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Von Willebrand’s Disease in Dogs

An Uncommon Blood Disorder

By January 24, 2014 | See Comments

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Von Willebrand's Disease is a genetic disorder found in certain breeds and is usually passed down from mother to pup. Although there are no known cures for this disease, there are precautions that you and your vet can take.

Von Willebrand’s disease is an inherited genetic disorder that causes dogs’ bodies to have difficulty clotting blood. Particularly after surgery or an inadvertent trauma, this can be highly problematic. Even though there’s no cure for Von Willebrand’s disease in dogs, the condition can be managed in most pets. Learn more about how to detect Von Willebrand’s, the science behind what happens, and what to do if you discover your dog has the disease.

Causes of Von Willebrand’s Disease in Dogs

Von Willebrand’s disease occurs when there is a problem with the Von Willebrand’s factor, which is a set of protein molecules that works within the blood to help create clots. The problems that could occur are either a shortage of the factor, or a deficiency in the makeup of the factor. Three variants of the disease exist:

  • Type 1: When dogs have type 1, the most common variant, they have less Von Willebrand’s factor within their blood than they need. The mildest form of the disease, this type is often symptomless, and is often detected post-surgery when the dog doesn’t properly clot.

  • Type 2: This type is more serious than type 1. Dogs will have less Von Willebrand’s factor within their blood, and it also won’t be properly composed.

  • Type 3: In this very serious type of the disease, the Von Willebrand’s factor is missing altogether.

This disease is inherited through either of the parents, and is more common in some breeds than in others, such as Dobermans, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, and Poodles.

Symptoms of the Disease

Many dogs with this disease will remain symptomless until surgery or a traumatic event if they have type 1. Dogs with more severe variants might have bleeding gums or bloody urine, or experience frequent bruises and nose bleeds. The most revealing symptom occurs when a dog is bleeding, and fails to stop bleeding naturally, since the blood is not properly coagulating and clotting. Very often, the problem is detected during the routine surgeries a dog has as a puppy like being spayed or neutered.

Treatment of Von Willebrand’s

Unfortunately, no cure exists for Von Willebrand’s, and since the disease is inherited from a dog’s parents, no prevention exists either. If you are considering breeding your dog, it’s important to test if they have this disorder, since it would pass to their offspring.

It’s important to have a plan for dealing with Von Willebrand’s disease prior to any surgery, since coagulation is so key to recovery. Leading into surgery, your vet can provide the dog with a hormone that leads to creation of Von Willebrand’s factor within the blood -- unfortunately, the effect only occurs for a short amount of time, so this hormone isn’t a cure for the disease in the long term.

More on Dog Disorders

Common Dog Sleep Disorders
Vestibular Disorder in Dogs
What is Dancing Doberman Disease?

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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Von Willebrand's Disease at a glance

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  • 1This bleeding disorder prevents a dog’s blood from clotting properly.
  • 2There are three different variants of Von Willebrand’s disease, of varying severity.
  • 3There is no prevention for this genetic disorder, but don't breed dogs with the condition.
  • 4Some breeds are more likely to carry this disease, such as Dobermans, German Shepherds, and Retrievers.
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