Heart (Aortic) Blood Clot in Dogs

Aortic thromboembolism (ATE) is a condition in which a blood clot (thrombus) is dislodged within the aorta, the largest artery of the body. The blood clot generally forms in the left atrium (one of the chambers of the heart). It is dislodged and moves through the left ventricle and into the aorta. At some point, the thrombus lodges in the aorta or arteries coming off of the aorta. The size of the blood clot determines where it stops. This event blocks the flow of blood to any tissues in the dog's body linked to that section of the artery. Aorta, being the largest artery in the body, provides oxygenated blood to several organs of the body including the legs, kidneys, intestines, and brain. Therefore, when supply of oxygenated blood to any of these vital organs stops, consequences are usually very serious or may be fatal.

The most common site for the clot to lodge is in the far part of the aorta, in the area between the rear legs. This cuts off the blood supply to both rear legs. However, the clot can lodge other arteries as well that serve oxygenated blood to front legs, kidneys, intestines or brain. 

Also called saddle thrombus because of the saddle-like shape the clot roughly resembles once it takes up residence in this location, the condition is uncommon and rare in dogs.

Common symptoms associated with aortic thromboembolism include



Pain (especially in the legs)

Abnormalities with gait and/or lameness

Difficult breathing (e.g., tachypnea)

Unusual barking or anxious temperament

Bluish or pale nail beds and food pads


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