Von Willebrand Disease In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

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Von Willebrand Disease in dogs is a hereditary bleeding disorder caused by a deficiency of a protein necessary for blood to clot. This protein is known as von Willebrand Factor (vWF), and it is needed for blood platelets to stick together and seal broken blood vessels. Von Willebrand disease, sometimes referred to as vWD, is the most common inherited blood disorder in dogs–and in humans, for that matter. The condition has appeared in many breeds, though it is more common in some breeds and more severe in others. If left untreated, von Willebrand disease can cause excessive bleeding and even death. Although some dogs may exhibit no symptoms, others may spontaneously hemorrhage or experience prolonged bleeding after injuries. If you suspect your dog may be suffering from von Willebrand factor, consult your veterinarian right away so they can form a proper diagnosis, advise you, and begin treatment. Here is what you should know about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for von Willebrand disease in dogs.

Symptoms Of Von Willebrand Disease In Dogs

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Most dogs with von Willebrand disease show no signs or experience only mild symptoms, and even those usually disappear with age. Some dogs go for years without the condition ever being discovered only for it to be found when they have surgery or experience an injury. In severe cases, however, symptoms begin to appear by the time dogs are a year old. Here are some common symptoms of von Willebrand disease in dogs.

  • Spontaneous bleeding from the gums or mouth
  • Spontaneous nosebleeds
  • Excessive bleeding from the vagina during heat cycles
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding (visible by bloody or black, tarry stools)
  • Bleeding in the bladder (visible by blood in the urine)
  • Skin bruises easily
  • Excessive bleeding during surgical procedures such as spaying or neutering
  • Prolonged bleeding of small wounds
  • Prolonged bleeding after loss of baby teeth
  • Excessive bleeding during nail clipping
  • Anemia

Causes Of Von Willebrand Disease In Dogs

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Von Willebrand disease is a hereditary condition in dogs passed down from the parents. There have been reports of von Willebrand disease in over 50 breeds of dogs, though the disease appears most commonly in Doberman Pinschers. In a study, over 70 percent of Dobermans were carriers of the disease, although most showed no symptoms. Even though they are the breed affected most often, Dobermans usually have the most mild form of the disease. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers and Scottish Terriers are the most often affected by the severe form of the condition.

Treatments For Von Willebrand Disease In Dogs

(AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND OUT) Zap the rottweiler who gave blood to Rocky the German Shepherd who had two bullets removed in an operation after saving its owner from three burglars in Kingsford, 11 October 2006. SMH Picture by JON REID (Photo by Fairfax Media/Fairfax Media via Getty Images)

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There is no cure for von Willebrand disease in dogs, but the condition can be managed. The goal of treatment is to control spontaneous bleeding and reduce the frequency of bleeding episodes. Owners of dogs that suffer from von Willebrand disease should take care to make sure that their dog avoids injury as much as possible. No roughhousing with other dogs, as even minor injuries can cause problems. Dogs with the condition should also not be given hard foods like bones or rawhide chews that can cause gum bleeding or cuts in the mouth.

In emergencies, dogs the von Willebrand disease may be given blood transfusions or frozen plasma to stabilize bleeding. The donor dog may be given a drug called DDAVP to raise their von Willebrand Factor. This drug may also be given directly to a dog with von Willebrand disease, but it is not recommended on a regular basis, as DDAVP is expensive and not all dogs respond to it.

Dogs with von Willebrand disease should not be given certain medications that have anti-platelet or anticoagulant properties. These include aspirin, NSAIDs, estrogen, antihistamines, ibuprofen, penicillin, certain tranquilizers, and more. If your dog is diagnosed with von Willebrand disease, ask your veterinarian about which medications to avoid.

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