This is a potentially life-threatening disorder characterized by low platelet numbers.  Platelets function in the vascular system to help the blood clot when necessary.  In this disease, the body has begun to destroy its own platelets for an unknown reason.  Symptoms include bleeding from the gums, nose, or genitalia, bruising of the skin, blood in the urine or the stool, pale gums, swelling of the abdomen, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, or vomiting.  If significant hemorrhage occurs, intensive treatment is needed to save the animal.

Treatment is directed in two areas.  Supportive treatment is used to stabilize the patient until the immune system destruction can be controlled.  Supportive measures may include oxygen, blood transfusion, IV fluids, cage rest, antibiotics, and platelet releasing drugs.  Corticosteroids are the initial drugs used to control the immune system.  High doses are used initially.  Doses can be reduced slowly by the doctor as long as the disease remains under control.  Some patients require life-long medication.  Side effects include increased thirst, urination, appetite and weight gain, panting, hair thinning, and a predisposition to developing diabetes mellitus.  As the dose is reduced, these side effects will diminish.  However, if the dose is reduced too quickly, ITP may recur.  If an individual fails to respond to corticosteroids, other immunosuppressive drugs may be recommended.

Diagnostic tests are used to confirm the presence of ITP and to determine its effects on other organ systems.  Blood counts, coagulation studies, bone marrow evaluation, radiographs, chemistry panels, urinalysis, parasite screens, immune testing and ultrasound exams are some of the tests used in the disease.