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Posted on 09-14-2016

Cavalier Thrombocytopenia: Should I Worry or Not?

You can get 30 points if you play the word, thrombocytopenia, in a game of Scrabble. It is a big word with an even bigger meaning. The word thrombocytopenia refers to having a lower than normal platelet count in your blood. What are platelets, you ask? Well, platelets are the first line of defense when you begin to bleed. Without getting too technical, platelets are the first step in forming a blood clot. Thus, they are extremely important to your well-being.

In veterinary medicine, many of the underlying causes for a dog or cat to have a low platelet count are extremely serious disease processes. Veterinarians are vigilant about determining the underlying cause so that the pet can be treated appropriately and avoid a worse scenario or death.

The interesting fact is that many Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (CKCS) have a low platelet count and that is normal for those dogs. Studies suggest that up to 30-50% of Cavaliers may have a low platelet count on routine labwork. This is due to a recessive genetic mutation that researchers at Auburn University identified in 2007. Those pets that have the mutation, have no clinical symptoms and importantly require no treatments!

I have the good fortune of working with many Cavalier King Charles Spaniels in Austin, TX. Through this exposure, I have learned that many of these pets show evidence of thrombocytopenia. Importantly, though, many show no other symptoms of disease such as bruising, blood spots, or lethargy. Due to the recent scientific identification of this genetic mutation, many of these patients previously had been assumed to have a worse disease and treated as such.

What should Cavalier owners do with this information? As G.I. Joe used to say, “knowing is half the battle.” Have the awareness that this condition exists and pass it on to other Cavalier breeders and owners. If you or your veterinarian need any further aid in determining whether your Cavalier has this mutation, a genetic test was created at Auburn University to identify those affected. 

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