Dog: Thromboembolism

General information

Other common/scientific names: blood clots

A thrombosis is the formation of a blood clot at the site of vascular injury or blood impediment. An embolus is a broken off piece of a blood clot which floats downstream and lodges in a narrow part of the blood vessel. Therefore, thromboembolism (TE) is the obstruction of the blood vessel by a blood clot leading to reduced blood flow to the affected area.


Thromboembolism in dogs can be caused by heartworm disease, heart failure, immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, kidney disease, intravenous catheterization, splenic disease, cancer, sepsis and intestinal disease.


The clinical signs of thromboembolism will vary according to the location of the blood clot(s). Dogs with heartworm disease may have thromboembolisms in their lungs. These dogs will have breathing difficulty, coughing, lethargy and lack of appetite. Thromboembolisms in the larger arteries can result in weakness due to lack of blood flow and oxygen. Thromboembolisms to the limbs can result in pain and lameness. A thromboembolism to the brain or a stroke can cause neurologic deficits and even death.


Diagnosis of thromboembolism can be difficult. Ultrasound performed on a blood vessel can show the obstruction and reduced blood flow. Advanced diagnostic tests such as angiography (radiographs taken of a blood vessel which has been injected with a special dye) and magnetic imaging resonance (MRI) are used to pinpoint the clogged blood vessel. These techniques are available at universities and specialty clinics.


Treatment of thromboembolism is aimed at aggressive supportive care, oxygen supplementation and treatment of the underlying disease. Anticoagulants or blood thinners are used to prevent further clot formation. Thrombolytic therapy or medication to dissolve a blood clot has seen limited use in veterinary medicine.


Dogs with thromboembolism have a guarded prognosis. If the underlying cause can be identified and successfully treated and the thromboembolism has not caused permanent damage, then a full recovery is possible. However, this disease has the potential to cause serious, life-threatening organ damage.


Prevention of thromboembolism means identifying the at risk dog. Known risk factors should be addressed and therapy geared toward these susceptible dogs.

Update version: 4/24/2014, © Copyright by
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