot clot effectively, leading to internal or external bleeding. This can cause anemia, and is dangerous in times of injury or surgery. IMT can be a primary condition or it can be caused by another illness (including cancer, certain tick-transmitted diseases as well as some viral and bacterial infections). IMT generally responds to treatment, but it can be fatal. Relapses are common.

About Immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (IMT)

IMT is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases result when the body’s immune system has become unrecognizable/does not recognize itself. In these cases, cells that normally attack invading viruses and bacteria begin attacking the body’s own cells, resulting in damage.


In dogs and cats with IMT, the body’s platelets are attacked and destroyed, resulting in reduced numbers of platelets in the blood vessels. Platelets (also called thrombocytes) are cells that are needed to form blood clots and repair damaged blood vessels. Thrombocytopenia occurs when there are too few platelets in the blood.

Adequate numbers of platelets are essential for survival. Platelets help repair obvious injuries, such as open wounds, as well as microscopic injuries that occur in day-to-day life. If platelet numbers are too low, uncontrolled bleeding can occur. If treatment is unsuccessful, the patient can bleed to death.

IMT can be a primary condition or it can be caused by another illness or event. The underlying cause of primary IMT is rarely determined. Female dogs are more likely to be diagnosed with IMT, but there is no corresponding gender predisposition in cats. Secondary IMT can be associated with certain cancers (including lymphoma); exposure to certain drugs (including some antibiotics); tick-transmitted diseases (such as ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis); and some viral and bacterial infections, including canine distemper virus in dogs and feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV, or feline AIDS) in cats.

Symptoms and Identifying IMT

Platelets are responsible for helping form blood clots and repair damaged blood vessels, which is why the most common sign of IMT is spontaneous bleeding or the inability to stop bleeding. If IMT is caused by another illness, additional clinical signs can result from the underlying condition. Clinical signs of IMT can vary in severity and include:

  • Weakness

  • Lethargy (tiredness)

  • Appetite loss

  • Vomiting blood

  • Bloody diarrhea or melena (digested blood that appears in feces)

  • Bruising on the skin

  • Bleeding from the nose

  • Bleeding from the gums

  • Bloody urine or bleeding from the penis or vulva

  • Coughing blood or difficulty breathing

Bleeding can also occur within the brain, causing seizures; within the eyes, causing blindness; or within the abdomen or chest cavity. Severe bleeding can be fatal, especially if it occurs rapidly. If significant blood loss occurs, additional clinical signs (such as pale gums, weakness and even collapse) may be associated with anemia (inadequate numbers of red blood cells).

Owners may also notice other evidence of bleeding, such as minor cuts and scratches that continue to bleed, a heat cycle that seems prolonged or excessive, or skin bruising after playing or grooming.

There is no specific test to diagnose IMT. Your veterinarian will likely recommend blood testing to help confirm a suspected diagnosis of IMT and rule out other conditions that can cause low platelet numbers.

Some veterinarians can perform initial testing at their offices. In other cases, tests are sent to a diagnostic laboratory and results are available in a few days. If your veterinarian suspects an underlying illness (such as FeLV or ehrlichiosis), he or she may recommend more testing.

Who is predisposed for IMT?

Certain dog breeds, such as German Shepherds and Old English Sheepdogs, may be genetically prone to developing primary IMT.

Treatment for IMT

Because IMT is caused by an overactive immune system, initial treatment is aimed at suppressing the immune system and stabilizing the patient. Steroids (given at high doses) are the most common medication prescribed. Additional therapy may include intravenous fluids and supportive care. If the underlying cause of IMT can be treated, such therapy is also generally initiated.

Some pets don’t respond adequately to steroids. In these cases, additional medications can be given to manage the condition.

During treatment, frequent blood testing is required to ensure an adequate response to therapy. Once a pet responds to treatment, medication dosages are gradually adjusted and blood tests are repeated periodically to monitor for relapses.


IMT generally responds to treatment, but it can be fatal. For pets who survive, relapses commonly occur. Your veterinarian may recommend periodic recheck examinations and frequent repeat bloodwork for the life of your pet to help identify and treat relapses early.


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What Vaccinations Does My Adult Dog Need?

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Dog Checkups & Preventive Care | Veterinary science, in conjunction with industry, has done a great job developing vaccines that are very safe and effective preventive measures. Vaccines keep your dog protected from serious infectious diseases. Diseases that, just a few years ago, were epidemics are now less common. It's not just a matter of more vaccines but also better vaccines that are more specific, provide longer protection, and allow your veterinarian to make recommendations appropriate for your pet.

Not all dogs need to be vaccinated for all diseases all the time. There are two general groupings of vaccinations: those that target “core” diseases and those that target “non-core” diseases.

Core vaccinations

Core vaccinations prevent diseases that are extremely widespread in their distribution and are easily transmitted. These diseases are commonly fatal or extremely difficult to treat effectively. One core disease—rabies, can be transmitted to humans with potentially deadly results. In summary, core diseases are the more contagious and severe diseases.

Core vaccines provide long term immunity, making yearly vaccination unnecessary.

Core vaccines include:

  • Canine distemper

  • Canine parvovirus

  • Canine adenovirus 1 infection

  • Rabies

Historically, these vaccines were recommended yearly but this is no longer the case. Duration of immunity from these vaccines have been proven to be at least 3 years. Rabies vaccines are sometimes administered more often based on state and provincial regulations. While not all vaccines carry a label that indicates they are effective for 3 years, current recommendations for core vaccines are that after the completion of an initial series, adult dogs should be revaccinated every 3 years.

Non-core vaccinations

Non-core vaccines protect against diseases that do not meet the core vaccine description. While all dogs are at risk for core diseases and must be vaccinated--risk of exposure, likelihood of infection, and severity of disease should be evaluated when making non-core vaccine recommendations. The indication for these vaccines should be based on a risk assessment that looks at local and regional incidence of the disease. The risk assessment should also take your pet’s lifestyle into consideration.

Non-core vaccinations may include:

  • Leptospirosis

  • Lyme disease

  • Canine cough complex

  • Canine influenza

These vaccines generally provide a shorter length of protective immunity, and dogs that are at risk for infection should be vaccinated every year.

How can you determine your dog’s risk of infection?

  • Having a conversation with your veterinarian is the number one way you can determine your dog's risk factors and which vaccines are recommended.

  • Lyme disease is no longer limited to the Northeastern United States. It is transmitted by deer ticks associated with white tail deer. The populations of deer are expanding and with them the incidence of exposure. While exposure and infection do not always result in disease, dogs considered at risk should be vaccinated and tested annually.

  • Vaccination against leptospirosis should be considered for dogs who are exposed to wildlife environments like ponds, or when urban and rural wildlife share the environment with your dog.

  • Vaccination against canine cough includes bordetella and parainfluenza vaccines. These diseases are respiratory infections and as such are transmitted from dog to dog. Boarding facilities, dog shows, dog classes, and parks where dogs play are all potential risks. Dogs exposed to these environments should be vaccinated yearly.

  • Canine influenza is a relatively recently described disease and a relatively new vaccine. It should be administered yearly for dogs considered by your veterinarian to be at risk.

All dogs should be examined by a veterinarian at least yearly and a complete history and risk assessment should be performed. This will assure that your dog remains healthy and is appropriately vaccinated.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian. They are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.


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5 Low-Maintenance Pet Bird Species

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Birds are easier to care for than any four-legged pet. And while there is no such thing as a no-maintenance bird, some species are easier to care for than others. From doves to finches, canaries to parakeets, there are many cute, charming pet birds that won't put great demands on an owner's time but will still prove to be good companions.

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Plenty of Bird Species Make Good Pets and Are Easy to Care For

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FINCHES

As long as finches are provided with a proper flight cage and two or three flock-mates to interact with, they require zero handling and out-of-cage playtime. Finches tend to keep to themselves and would rather socialize with other finches than their human caretakers, so those who have little spare time can enjoy the company of birds in their home while only having to feed, water, and clean up after them.

However, a small flock of finches can be quite messy, so keep in mind the balance between allowing them to socialize with each other and having to clean up a big mess.

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PARAKEETS (BUDGIES)

Some bird lovers want a bird that they can hold, train, and that can even learn to talk, but that they don't have to spend every minute of every day holding. A parakeet, or budgie, is the ideal option for that scenario.

While Budgies do bond strongly with their owners, as most parrots do, they are easier to keep occupied than many larger species. A budgie in a spacious cage well-stocked with plenty of safe and interesting bird toys can thrive as long as their owners can devote an hour or two per day of socialization time to them.

This is a big contrast to many other parrot species, some of which need a minimum of four to six hours outside of the cage each day. Consider a budgie if you'd like all the perks of owning a parrot without the huge time commitment.

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DOVES

Doves are hardy, medium-sized birds that enjoy interacting with their owners but are also content to spend a good part of the day entertaining themselves. Unlike a larger bird like a cockatoo or a macaw, a dove isn't constantly in need of attention. 

Because doves are a little smaller than parrots and other popular pet birds, cleaning up after them is much easier. Although it's still important to form a bond with your pet dove, these quiet, pretty birds won't demand much of your time. Keep their cages clean, and you'll have a content, satisfied bird most of the time. 

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CANARIES

Canaries are another excellent choice for bird lovers who prefers a pet to be seen and heard instead of taken out and handled. Much like finches, canaries don't do well with human handling and prefer to stay within the comforting walls of their cages.

There are different types of canaries to choose from, and each variety has different care requirements. However, overall, these little birds are a good fit for those who don't have a lot of spare time to spend with a pet.

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COCKATIELS

Another parrot species, cockatiels are the highest-maintenance bird species on this list. Like budgies, cockatiels require a certain amount of handling and out-of-cage playtime on a daily basis.

However, cockatiels are nowhere near as demanding as some of the larger parrot species. They normally don't talk, but cockatiels are highly intelligent and can be trained to follow commands.

Cockatiels are a great choice for those who have the time to devote two or three hours per day to playing with their pets. As long as it has a large enough cage and a bird-proof area for it to play in, a cockatiel will be a good fit for a would-be bird owner.


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Rescuing a Sick or Injured Wild Bird & Bird Safety While Fishing

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You may encounter wild birds displaced by the latest bout of blistery, wet weather. As an overview, here are a quick list of temporary care instructions:

Temporary Care Instructions

  • Find a medium/large-sized box and place a folded towel at the bottom.

  • Ensure there are holes in the box big enough for airflow.

  • Place the bird in the box and keep in a dark, quiet place.

  • Keep the bird warm.

  • Please don’t feed the bird.

  • Leave the bird alone; don’t handle or bother it and always keep children and pets away.


Pelican & Bird Safety While Fishing

Catch fish, not pelicans! With just a little extra attention to your surroundings, you and your pelican friends can both have a great day out on the water.

Brown Pelicans are now the most commonly sighted bird on the coasts. Pelicans eat smaller fish that are not preferred by recreational fishermen and that are not commercially important. Pelicans are protected by both federal and state laws.

With their keen eyesight, brown pelicans will spot a fish from high in the air and dive-in. It’s their specialty, after all. After surfacing, they drain the water from their pouch and swallow their catch.

Entanglement in fishing gear may be their number one enemy, leading to a slow death from dehydration and starvation. Bony fish scraps are also a killer, tearing the pouch or lodging in the throat. Feeding pelicans draws them to fishing areas and puts them in danger. Shorebirds, storks, herons, terns, and gulls are also casualties. We can all help keep our pelican friends alive and healthy.

Casting near any bird only increases the chances of hooking one.

Birds focus on the injured fish in a school, which is your lure or baited fish. Pelicans dive for fish on the surface of the water or just below it. When fishing, never cast towards any bird.

Don’t feed the filleted boney carcasses to the birds, even if they are begging for them.

Pelicans and other fish-eating birds such as herons and egrets easily digest the bones of small fish, but can be severely injured by the stronger, sharp bones of the bigger fish you have caught. Carcass bones may puncture the pouch, throat, or intestines, leading to infection and a slow, painful death.

Don’t feed your extra bait fish to the birds.

Feeding attracts birds to fishing areas, where they are more likely to become hooked. It is also illegal to feed wildlife in all state parks.

Always discard your old or tangled fishing line in recycling bins or covered trash cans.

Birds and other wildlife become entangled leading to entrapment, strangulation, starvation, loss of limb, or subject to easy predation.

Lead or zinc weighted jigs, lures, and tackle are deadly toxic.

Instead, opt for stainless steel, tin, tungsten, copper, pewter, or brass, porcelain, or stone fishing gear.


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Don't forget to subscribe to our email newsletter for more recipes, articles, and clinic updates delivered to your inbox (here). Or, you can keep up to date by liking and following our Facebook page (here).

Related: We have more information under our small animal care & avian resources categories.