What Is Von Willebrand's Disease In Dogs ?

Von Willebrand's disease is a congenital blood clotting disorder in dogs that certain breeds are prone to suffer from. The symptoms of the disease are similar to those of haemophilia in humans. In short, it is a bleeding disorder caused by a deficiency of what is termed the von Willebrand Factor or vWF. This is a vital building block needed in the blood that helps clotting in the event of a cut or injury. When missing, bleeding can be excessive which can be a serious cause for concern to to many dog owners and for their pets.

The Symptoms to Watch Out For

This congenital disease may first manifest itself in very young puppies, although more often than not it's first noticed and diagnosed by vets when dogs are taken to be neutered or spayed. It is then evident the dog is suffering from the condition and vets are able to diagnose the extent of the problem and how they may be able to treat it. If you think your dog may have the condition or is prone to get it, the symptoms to look out for include the following:

  • Spontaneous nose bleeds
  • Blood is often present in the dog's faeces
  • Blood can be present in their urine
  • Gums may be prone to episodes of bleeding that will not stop
  • Excessive blood may be apparent in a bitch's vagina
  • A dog's skin may show signs of bruising
  • Prolonged bleeding occurs after surgery or an injury
  • Dogs may become anaemic due to excessive bleeding and blood loss

Some dogs may suffer from a mild form of the disease in which case they can be given a vaccination that may well help the condition. However, if you are at all worried your dog may be showing signs of the condition, no matter how mild you think it is, you would need to make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible for them to make a correct diagnosis and then confirm a treatment for your dog with you.

Diagnosing The Disease

When you take your dog to the vet, they'll perform a thorough physical examination. On top of this, your vet will ask you for some background history regarding your dog's health and when you first became aware of any suspicious symptoms. They will take several tests which should include a complete blood count and urine analysis as well as an electrolyte panel. Should your dog have lost a lot of blood, then the vet should pick this up in the blood count and a regenerative anaemia will be evident. Unless your dog has recently experienced a severe blood loss, the platelet count should be normal.

Treatments For Von Willebrand's Disease

Most dogs with the condition will never actually need to be given any sort of treatment. However, if they need to undergo any type of surgery, or they have experienced severe blood loss due to an injury, they will need to undergo some form of treatment which could include the following:

  • A blood transfusion – if there is a compatible donor
  • Blood replacement products may be administered if your dog has suffered a significant blood loss
  • Supplemental clotting factors may be administered to your dog
  • A type of medication that increases the von Willebrand's factor – albeit temporarily may be given to your dog
  • Other forms of medication as well as treatment that are specific to your dog's particular needs

Living and Managing a Dog with Von Willebrand's Disease

If you have a dog that's been diagnosed with the condition, you may well find it is just a mild to moderate form of vWD and this should not affect the quality of their lives. The majority of dogs with the condition need minimal or no treatment whatsoever. However, dogs with a more severe form of vWD may need a transfusion prior to them having any sort of surgery or if they've suffered some sort of injury that caused them to lose a lot of blood. With this said, dogs with a more severe form of the condition can be treated and maintained at a comfortable level as long as their activities are closely watched and limited.

Breeds Prone to the Condition

Dog breeds that are especially prone to von Willebrand's Disease include the following:

  • Basset Hound
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • German Shepherd
  • German Short-haired Pointer
  • Golden Retriever
  • Rottweiler
  • Schnauzer
  • Scottish Terrier
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Standard Poodle

Prevention

Sadly, vWD is an hereditary condition so there is no cure or prevention as such. However, the best prevention is to never breed from a dog that suffers from it, but with this said, most dogs with vWD live long and healthy lives. If you do think your dog may be suffering from the disease, you need to discuss the issue with your vet, and then keep a close eye on your dog and watch out for any of the symptoms mentioned above. If you know your dog suffers from vWD and they experience some sort of injury or have a spontaneous bleeding episode, you would need to get them to a vet as quickly as possible so that emergency treatment can be administered to them.


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