Von Willebrand's Disease in Dogs is actually one of the most common bleeding disorders among the canine population.
It's quite common that an estimated 30 dog breeds are said to be suffering from it.
Good thing that there are several ways to manage this blood disease.
In this article, let's find out what is Von Willebrand's Disease in dogs, what are its clinical signs and symptoms, how to treat it, and if diagnosed, how we can help our dogs to live with it.
What is Von Willebrand's Disease in Dogs?
Von Willebrand's Disease, or VWD for short, is a blood disease caused by the abnormal number and/or functioning of the Von Willebrand factor, a kind of protein in the blood that helps platelets stick to wounds or injuries to form a clot.
Think of it as an off-brand sealant. It just won't help in sealing whatever needs sealing!
In animals, Von Willebrand's Disease is more common in dogs than it is in cats.
But did you know that VWD is also a common bleeding disorder in humans? Don't worry, though; dogs didn't get it from us and we certainly don't get it from them.
And while Von Willebrand's Disease may look similar to another bleeding disorder called hemophilia, they are actually two separate conditions.
Testing is necessary to determine which is which to formulate a more effective treatment plan.
There's no getting Von Willebrand's Disease in Dogs by some external causes–they are actually born with it!
Genetics plays a key role in why the Von Willebrand factor doesn't work well with the blood platelets to seal any types of wounds or injuries in a body.
Dogs inherit two VWD genes—one from the dad and one from the mom. Studies say that even if only one of those two VWD genes acts abnormally, it can already affect the clotting ability of their blood.
Because Von Willebrand's Disease is hereditary and therefore inheritable, most experts advise to not breed dogs with this disease.
Breeds prone to Von Willebrand's Disease
Experts estimate that there are at least 30 dog breeds affected with Von Willebrand's Disease.
You may want to talk to your vet if your dog is one of the following breeds:
- Doberman Pinscher
- German Shepherd
- Golden Retriever
- Shetland Sheepdog
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever
- German Pinscher
- German Shorthaired Pointer
- German Wirehaired Pointer
- Kerry Blue Berrier
- Manchester Terrier
- Pembroke Welsh Corgi
- English Pointer
- Scottish Terrier
Among the dog breeds above, Dobermans are said to have the highest occurrence of Von Willebrand's Disease.
There are even studies saying almost half of the Doberman population is a VWD carrier. But the silver lining is that they usually only have the mildest type of it.
Classification of Von Willebrand's Disease in Dogs
Speaking of types, Von Willebrand's Disease is actually classified into three variants, based on the quantity and structure of the Von Willebrand factor in the blood.
Each type also has different implications for the affected dog.
The most common form among the three, Von Willebrand's Disease Type 1 still causes lower-than-normal levels of the Von Willebrand factor.
Although a small amount is still present enough for the blood to clot, there will still be minimal bleeding problems.
Dobermans, Shetland Sheepdogs, German Shepherds, and Standard Poodles are commonly diagnosed with this variant.
Compared to the first type, Von Willebrand's Disease Type 2 is more severe. T
here is a lower concentration of the Von Willebrand factor and its cells have an abnormal structure that causes it to not function properly.
The German Shorthaired and German Wirehaired Pointers are most prone to this type.
The most severe of all three variants, Von Willebrand's Disease Type 3 practically means your dog has a total or near-total absence of Von Willebrand factor.
This also means longer bleeding time and more serious bleeding tendencies compared to the other types.
Some of the dog breeds that commonly have this variant are Scotties Terriers, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Dutch Kooiker, and Shetland Sheepdogs.
Clinical Signs and Symptoms of Von Willebrand's Disease in Dogs
There's no saying in the beginning that a dog has Von Willebrand's Disease. There are no outward signs of it, after all.
Some affected dogs may also be late bleeders. It will only start manifesting probably after an injury or undergoing some surgery, and then that's only when you'll notice the non-stop bleeding.
This prolonged bleeding is the most common clinical finding of Von Willebrand's Disease.
Excessive bruising can also be another tell-tale sign of VWD.
In severe cases, some dogs can bleed in the nose, gums, or genitalia out of nowhere. You'll also probably spot blood in their urine or stool.
Female dogs that are giving birth may experience excessive bleeding too. Plus, her pups could also inherit it.
Too much bleeding, if not controlled, may end up causing anemia and blood loss, and later on, death may occur.
Testing for Von Willebrand's Disease in Dogs
There are several ways to test if your dog has Von Willebrand's Disease.
This is especially important for the breeds that are most prone to VWD.
Early detection, after all, is key to preventing any more unfortunate incidents from happening.
To accurately diagnose Von Willebrand's Disease, some (or all) of the tests below may be done at the clinic or hospital.
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
The initial test may include having a complete blood count to make sure that there are no other causes of excessive bleeding.
A dog with VWD should still have a normal platelet count otherwise, its unexplained bleeding may be caused by other diseases.
Buccal Mucosal Bleeding Time (BMBT)
After checking for the platelet count, another important thing is to test if they are, in fact, functioning properly.
The Buccal Mucosal Bleeding Time involves making a small and precise cut on the dog to evaluate the bleeding time and the ability of the platelets to clot in the wound.
This is done under an expert's supervision, so nothing to worry about, fur parent!
Coagulation Panel Testing
Other possible factors affecting a blood's ability to clot will be further examined through Coagulation Panel Testing.
This is only like any other blood test, so there are only minimal (if none) possible risks and side effects.
If your dog has a normal platelet count (from the CBC test) and a normal clotting profile (from the coagulation panel testing) but still with excessive bleeding, a specific Von Willebrands factor testing may be done to ultimately determine your dog's diagnosis.
Immunoassays are done to ultimately check the presence and the number of Von Willebrand factor proteins in the blood.
This also assesses the Von Willebrand factor's ability to bind collagen fibers in the same way it should be able to bind blood vessels.
Most Von Willebrand's Disease diagnoses in dogs are verified using immunoassays.
Because this is a genetically inherent disease, a DNA test can determine if a puppy is a carrier of VWD. This is mostly done to screen dogs in breeding programs.
But under normal circumstances (or as normal as it can get!) dogs usually get diagnosed with Von Willebrand's Disease at 4 years of age.
Let me say this upfront. There is no cure for Von Willebrand's Disease. You and your dog just have got to live with it.
But luckily, getting diagnosed with Von Willebrand's Disease generally does not affect a dog's quality of life.
It can still go on and do the things it loves doing with only minimal or no special treatment at all!
However, always be cautious, of course. Try to avoid any accidents or events that may cause them to bruise or bleed.
As you may know by now, even just the slightest cut can be pretty dangerous for your dog that has VWD.
Treatment for Von Willebrand's Disease in Dogs
If your dog has been diagnosed with Von Willebrand's Disease and uncontrollable bleeding happens for whatever reason, it's best to go to the vet right away.
In an emergency situation, blood and plasma transfusion may be done to prevent blood loss.
This will also help increase the Von Willebrand factor in your dog's blood.
Sometimes, it is also done at the pre-operative stage to prevent surgical hemorrhage.
Under special circumstances, a synthetic hormone called Desmopressin Acetate (DDAVP) may also be given to the dog with VWD or to the dog that's donating the blood to help increase its Von Willebrand factor.
But direct administration of this to the affected dog is only advisable for Type 1 patients.
For minor injuries, the bleeding may be managed through sutures, bandages, or wound glue.
They may also be given other medications that don't contain components that affect normal blood clotting mechanisms.
Von Willebrand's Disease in Dogs: What Owners Can Do
Stress can be one of the factors that aggravate this bleeding problem both for dogs and humans.
If your dog has VWD, it's best to maintain a stress-free lifestyle and a generally easygoing environment around it.
You should always keep a look out too for any bleeding or bruising episodes in your dog.
Also, keep a record as to when and how often it happens. This information can be very valuable for future medical procedures your dog may undergo.
Most dogs with Von Willebrand's Disease can be maintained comfortably, but their activities have to always be monitored, and at times, limited.
It's best to have your vet's number on speed dial, so anytime your dog has prolonged bleeding, you can call your vet and bring your dog over for emergency treatment.
FAQs on Von Willebrand's Disease in Dogs
Can a Dog live with Von Willebrand's Disease?
Von Willebrand's Disease in dogs (and even humans) is lifelong. There's no cure for it!
But the good news is it can be managed.
With proper stress management, treatment, and prevention of any untoward incident that may cause injury or trauma, your dog can live happily and healthily with despite its Von Willebrand's Disease.
How much is a Von Willebrand's Disease test for Dogs?
This Dog Von Willebrand Disease test is being offered by EasyDNA for $69. This is focused on looking for specific mutations in the DNA that causes Type 1 VWD.
Because this is a DNA test, a blood sample is not needed. Just a simple swab sample from the cheek of your dog, then you're done!
After seven days, you'll know for sure whether your dog has Von Willebrand's Disease or not.
There are also other laboratories that offer the same genetic testing for VWD which ranges from $45 and above.
However, even though there are available do-it-yourself DNA swab tests for your dogs, it's still best to consult with experts.
Your veterinarian should know what are the best tests to get to ultimately determine your dog's condition.
And depending on your location, the provider, and the facility, each vet visit can range from $45 to $250 for a routine check-up, which may include or exclude any lab test costs.
What medications should be avoided with Von Willebrand's Disease for Dogs?
If your dog is suffering from any other illness apart from Von Willebrand's Disease like allergies, always make sure that whatever medication they're taking is not a contraindication to their VWD.
There are specific compounds that can either act as a blood thinner or affect blood clotting. Some of the medications to look out for are:
- Antacid medications
- Sulfa-based antibiotics
Ask your vet about the best and most appropriate meds your dog can take to relieve it of any other illnesses apart from Von Willebrand's Disease.
Von Willebrand's Disease in Dogs – Summary
I hope this article answered your questions about Von Willebrand's disease in Dogs.
Although it's an inherited blood disease, it doesn't mean that dogs can't live their lives to the max. They can still live happily and peacefully with VWD!
Just take note, especially for owners of breeds prone to Von Willebrand's Disease, to still be cautious and always keep a look out for your dog. As long as it's doing well, no need to worry too much.
No blood, no foul!