What is Von Willebrand's Disease ?
Prolonged bleeding after surgery is the most commonly found symptom. Some dogs do not exhibit any outward symptoms. Often, dogs will spontaneously hemorrhage from the mouth, nose, vagina or bladder. Stress often serves as a precursor to a bleeding event. The correlation of stress has been made in the disorder in humans as well. If stress is a required component, it would explain why dogs with one or two copies of the mutant gene sometimes show symptoms while at other times they do not.
Von Willebrand’s disease is the most frequently inherited bleeding disorder in dogs. It is particularly common in Doberman Pinschers. Fortunately, Doberman Pinschers usually have the least severe version of the disease. Other breeds commonly affected are Golden Retrievers, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Standard Poodles, Welsh Corgis, Miniature Schnauzers, German Wirehaired Pointers, German Shorthaired Pointers, German Shepherd, Manchester Terriers, Scottish Terriers and Akitas. It can cause extended bleeding in dogs, sometimes leading to death.
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Symptoms of Von Willebrand's Disease in Dogs
- Hemorrhage from mucous membranes
- Prolonged bleeding after surgery or trauma
- Excessive bleeding from a minor abrasion
Causes of Von Willebrand's Disease in Dogs
Von Willebrand disease is genetic in nature. Its mode of inheritance is autosomal incomplete dominant. Dogs possessing two copies of the mutant gene have the most severe form of the disease. Dogs with only one copy of the mutant gene responsible for Von Willebrand’s disease sometimes show no clinical symptoms. Some dogs appear to be unaffected when they are young but show symptoms later in life. Conversely, some pet parents report symptoms improving over time. Because dogs can carry one mutant gene but not show clinical symptoms, pedigree history is needed to determine if the dog should be used in a breeding program. Because of the overwhelming amount of Doberman Pinschers affected, any male or female considered should first be tested to see if they are carriers. It is advised that any Doberman Pinscher is tested, or at least the medical history examined, before surgery as well.
Diagnosis of Von Willebrand's Disease in Dogs
There are tests that can help the diagnostic process for Von Willebrand disease. The buccal mucosal screening time test can indicate prolonged bleeding. Additionally, a blood test verified at the laboratory will show the presence of the Von Willebrand Factor (vWF). It is highly suggested if you have a Doberman Pinscher to have them tested if they ever need to undergo even a minor surgery. With other breeds commonly affected you may choose to have them tested as well. Genetic testing is another option for identifying the disease.
The most frequent way diagnosis is made is when a veterinarian staff member notices abnormal bleeding after surgery. Depending on the severity of the situation, there is a chance the team may not gain control of the bleeding and the dog could bleed to death. Von Willebrand disease is also sometimes diagnosed when the pet parent observes the dog hemorrhaging from the mouth, nose, vagina or bladder.
Treatment of Von Willebrand's Disease in Dogs
There is no cure for Von Willebrand disease, though it can be managed by careful pet parents. Clotting agents can be used in the event that the dog needs surgery. Blood transfusions are likely to be needed. The donating dog can be treated with coagulants to assist the dog receiving blood.
As an owner of a canine with Von Willebrand’s disease, you should be aware of the caution needed to manage the disease. As part of the treatment, your veterinarian can inform you on associated risks:
- Certain medications can precipitate an event (ibuprofen, antihistamines, some antibiotics)
- Stress may exacerbate the problem
- Bruising can be risky, check your pet after rough play
Recovery of Von Willebrand's Disease in Dogs
Dogs with Von Willebrand’s disease are not good candidates for daycare as a small scratch can lead to severe bleeding. Nail trimming will need to be carefully managed and likely performed by a trusted professional. Females will need to be spayed to avoid excessive bleeding during a heat cycle. Bones or hard toys that may cause bleeding of the gums should be avoided. Dogs often also scrape the inside of their mouth or face on sticks. Safe sticks are available for purchase as increasing awareness of mouth injuries for any dog playing fetch has driven commerce. Depending on the severity of the case, careful management of other dogs in the household may be needed. Dogs with Von Willebrand’s disease often develop hypothyroidism. For this reason, a yearly thyroid test is advised.