Importance of blood tests before surgery

This month we had an interesting case in clinic, which displays a good example as to why we encourage all patients to have a blood test before surgery.

We had a young, seemingly healthy dog come in for a routine desexing. Lucky for her, her owners consented to pre-anaesthetic bloods which showed some abnormal results. We postponed the surgery and send her bloods off to the lab for more extensive testing. The lab reported that this dog was most likely suffering from Immune Mediated Thrombocytopenia (IMPT).

This is a condition where the immune system starts destroying its own blood platelets instead of infection. Platelets are used to clot the blood and prevent bleeding. If this dog had gone ahead with surgery there is a good chance she could have had a fatal bleed, during or post-surgery.

IMPT would usually be diagnosed when an animal comes in with signs such as bruising on the skin, bleeding from the nose and mouth or blood in urine or faeces. More severe cases would have pale gums, lethargy, trouble breathing etc. The interesting thing about this case was that the dog otherwise seemed very fit and healthy at home, and the owners had no concerns. A common cause for the low platelet count found in blood is rat bait poisoning, but there was no way she had access to anything like that. IMPT does not always have an underlying cause, and can be deemed idiopathic (unknown). However some triggers may be; infection or inflammation, a reaction to drugs or, cancer. All of these are ideally investigated once diagnosed.

IMPT can be treated with immune supressing drugs, as the overactive immune system is what has caused the low platelets. It is a long process that requires many regular vet visits and blood tests.

Pre-anaesthetic blood tests are not always compulsory, but should be a serious consideration for everyone whose pet is going under anaesthetic. In this case it may have saved her life.