Understanding ITP in Cocker Spaniels

Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

CockerSpaniel.org Volunteer Staff

2/20/20243 min read

brown and black long coated dog on purple flower field during daytime
brown and black long coated dog on purple flower field during daytime


Immune thrombocytopenia (ITP), also known as idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, is a rare but serious autoimmune disorder that can affect dogs, including Cocker Spaniels. ITP is characterized by a low platelet count, which can lead to excessive bleeding and bruising. While the exact cause of ITP is often unknown, prompt recognition and treatment are essential for managing the condition and preventing complications. In this article, we'll explore what ITP is, its potential causes, common symptoms, and available treatment options, with a focus on its implications for Cocker Spaniels.

What is ITP?

ITP is an autoimmune disorder in which the dog's immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys its own platelets, which are essential for blood clotting. This immune-mediated destruction of platelets leads to a low platelet count (thrombocytopenia) and an increased risk of bleeding and bruising. ITP is considered idiopathic, meaning that the exact cause is often unknown.

Causes of ITP:

While the exact cause of ITP in dogs, including Cocker Spaniels, is often unknown, several factors may contribute to the development of the condition:

  1. Abnormal Immune Response: ITP is believed to occur when the dog's immune system mistakenly identifies its own platelets as foreign invaders and attacks them, leading to their destruction.

  1. Underlying Conditions: In some cases, ITP may occur secondary to underlying conditions such as infections, cancer, or certain medications. These factors can trigger an abnormal immune response that leads to the destruction of platelets.

  1. Genetic Predisposition: While not fully understood, certain breeds, including Cocker Spaniels, may have a genetic predisposition to developing autoimmune disorders such as ITP.

Symptoms of ITP:

The symptoms of ITP can vary depending on the severity of the condition and the extent of platelet destruction. Common signs of ITP in Cocker Spaniels may include:

  • Easy bruising or petechiae (small red or purple spots on the skin)

  • Nosebleeds or bleeding from the gums

  • Blood in the urine or stool

  • Lethargy or weakness

  • Pale gums or mucous membranes (due to anemia)

  • Vomiting or diarrhea

  • Sudden collapse or weakness in severe cases

Diagnosis and Treatment:

If ITP is suspected in a Cocker Spaniel, prompt veterinary attention is essential for diagnosis and treatment. The veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination, including blood tests to evaluate the dog's platelet count, clotting function, and markers of inflammation. Additional diagnostic tests, such as a bone marrow biopsy or imaging studies, may be recommended to rule out underlying conditions.

Treatment for ITP typically involves a combination of supportive care, immunosuppressive medications, and addressing any underlying causes. Common treatment options may include:

  1. Immunosuppressive Therapy: Corticosteroids such as prednisone are often used to suppress the abnormal immune response and reduce inflammation. Additional immunosuppressive medications, such as azathioprine or cyclosporine, may be prescribed in severe cases.

  1. Supportive Care: Supportive care may include blood transfusions to replace lost platelets, intravenous fluids to maintain hydration, and medications to manage symptoms such as pain or nausea.

  1. Treatment of Underlying Conditions: If an underlying cause of ITP is identified, such as an infection or cancer, appropriate treatment will be necessary to address the underlying condition and prevent recurrence.

  1. Monitoring and Follow-Up: Dogs with ITP require close monitoring and regular follow-up appointments with the veterinarian to assess their response to treatment, monitor their platelet count, and adjust medications as needed.


The prognosis for dogs with ITP can vary depending on the severity of the condition, the dog's overall health, and how quickly treatment is initiated. While ITP can be a life-threatening condition, many dogs respond well to aggressive treatment and supportive care, especially if diagnosed and treated early. However, some cases of ITP may be more difficult to manage, and the prognosis may be guarded, particularly in cases of severe thrombocytopenia or complications such as uncontrolled bleeding.


ITP is a serious and potentially life-threatening autoimmune disorder that can affect Cocker Spaniels and other dog breeds. While the exact cause of ITP is often unknown, prompt recognition and treatment are essential for managing the condition and preventing complications. If you suspect that your Cocker Spaniel may be experiencing symptoms of ITP, seek veterinary attention immediately for diagnosis and treatment. With timely intervention and appropriate care, many dogs with ITP can achieve a positive outcome and enjoy a good quality of life.