Immune Mediated Thrombocytopenia (IMT) is a common condition found in the equine, canine, and rarely, feline world. This disease recently plagued a four-year-old husky of a very dear friend of mine, taking its life far too soon. Having never heard of this disease, I assumed it must be incredibly rare and decided to do a bit more research. Sadly, this assumption was horribly incorrect. IMT is not uncommon and ranges between species, age, breed, sex, etc. There is often no rhyme or reason behind it, and because of this, it’s difficult to diagnose and treat. So, for this blog post, we’ll take a closer look inside this disease.
What is IMT?
Immune Mediated Thrombocytopenia is a disease where the platelet count in an animal is significantly lower than it should be. Platelets are imperative for the process of clotting and maintaining hemostasis within the body. When platelet count drops below a certain number, the smallest cut or abrasion can turn into a massive hemorrhage. Depending on the severity, IMT can actually cause an animal to hemorrhage to death without a specific cause.
How does IMT happen?
Unfortunately, there is no definite link between a cause and IMT. Occasionally, IMT can be secondary to another disease process. However, when it is the primary problem, there isn’t any one thing that has been discovered as being the cause. Currently, there are mixed feelings as to whether or not over-vaccination is the main cause and one study’s results were inconclusive. When an animal suffers from vaccinosis, it can deplete the immune system enough that the body will actually begin to attack its own cells. In this case, it will attack the platelets. If this occurs, the platelet count will drop and continue to drop until there are none to be found.
Symptoms of IMT include easy bruising, bleeding gums, bleeding in the eyes, dark colored blood in the stool, lethargy, and respiratory distress. In severe cases, immediate death can occur.
Treatment of IMT is difficult and is determined on a case-by-case basis. Oftentimes the use of corticosteroids and immunosuppressive drugs are necessary. As the immune system is depressed, it is less likely to attack the platelets, thereby helping to maintain a more steady platelet count. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that can be stopped and will likely need to be continued for life. With a depleted immune system, the animal will be more prone to other diseases. It has been shown that animals responding well during this initial phase of the disease do have a relatively positive prognosis when compared to those who do not respond well to the medication.
As of right now, there is no treatment that is completely “holistic.” Of course, there are supplements and holistic therapies that can be done in addition to conventional medicine; however, it is not advised that these things be done alone. For instance, milk thistle is a great addition for those with IMT as it supports the organs responsible for detoxification. If vaccinosis is in fact the cause of the disease, then avoiding over-vaccination as well as any vaccines previously given is imperative. Most of these animals will need to stay away from vaccines for the rest of their lives in order to survive.
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