Von Willebrand Disease

Roberto Manzotti

What Is von Willebrand Disease?

Von Willebrand’s Disease or vWD, is a hereditary disease, that is a deficiency in von Willebrand Factor (vWF). This vWF is a protein in the blood that helps with normal blood clotting at the sites of small blood vessel injuries. von Willebrand Factor is also helpful in carrying other proteins to the site of injury, these proteins help to clot blood. Basically, von Willebrand’s Disease can lead to excess bleeding due to a lack of blood clotting

This is the most common bleeding disorder in dogs and humans.

 

Types Of von Willebrand Disease

  • Type 1: A dog with type 1 von Willebrand Disease has all the proteins needed to make up the von Willebrand’s Factor just not enough to sufficiently clot blood. Dogs with type 1 will often show no symptoms until they experience trauma or have surgery.
  • Type 2: With type 2 von Willebrand Disease the dog has sufficient amounts of the vWF. However, the proteins are defective. Dogs with type 2 von Willebrand Disease may experience severe bleeding episodes with no known trauma
  • Type 3: A dog with type 3 vWD is completely lacking von Willebrand Factor. This is the most severe version of von Willebrand Disease and could show itself very early in a dog’s life. Some puppies may experience uncontrolled bleeding during teething.

Some dogs can be genetic carriers of von Willebrand Disease but have no symptoms.

 

What Breeds Are Affected?

von Willebrand’s Disease affects male and female dogs equally. The disease also has the ability to affect any breed and has been found in 50 different breeds. However, there are some breeds of dogs that are more likely to suffer from this disease. von Willebrand Disease

  • Dobermans Pinschers
  • German Shepherds
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Standard Poodles
  • Shetland Sheepdogs
  • Miniature Schnauzers
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgies
  • Bassett Hounds
  • Rottweilers
  • German Short-Haired Pointers
  • German Wire-Haired Pointers
  • Chesapeake Bay Retrievers
  • Scottish Terrier

If you have a breed that is predisposed to von Willebrand Disease then you should ask your vet about getting your dog tested for the disease.

 

What Are The Symptoms?

Dogs that have von Willebrand Disease can live happily for years without any symptoms. The first sign of the disease often happens the first time the dog has surgery. 

Symptoms include:

  • Spontaneous loss of blood, including nose bleeds, bloody stool, blood in urine, excessive vaginal bleeding, and bleeding from the gums
  • Bruising of the skin
  • Prolonged bleeding after injury, surgery, or dental work
  • Anemia after prolonged bleeding

 

What Are The Treatment Options?

There is, currently, no cure for vWD so treatments are aimed at maintenance. Treatment options include blood transfusions. The blood that is transfused will have von Willebrand Factor present in it. This will help with any blood clotting that needs to occur. Repeat transfers may be necessary. If a dog with von Willebrand Disease requires surgery, they will require a blood transfusion prior to surgery.

A vet may also administer a blood product called cryoprecipitate. This blood product is rich in von Willebrand Factor and can be temporarily helpful in clotting blood.

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Prevention of von Willebrand Disease

Prevention is always the best medicine. Because von Willebrands Disease is hereditary the best prevention is careful breeding. All breeding stock should be tested to see if they are carriers of the disease. If they are, even if they show no symptoms, they should not be bred. Be sure to ask your breeder about the vWD test results of the litter’s parents.

 

Life With von Willebrand Disease

Dogs with a mild case of this disease will require little extra care. However, extra care should be taken to protect the dog from injury. More severe cases may require regular blood transfusions with reduced activity. If a dog with von Willebrand Disease has a prolonged episode of bleeding it is important to take him to the vet as quickly as possible.

Keep a list of nearby emergency vets with you and your dog at all times. If you take your dog with you somewhere, be sure to look up emergency vets beforehand. Be sure to tell the vet what type of vWD your dog has so that they can take appropriate action.

It is also important to keep your dog safe from medications that increase bleeding. NSAIDs and sulfa-drugs are among these medications. Always read the fine print to see if a medication might be anti-clotting.

Some supplements may also decrease the body’s ability to form clots and high doses of these should be avoided. These supplements include vitamin C and E. In addition, high doses of omega-3 fatty acids should be avoided.

Reducing your dog’s stress can help to reduce spontaneous bleeding episodes. Dogs with vWD should be monitored closely during times of high stress to keep an eye out for bleeding or bruising. Try to find ways to reduce stress such as offering your dog CBD oil, Rescue Remedy, and offer them lots of time to sniff. Sniffing can be very therapeutic for dogs.

Reducing the exposure a dog with von Willebrand Disease has to rough play is important. Also, keep his safe from hard toys, treats, and chews that might cause injury to his mouth, triggering a bleeding episode. Be sure to be especially careful with nail trimming as well.

 

Conclusion

von Willebrand Disease is a disease that affects how well blood will clot. It is characterized by spontaneous bleeding and extended periods of bleeding for small cuts and wounds. Dogs with the disease may require frequent blood transfusions depending upon the severity of the disease.

To date, there is no cure for von Willebrand Disease. However, it can be prevented through careful breeding and selection of dog parents that do not have genetic markers for the disease. Dogs who do have this disease should not be bred.

Many dogs with von Willebrand Disease will live for years and you will never know that they have an issue. Dogs with mild cases of the disease will often live pretty normal lives with minimal issues. However, care should still be taken to make sure that injury and surgeries are kept to a minimum.

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