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Von Willebrand Disease in Dogs

Von Willebrand disease affects clotting in dogs.

Von Willebrand disease is a condition during which a dog's blood clotting ability is compromised, and they are more prone to bleeding.

Cause of Von Willebrand Disease

Von Willebrand disease happens when a dog's body doesn't produce enough von Willebrand factor (vWF). vWF helps regulate platelets, which is a type of red blood cell that is used by the body for proper clotting. Von Willebrand is an inheritable, genetic condition.

While there are over 60 breeds of dogs known to have developed it, it's most common in the following:

  • Dobermans
  • Airedale terriers
  • German shepherds
  • Dachshunds
  • Bassett hounds
  • Golden retrievers
  • Miniature schnauzers
  • Shelties
  • Rottweilers
  • Standard poodles
  • Manchester terriers

Signs of Von Willebrand Disease in Dogs

Dogs with von Willebrand have the condition from birth. They may not show any signs. However, it may be noted that they have abnormal bleeding associated with nail trimmings, teething, or minor injuries.

Other signs may include:

  • Blood in the stool
  • Blood in the urine
  • Nosebleeds
  • Bleeding from the vagina or penis
  • Excessive bleeding or bruising during or after surgery

Diagnosis of Von Willebrand Disease

If a veterinarian suspects a dog may have von Willebrand, he or she may do a buccal mucosal screening time in the clinic. A small cut is made in the tissue under the upper lip and then the doctor times how long it takes to clot. A normal dog will experience clotting in less than 4 minutes (usually closer to 2.5). Dogs with von Willebrand often take longer.

Dogs with von Willebrand may show anemia (low red blood cell count) on a CBC if they have had a bleeding episode recently. Many coagulation tests done on von Willebrand dogs have normal results, but a vWF assay is the gold standard test for the condition. This test measures the amount of vWF in a dog's blood.

Treatment of Von Willebrand Disease in Dogs

Dogs with von Willebrand should be monitored closely for a couple of days after surgery. Surgery is usually avoided in vWF dogs unless it's absolutely necessary.

If a dog has a significant bleeding episode, a blood transfusion or two with plasma may be required to get it under control.

Desmopressin acetate (DDAVP) is a drug that may increase vWF. It's not used as a regular treatment in dogs with von Willebrand but may be helpful as a pretreatment for surgery.

Dogs with von Willebrand should not be bred because of the genetic nature of the condition.

Medications known to affect platelet function negatively should not be given to dogs with von Willebrand disease.

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