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Dog medical problems: medication advice for staffy with IMTP and IMHA

If your dog or cat becomes suddenly unwell and presents with these symptoms, it could be suffering from a potentially fatal immune condition.

If your dog or cat becomes suddenly unwell and presents with pale gums, difficulty breathing, fever and lethargy, it could be suffering from immune-mediated anaemia.

This frightening condition occurs when the animal’s immune system attacks red blood cells, resulting in anaemia and requires urgent medical attention.

SMARTdaily’s pet columnist and chief veterinary officer at Greencross The Pet Company, Dr Magdoline Awad, addresses this reader’s concerns.


My six-year-old staffy was diagnosed with IMTP and then IMHA (immune mediated haemolytic anaemia and thrombocytopenia) last week and is on steroids to try to bring her PCV (packed cell volume) levels up. She has had a blood transfusion which only brought her level up temporarily. I read online that using melatonin found in St John’s wort has been used with some success along with regular treatments. How do I administer this? I have spoken about it with two of our vets but neither had heard of the treatment. I emailed the vet who did the study, but she wouldn’t give advice without seeing the dog. She is overseas, so that is impossible. I’m willing to try anything to give my fur baby the best hope. – Janine

Thanks for reaching out. This must be a difficult situation for you and your pet. Despite IMTP and IMHA being relatively common diseases, they are still poorly understood and we don’t have the perfect treatment.

Steroids are the main option as they are usually very effective in suppressing inflammation and reducing breakdown of the body’s own cells.

However, as you’re probably aware, they carry side effects, especially when used long term.

For this reason, other drugs that suppress the immune system are also used to bring these conditions under control. Melatonin, while relatively inexpensive, is controversial.

The American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine consensus statement suggests that further investigation is required to determine whether melatonin is effective and how it can be used in treatment of this disease.

Some over-the-counter formulations of melatonin contain xylitol which can be toxic to dogs.

For these reasons, I would not be using it without consulting a veterinarian who knows your dog’s case. Your vet may also want to perform an abdominal ultrasound or refer you to a medicine specialist.

Ensuring there is no obvious underlying cause to the IMHA/IMTP will give the best chance of recovery, however, in many cases the trigger for the disease is never identified.



Originally published as This week: Dr Magdoline Awad looks at IMTP and IMHA

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