UC Davis veterinarian discovers rare blood disorder in cat

A cat with Glanzmann's Thrombasthenia sitting in a basket.
A cat with Glanzmann's Thrombasthenia sitting in a basket.

September 27, 2020


Miao Miao, a four-year-old male domestic shorthair cat, was brought to the University of California, Davis veterinary hospital with persistent nosebleeds. Based on previous medical issues, his owners were aware that he had some variation of a blood platelet disorder, but the exact makeup of that was never discovered. Specialists with UC Davis’ internal medicine service ran a range of tests to discover the root of his bleeding issue. A complete blood count showed that Miao Miao was not anemic, had no evidence of inflammation, and a normal platelet count. An ultrasound also was performed, which showed that Miao Miao had no evidence of bleeding into any of his other bodily cavities.

Miao Miao was hospitalized for a few days to ensure he did not develop significant bleeding, and so that the team could discuss his case with other clinicians and researchers. Through a collaboration of UC Davis emergency, internal medicine, and research specialists, a unique cause to Miao Miao’s bleeding was found.

Ronald Li, DVM, MVetMed, PhD, DACVECC, a critical care specialist with the UC Davis veterinary hospital’s emergency room, operates a platelet physiology laboratory with equipment and capabilities found in only a handful of veterinary centers around the world. By utilizing Dr. Li’s laboratory equipment and expertise, Miao Miao’s platelets were analyzed using state-of-the-art testing of his platelet function. Li discovered that Miao Miao has a congenital platelet disorder—Glanzmann thrombasthenia (GT)—that has never been reported in a cat. GT causes Miao Miao’s platelets to be nonfunctional and lack expression of a protein called integrin, which is important for the formation of blood clot.

In humans and dogs, GT is caused by a genetic mutation in the genes responsible for making a platelet protein that is essential for clot formation. Li is currently analyzing Miao Miao’s DNA to further characterize his genetic mutations. He hopes to identify the mutation so that cats with a similar bleeding disorder can be tested in the future.

As Miao Miao is the first cat ever diagnosed with GT, there is currently no standard protocol of treatment. It will most likely continue to put him at risk of spontaneous bleeding the rest of his life. One method that has worked in similar cases is the use of yunnan baiyao, a Chinese herbal formula with antihemorrhagic effects that was popularized during the Vietnam War. Vietcong soldiers were known to carry the holistic medicine to stop the bleeding of wounds incurred during battle. Miao Miao’s owners report it seems to be successful in treating his bleeding.

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