Jessica Niehoff, veterinary technician and groomer in Simpson, Illinois sent me some pictures of a toy poodle she was grooming. The attached text read, “I found these little red spots on the inside of her ears, so then I looked at her gums, and there are also circular red spots there, too. Could this be Petechia? Should I be alarmed?” I responded back quickly saying ” Yes, good catch, should be seen by vet ASAP.” Well, it turned out that the toy poodle was Roxie, one of my own patients, and Stacey, Roxie’s owner, was on the phone asking what she should do. It was almost 5:30 pm and Roxie didn’t know she was sick but by the looks of the pictures Jessica had sent me I knew the sooner she was examined and treated the better her chances were. So soon she was on her way to River’s Edge Veterinary Hospital in Metropolis, IL.
She was bright and alert, didn’t act the least bit sick but the red splotches were evident on her gums and areas with thin skin like the lining of her ears and her belly. I asked Stacey if Roxie could have gotten into any mouse or rat bait as that poison stops blood from being able to clot and these tiny areas of bleeding under the skin are the first signs of poisoning. Stacey said there was no way that Roxie could have eaten any poison at all. We attempted to draw a blood sample to determine many different things including anemia, a description of Roxie’s red blood cells, platelet numbers and clotting times to try to determine exactly what was wrong with her. The normally routine needle stick quickly caused a large swelling of blood called a hematoma under the skin on Roxie’s neck and we were only able to get enough blood to complete a small fraction of the tests I wanted to run. We found that while Roxie had an adequate amount of red blood cells, (she wasn’t anemic, yet) she had virtually no platelets in her bloodstream. Platelets are essential to normal blood clotting and without them Roxie was a greater risk of bleeding internally if she experienced any kind of traumatic event, such has falling off the bed, or externally if she had been cut.
With no history of poisons in her environment and the limited amount of information from the few tests we could perform I diagnosed Roxie with Autoimmune Thrombocytopenia. This means that for some unknown reason, her body was destroying her own platelets and leaving her vulnerable to uncontrollable bleeding. I treated Roxie with steroids to suppress her immune system and Vitamin K supplements, the antidote for rat poisoning, just in case. Stacey took her home with specific instructions to be extra careful with Roxie, no rough housing and no jumping off of furniture. I called the next day and Stacey said she was taking her medicine well and acting “just like always”!
A week later Stacey told me that all the “spots” had disappeared and wondered if she could take Roxie back to get her haircut finished. Jessica had stopped grooming her as soon as I confirmed her suspicion of petechia, the medical term for bleeding under the skin. I told Stacey it was ok to take her back but, just to be safe, not to let Jessica use any scissors! Roxie may well owe her life to Jessica for being knowledgeable, observant and willing to go above and beyond by contacting a veterinarian even before calling the owner. So on behalf of Roxie, Stacey and myself, “Thanks, Jessica, keep up the good work!”