Disseminated Intravascular Coagulopathy

What is Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation (DIC)?

Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) is a life-threatening bleeding disorder that can result in uncontrolled bleeding and organ failure, which can lead to death. The platelets, proteins, and other elements in your pet’s bloodstream have special roles in clotting the blood. During DIC the body’s natural clotting system is inappropriately activated resulting in the consumption of platelets and clotting proteins and in turn excessive clot formation followed by excessive bleeding.

Disseminated Intravascular Coagulopathy

What are the signs of DIC?

The most common signs of DIC are:

  • Weakness
  • Tiny purple or red spots on the skin and/or gums
  • Bruising
  • Jaundice (yellow skin)
  • Fever
  • Vomiting/diarrhea
  • Rapid heart rate and respiratory rate
Disseminated Intravascular Coagulopathy

What causes DIC?

DIC is categorized into Acute or Chronic categories.

Acute causes include:

  • Sepsis
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Heat stroke
  • Pancreatitis
  • Envenomation
  • Burns
  • Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV)

Chronic causes include:

  • Solid Tumors.
  • Hematopoietic Neoplasia e.g. Hemangiosarcoma.

How is DIC diagnosed?

Examination is always the first step. After a thorough history and examination, your veterinarian will discuss appropriate testing.

It is important to note that there is no single laboratory test that is diagnostic for DIC and early diagnosis is frequently a challenge.

Baseline bloodwork (reduced PLT), imaging such as ultrasound/radiographs, clotting times (aPTT/PT – increased clotting times) are frequently performed to aid in diagnosing DIC.

Disseminated Intravascular Coagulopathy
Disseminated Intravascular Coagulopathy

What is the treatment and prognosis?

Treatment is always directed at the primary condition. Fluid and oxygen therapy is indicated. Transfusion therapy, specifically plasma transfusions, is frequently required when there is a marked increase in bleeding times (i.e. aPTT/PT). This will help the body to re-establish its ability to stop bleeding.

The prognosis of DIC varies with each individual case and cause. It depends on the extent of embolism and blood loss. Severe or hemorrhagic (blood loss) DIC carries a poor to grave prognosis.

Patient Stories