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Saddle Thrombus (or aortic thromboembolism) in Dogs… Symptoms, expectations and costs!

As a pet owner, it’s pretty safe to say that if you are speaking with your vet about your animal’s health, you generally don’t want to have the word “aortic” come into play, which is why we wanted to take a moment and discuss what to expect if you ever find yourself in a situation. This could happen especially because, if you noticed, even though we’ve titled this article “Saddle Thrombus in Dogs,” aortic thromboembolism can happen to dogs, cats, or even us humans! So now that we’ve probably gained your attention let’s dive right into the topic and see if we can’t answer some of your questions about this condition.

What is Saddle Thrombus?

Saddle thrombus is a condition that goes by many names. Names such as:

  • Saddle thrombus,
  • Aortic thromboembolism.

As well as the more common name, which is a heart blood clot. Now, regardless of which character you prefer, one thing is for sure: this is a severe medical condition. This is because it is a condition that describes when a blood clot in the aorta “breaks free” and starts to move throughout the vascular system, potentially causing “problems” along the way.

This is known as…

Aortic thromboembolism could be life-threatening. You see, the aorta delivers oxygen to most of the central regions of the body, and the last thing you want to have to happen is if a piece of “plaque” or other “obstruction” interferes with the proper flow of blood throughout your body… right?

Who is at risk?

It’s far more common for cats to have aortic thromboembolisms than dogs to suffer from it. This is called feline aortic thromboembolism and often happens in the left atrium rather than the right. Cats usually have a type of thromboembolism that goes to the iliac arteries. These are the arteries that reach the cat’s stomach region. Now, there is also some evidence that among dogs, those with canine immune-mediated hemolytic anemia are at a higher risk of developing a thromboembolism than dogs that do not have IMHA.

Symptoms of aortic thromboembolism

It’s tricky to know such a severe thing is happening, but you will see some significant clinical signs and symptoms in your cat if it is. They will demonstrate much pain, particularly in the rear legs. Other symptoms that will show up with arterial thromboembolism include:

  • Blue paws or nail beds,
  • Problem breathing,
  • Overall difficulty in moving. They may appear to have a gait,
  • Sudden paralysis,
  • Unwillingness to move,
  • Vomiting,
  • Strange temperament,
  • And excessive sweating.

These are all severe signs that could indicate clots or another heart condition, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Whenever you see such symptoms, you should immediately take your dog or cat to the veterinarian for further investigation.

Diagnosis of aortic thromboembolism

The vet will see the dog or cat’s condition and listen to their health history. From there, the vet will likely want the animal to undergo tests and studies, such as a urinalysis or chest x-ray. Your pet may also have an MRI, blood test, blood pressure check, and other such things to help diagnose and identify the condition.

Your dog…

They could also suffer from a pulmonary embolism, which means the clot or embolism has moved from the arteries to the lungs. This is why it’s essential to get to the vet immediately rather than trying to diagnose your dog or cat online.

Treatment of aortic thromboembolism 

If your dog or cat suffers from saddle thrombus, they will probably have to be put in the animal ICU immediately; otherwise, they may not survive. From there, your vet will determine whether or not surgery may be needed to remove the clot, or clot-dissolving medications might do the trick!

Prognosis of aortic thromboembolism in dogs and or cats

Fortunately, there are treatment options for pets that acquire an aortic thromboembolism. A full recovery is possible for many diagnosed early and don’t suffer significant symptoms immediately. The problem is that once this problem has occurred, your pet will remain at an increased risk for it to happen again, which can burden an owner’s heartstrings and wallet!

Which brings us to…

We want to remind folks that we at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians, or medical professionals. We are all a bunch of folks passionate about animals and only want what’s best for them. This is why if you feel like your pet may have saddle thrombus (or any other health issue), you’ll first want to have them checked out by a vet ASAP! An early diagnosis will often lead to the “best” medical outcome for your pet regardless of what is bothering them, but beyond that, diagnosing a medical condition early could save you a bundle in medical costs!

Cost of Treatment

This is not easy to deal with, and as we mentioned, your dog or cat will have routine checkups for the rest of their life – even if they are healthy. Leaving the treatment cost aside, this will be at least $100 every six or eight months.


On average, a single x-ray costs $250 (could be more), and other diagnostic tests are expensive. It could cost as much as $700 to get a diagnosis. Then, the actual costs of putting your dog or cat in intensive care. It all adds up. You might spend as much as $3000 on getting treatment for your pet. This is why we here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost for you to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.

Now, will a pet insurance policy be suitable for everyone?

No, probably not. But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.

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