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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Tread Lightly: Snake Season & Pet Safety

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With summer in full swing, snake bites are on the rise—but understanding the reptiles’ behavior can help people and pets stay safe.

Cases of snake bites in emergency rooms are on the rise, and it will only become more prevalent as the season progresses. Snakes’ seasonal behavior is down to physiology. Like other reptiles, snakes depend on their environment to regulate their body temperature.

In the spring and fall, snakes are most active during the heat of the day. In the heat of the summer, however, they are going to be active during twilight and overnight hours, but will seek out shade and water to cool off during the daytime. Because of this, there is no time that is off limits to when your pet may encounter a snake. Weather is just one piece of the equation. With more free time and time spent outdoors in the summer, there are more opportunities for interactions.

While not all snakes are venomous, even nonvenomous snakes can bite when provoked.

Err on the side of caution. When we see a snake, we tend to be distracted or find difficulty in identifying the animal. It’s better to be safe than sorry. To minimize the chances of a snake encounter, it is important to understand what attracts snakes in the first place and what motivates them to bite.

Identifying snakes in Florida

There are several resources for identifying the common and uncommon snakes of Florida.

What attracts snakes?

Anywhere that has ample food (small rodents, birds, bugs, other reptiles), shade, and places to hide are likely going to have snakes. They try very hard to stay away from us, and only bite when they feel threatened.

Keeping Pets Safe From Snakes

When it comes to pets, the issue is that dogs and even cats tend to be curious about snakes—from cats swatting at a snake to dogs putting their faces a little too close— all of which can lead to a bite. Consistent precautions can help keep pets out of harm’s way.

Turn on flood lights, make some noise, and supervise your pets when they are let outside in the yard (especially at night). When taking your pets for a walk on a leash, keep them away from shrubbery, landscaping timbers, and vehicles parked on grass.

We do not suggest the aid of snake repellents, but rather make ones’ property less hospitable to snakes by clearing shrubs, brush, leaves, as well as removing hiding spots like wood piles or cars that have been sitting awhile.

When You Are Face to Face with a Snake

Snakes play a larger role in our ecosystem. Realize that they are not looking for a fight with humans. Without snakes, we would have an abundance of small rodents and other pests. Do not kill the snake!

Snake bites occur when people fail to keep their distance. Rather than approaching or attacking a snake, contact animal control for assistance. Animal control officers can safely capture and contain a snake before moving it to a safe habitat away from humans.

So what can YOU do? Simply keep an eye on the snake, so that you are able to help animal control locate the animal.

Did you know even a dead snake could present a threat? Although not common, it is still possible for some snakes to deliver their venom even after they have died. If you believe the snake to be dead, leave it alone for an hour and then use a tool like a shovel or a broom handle for removal.

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Removal Resources

Bradenton Wildlife Control:

(941) 404-8859

Sarasota Wildlife Control and Nuisance Wildlife Removal:

(866) 263-9453

Manatee County Animal Services:

(941) 742-5933


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Disease Prevention Quick Tips for Outdoor Enthusiasts

  • Avoid camping/backpacking/hiking if you are feeling ill or if your animal companion is ill. People and animals are more prone to disease if their immune systems are weakened by other illnesses or conditions.

  • Keep your outdoor gear (including tents, netting, sleeping bags, etc.) in good condition and repair or replace damaged items.

  • Take precautions to minimize insect bites.

  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer immediately after handling animals, soil, equipment, or food.

  • Wash tools, cooking equipment and working surfaces (including tables and cutting boards) thoroughly with soap and water after use. If contamination with soil or animal feces (stool) is suspected or known, disinfect the equipment and surfaces immediately. Adding a minimum of 1 tablespoon of bleach to 1 gallon of water is usually adequate for use as a cleaning/disinfecting solution.

  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat.

  • In the United States, campers and hikers/backpackers should report any signs of sick wildlife or wild bird die-off to the state's game and fish agency or wildlife agency.

  • Make sure your animal companions are up-to-date on their vaccines, especially rabies, prior to camping/hiking season.

  • Consult your veterinarian about proper preventive treatments for your animals, such as heartworm prevention for dogs and cats, and use the products as recommended.

  • Consult your veterinarian about regular stool exams of dogs to check them for parasites, including those that can be passed to people.

  • Do not allow your dog to eat dead wildlife.

  • Outdoor enthusiasts who regularly travel with animal companions should consider getting some basic training in human and animal first aid techniques. In addition, carrying a first aid kit with supplies for humans and animals is extremely important.

To protect your dogs, you should consult your veterinarian, but basic guidelines include:

  • Apply topical or systemic tick-control treatments. Consult your veterinarian about the appropriate product for your dog.

  • If possible, limit access to tick-infested areas.

  • Check dogs frequently for ticks or, at a minimum, at the end of each day's activities. The ticks should be promptly and carefully removed.

To protect your horses, you should consult your veterinarian, but basic guidelines include:

  • Apply topical insect repellent products. It is likely you will have to reapply the products regularly, especially if you are traveling through areas with high insect activity.

  • If possible, limit access to tick-infested areas.

  • Check horses frequently for ticks or, at a minimum, at the end of each day's activities. The ticks should be promptly and carefully removed. Be sure to check the tail, mane and ears thoroughly for ticks.

  • Consider the use of insect nets designed to be worn over horses' eyes and ears to minimize insect bites, but do not consider them 100% effective. If you use these products, you should still check your horses regularly for ticks.


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How do pets and people become infected with Giardia?

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Did you know:

Giardia is a tiny parasite that lives in the intestines of various animals.

Giardia is passed in the feces of animals in the form of a cyst that is resistant to many environmental extremes. These cysts are scattered through the environment in feces or fecal-contaminated water. These cysts are infectious when passed, and upon ingestion by the next host, the encysted trophozoites emerge from the cysts in the intestinal tract. Within the intestine, the trophozoites feed and multiply. Some trophozoites will then form a cyst wall around themselves, and those cysts will be passed in the feces to continue the cycle.


How Do Dogs, Cats, and People Become Infected?

People and pets rarely share each other’s Giardia.

People are typically infected with a human form of Giardia, dogs with a canine form, cats with a feline form, and cattle and sheep with a ruminant form. People are occasionally infected with a different form that is shared with animals. On rare occasions, dogs and cats have been found infected with the human form. Thus, there is little evidence for direct transmission from pet dogs and cats to people. However, the rare occurrence of the human forms in cats and dogs means that there may be a slight chance that they pose a risk as a source of human infection. To be able to distinguish the specific forms, a veterinarian is required to submit samples for specialized tests.

Symptoms of Infection with Giardia

In dogs and cats, infection with Giardia is usually asymptomatic. Some pets will, however, develop persistent diarrhea. There is usually no blood in the stool.

In people, infection with Giardia is also often asymptomatic. However, some people can develop acute, intermittent, or chronic non-bloody diarrhea. Other symptoms in people include abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and weight loss.

Prevention and Treatment

  • Unlike for heartworm disease, there are no drugs that can be routinely given to a pet that will prevent infection.

  • Dogs, cats, and people that have symptoms of the infection can be treated; however, there are situations where it is difficult to clear an animal of their infections.

  • There are approved drugs for treating the infection in people. These drugs have not been approved for this specific use in dogs and cats, but these and similar drugs are used in them.

Risk Factors for Human Infection

  • Accidentally swallowing Giardia cysts from surfaces contaminated with feces, such as bathroom fixtures, changing tables, diaper pails, or toys contaminated with feces.

  • Drinking water from contaminated sources (e.g., lakes, streams, shallow [less than 50 feet] or poorly maintained wells).

  • Swallowing recreational water contaminated with cysts. Recreational water includes water in swimming pools, water parks, hot tubs or spas, fountains, lakes, rivers, springs, ponds, or streams that can be contaminated with feces or sewage.

  • Eating contaminated uncooked, fresh produce.

  • Having contact with someone who is infected with Giardiasis.

  • Changing diapers of children with Giardiasis

  • Traveling to countries where Giardiasis is common and being exposed to the parasite as described above.


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