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Also called polycythemia vera.

Polycythemia vera is a blood thickening disorder that is caused when the blood of the animal thickens due to the overproduction of red blood cells by the bone marrow. This condition is primarily seen in older dogs.

General Symptoms of Polycythemia Vera

Symptoms of this condition appear gradually but have a very chronic course. Afflicted dogs may show the following symptoms:

  • General weakness
  • Depression
  • A lack of appetite (anorexia)
  • Redness of the skin (erythema)
  • An increase in thirst and urination (polydipsia and polyuria)

What Causes Polycythemia Vera In Dogs?

Blood viscosity is due to an increase in the production of red blood cells by the bone marrow. The cause of the overproduction is not known at this time.

Diagnosis of Polycythemia Vera

Your veterinarian will require a thorough history of the dog's health as well a history of the onset and nature of the symptoms. With this, the veterinarian will do a complete physical examination as well as a biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and blood count (CBC). Through blood testing, your veterinarian will see an increase in red blood cells. Also, in approximately 50 percent of cases, there is often an increase in the number of white blood cells (leukocytosis) as well.

In addition to the above tests, your veterinarian will also need to assess the function of the kidneys as well as the cardiopulmonary systems through X-rays and abdominal ultrasounds. He may also perform an echocardiography to evaluate the animal's cardiac functions.

Sometimes the veterinarian will also take samples of the bone marrow to be examined by a veterinary pathologist.

Treating Polycythemia Vera

For quick relief, the veterinarian will need to draw a fairly large amount of blood from the animal. This will be replaced with intravenous fluids to help decrease the blood's viscosity.

Long-term therapy usually involves placing the animal on an antineoplastic drug called hydroxyurea. This drug is meant to suppress the overproduction of red blood cells in the bone marrow.

Managing and Living With the Disease

Animals suffering from polycythemia vera will need to be seen by your veterinarian on a regular basis for follow-up exams. This is especially true when the animal is on hydroxyurea. Sometimes this drug may cause marrow suppression in the patient.

It is also very important that you follow the veterinarian's explicit dosage recommendations when the animal is given hydroxyurea. This is a chemotherapy drug and, as such, it is a highly toxic drug.

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