Have you ever noticed how when you have a small cut or wound, it bleeds for a short while and then stops bleeding and forms a scab? This happens through a process called coagulation, where a clot forms in the blood to prevent further blood loss and to allow the healing process to start. The process is initiated by cells called platelets, and circulating proteins called clotting factors then join the party to form the clot. The lining of the blood vessel also plays a role.
Some dogs and cats (just like some humans!) are born with a condition that either prevents blood clotting or retards the process. This can lead to excessive loss of blood, even when there is only a small injury. Clotting disorders result from a genetic deficiency that results in insufficient platelets, platelet malfunction or inadequate amounts of one or more clotting factors. Certain breeds, such as Dobermans, Boxers and other breeds, can be born with a deficiency of certain clotting factors, however, genetic clotting disorders can affect any breed of dog or cat.
Acquired (non-genetic) clotting disorders can also occur in dogs and cats. Pets with severe liver disease may have problems with coagulation, as the liver produces many of the clotting factors and an unhealthy liver may result in deficiencies. Immune-mediated conditions can lead to the destruction of platelets in some pets. Another common cause of clotting disorders is the ingestion of anti-coagulants such as Warfarin, which is in rat poison. Thus, these substances should be kept well out of reach of our four-legged friends. If there is any suspicion of ingestion, it is important to take the pet to a vet immediately.
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