On a routine pre-surgical blood screen this week, I was concerned to notice a dangerously low platelet level in a puppy. This is very significant, especially when planning surgery, because platelets are involved in the first stages of blood clotting. Without an adequate number of platelets in the blood, uncontrollable bleeding could occur during surgery.
The surgery was cancelled while we investigated further.
The low platelets were confirmed with a repeat blood test. This is done to ensure the initial result wasn’t related to an error with the blood processing or analyzing machine.
An additional blood test was done to screen for 3 different bacterial infections that can be caused by tick bites: Lyme Disease, Anaplasmosis, and Ehrlichiosis. These infections can reduce platelet counts in dogs weeks to months after exposure to a tick bite.
The puppy tested positive for Anaplasmosis. There are 2 forms of Anaplasmosis in dogs: one causes symptoms similar to Lyme Disease – such as lameness, lethargy, fever, and appetite loss; the other has no obvious external symptoms but causes the platelet level to drop significantly. The blood test does not distinguish which form this puppy had. However, given her lack of any external signs of illness, I suspect she had the latter form.
Medication has been started to treat the infection. Once the infection is cleared, the platelets should return to normal again. Once this is verified, we can safely proceed with the planned spay surgery!
This case demonstrates the importance of tick prevention to avoid serious infections that can come from tick bites. This also highlights the benefits of pre-surgical blood screening!