The Ultimate Guide to Von Willebrand Disease in Dogs

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mixed breed with Dog nose bleed and Von Willebrand Disease in DogsVon Willebrand disease in dogs is perhaps a condition that most pet parents have already heard of! Von Willebrand disease in dogs is an autosomal recessive condition that tends to affect a great deal of the canine population.

However, today the disease seems to be most prevalent in the Doberman Pinschers, Shetland Sheepdog, and Chesapeake Bay Retriever dog breeds. So, if you’re a pet parent who’d love to learn more about this bleeding disorder then read on to find out more!

What is Von Willebrand Disease in Dogs?

Von Willebrand disease in dogs is considered one of the most common inherited blood clotting disorder in both people and dogs.

Now, you’ve probably heard a lot of Doberman Pinscher and German Shepherd owners talk about this disease. But, like most of use, you’ve probably had a hard time figuring out what exactly this disease is.

Before we dive more into this genetic disorder. It’s important to get some basic science background first!

You see, within your dog’s blood is a multimeric glycoprotein known as the Von Willebrand factor (vWf). This factor is actually made by the endothelial cells (of blood vessels) and megakaryocytes of the body.

Now, there are many functions of the Von Willebrand factor. But, because the biochemistry and physiology of vWf is quite complicated, we’ll just give you a general idea of why the vWf is important.

The function of the factor is to aid in the process of hemostasis. Now latin hemostasis simply means the stopping of blood, therefore by this definition, the Von Willebrand factor is responsible for binding to other blood proteins and clotting factors. This binding is what allows platelet adhesion to occur at a site of injury and thus promote wound healing.

What does Von Mean?

Von Willebrand disease affects both dogs and humans. In fact, the name Von Willebrand actually came from a Finnish physician by the name of Erik Adolf von Willebrand. During the 1920s, Dr. Erik von Willebrand examined a young 5-year old girl who had severe bleeding.

This young girl by the name of Hjördis experienced episodes of bleeding from various parts of her body including her lips, nose, and gums. Astonished by her condition Dr. Willebrand went on to examine many of the members in her family who had the same problem.

Dr. Willebrand had noted that this “persistent bleeding” was a lot different to that of hemophilia, and so he went on to study the disease more extensively. Finally, it was during the 1950s when scientists began to realize that Von Willebrand was a disease that occurred due to a deficiency in a clotting factor. Thus, to commemorate Dr. Von Willebrands research and discovery, the disease was named after him.

dog blood types for vWD

Unravel the Secrets Encoded! Embark DNA Testing for Dogs

Are you a really concerned pet parent who want’s to make sure your pooch is as healthy as can be? Well, if this sounds like you then let me introduce to what veterinarians call an innovation in the medical field. Dog DNA Testing! Yes, there are DNA tests for dogs.

But, why do I need to test my dog’s DNA if I am only concerned about the Von Willebrand’s Disease? Well, many dog breeds–particulary purebred dogs–are often susceptible to a range of congenital disease.

Fortunately, dog DNA testing services such as Embark can analyze your dog’s gene sequence and test for over 165 health conditions. This means that Embark DNA dog testing can not only test for Von Willebrand disease Type 1, 2, and 3 but also other blood disorders like Hemophilia B, Hemophilia A, Thrombopathia, and more!

And it doesn’t stop there! Embark DNA tests can test for a range of diseases that fall under:

  • Kidney and Bladder disorders
  • Inherited disorders of the Brain and Spinal cord
  • Heart disorders
  • and more!

As an added bonus, this DNA kit can also analyzer your dog’s breed ancestry. So, it’s perfect for people who want to learn more about their pooch!

If you want to see if your dog could have vWD, test it with Embark.

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Von Willebrand Disease Types

Von Willebrand disease vWd is an autosomal recessive disorder. Pet dogs are able to obtain 1 of 3 types of this disease.

  • Type 1 vWd: Now type 1 vWd occurs when there is simply low amounts of the vW factor in the blood of the animal. However, unlike type 2 or type 3, type 1 vWd indicates that the structure of the protein is normal. This disease type is most prevalent in dog breeds like the Akita, Airedale
  • Type 2 vWd: This type of Von Willebrand disease occurs as a result of a low concentration of the Von Willebrand factor. However, unlike type 1 vWd. Type 2 vWd is a lot more severe due to the changes in the structure of the protein. In other words, type 2 vWd means that a dog will have both a low concentration and abnormal structure of the clotting factor protein.
  • Type 3 vWd: Finally, type 3 vWd is said to be the most severe form of this disease. And, this is because type 3 vWd means that there is either very low levels or no Von Willebrand clotting factors present in the body. There are three mutations of identifying of the type 3 vWd. Of these 3 mutations,  the Scottish Terrier and Shetland Sheepdog are the most affected breeds.

From Dobermans to German Shepherds: Haemostasis in Dogs a Clotting Cascade

Von Willebrand Disease in dogs is a genetic disorder that’s said to affect a great deal of our canine population. So, how does the genetics work? Well, a normal healthy puppy will carry 2 genes that code for the important clotting factor—vWf.  A puppy receives 1 gene from each of its parents.

Red Doberman Pinscher with Von Willebrand Disease Type 1 in dogs

Now, when a puppy receives 1 abnormal vWf gene then they will not be prone to severe bleeding. And, this is simply because they have inherited the other vWf gene from the other parent. However, if a puppy were two have 2 defective/abnormal genes then this would be considered a severe form of vWd.

Remember, Von Willebrand is an autosomal recessive disease. This means that a dog needs to have two copies of the gene that codes for the defective mutation.

Dog Breeds most Prone to this Genetic Disorder

While we cannot name every dog breed of the list that’s prone to the disease. We have instead, decided to list dog breeds with the highest incidence rate of this condition.

Von Willebrand Disease Type 1 is most commonly seen in:

It is important to remember that the Doberman Pinscher is considered one of the highest risk breeds for Von Willebrand Type 1 disease.

Von Willebrand Type 2 is most commonly seen in:

Von Willebrand type 2 is a disease that’s most commonly seen in pointing dog breeds. While it is considered more severe than Type 1, it is still very uncommon.

Von Willebrand Type 3 is most commonly seen in:

Type 3 Von Willebrand disease is considered the most severe form of the disease.

But Wait! vWD can be Acquired too!

Yes, it is true! A dog who is healthy and is a carrier for the disease may experience severe episodes of bleeding should they acquire a disease such as hypothyroidism.

If you’ve got a Doberman Pinscher then it’s important to know that the prevalence of hypothyroidism and Von Willebrand disease is very high in this breed!

Epistaxis to Dog Nose Bleed: Symptoms and Clinical Signs

Many pet owners actually don’t realize that this congenital disease actually presents as subtle clinical signs.

Dogs with Von Willebrand are going to have prolonged bleeding. So, if your Doberman was to say cut itself while playing, then you’ll probably notice either very persistent bleeding or a lack of blood clot formation.

Similarly, if a young puppy or dog was to undergo any surgical procedure. Then the surgeon may notice either a sudden hemorrhage or persistent hemorrhage. Therefore, the key indicator for Von Willebrand disease in dogs is simply prolonged bleeding due to lack of clotting factors.

Diagnosis: How Will Your Vet Test for Von Williebands in Dogs

dog with blood clotting disorder vWd aka Von Willebrand’s Disease Blood Disease in a Dog

This bleeding disorder can cause severe excessive bleeding. So, if you have a dog breed that is considered a high-risk candidate for Von Willebrand then your veterinarian may recommend one of two diagnostic tests.

The Mucosal Bleeding Test: Assessing Your Dog’s Bleeding Time.

Prior to surgery of any sort, a veterinarian may choose to perform a mucosal bleeding test. To do this, your veterinarian will make a small incision on the gums or inside the lip of the dog.

They will then assess how quickly blood clotting occurs. Generally, in a dog that does not have this disorder, clotting time should be less than 4 minutes.

Testing Your Dog’s Coagulation and Clotting Factors: The ELISA Test can Diagnose Von Willebrand Disease Too!

Now most veterinarians may choose a more accurate diagnostic tool. Laboratory diagnostic tests such as the ELISA test has become quite popular when testing for antigens of clotting factors.

But, what is the ELISA test? well, the ELISA test simply analyzes your dog’s blood serum levels and measures the concentration of the clotting factor (vWf) in the blood. This method gives veterinarians a better understanding of your dog’s platelet function. Additionally, it is a lot more justifiable as opposed to the bleeding gums test mentioned above.

Now, if you’ve already done the ELISA test, then you’re probably wondering, how do I read the results! Well, it’s easy! Most laboratory diagnostics will give you a percentage on the amount of vWf antigen present in your dog’s blood. As a rule of thumb, the lower the value then the more at risk the dog is of actually having this condition.

Von Willebrand Disease in Dogs: Treating this Bleeding Disorder

pup with von willebrand disease dog blood disease giving blood

Currently, there are 2 proposed treatment options for Von Willebrand disease in dogs. The first option is a plasma transfusion while the second option is the use of desmopressin acetate.

A plasma transfusion will be the treatment of choice should the dog face a severe hemorrhage. For example, a patient (who tests positive for the disease) who may have a hemorrhage, will be given frozen plasma or cryoprecipitate.

Canine cryoprecipitate is essentially a plasma concentrate that contains blood clotting factors like factor VIII, fibrinogen, and of course the Von Willebrand factor. This plasma concentrate is only intended to treat severe hemorrhage, pre-surgical prophylaxis, and physiological shock.

Next, your veterinarian may also choose to administer a drug known as Desmopressin acetate. This drug is a vasopressin which is essentially a synthetic analog hormone that will regulate the number of solutes in the body fluids. In addition, Desmopressin acetate will induce the release of the Von Willebrand factor from the endothelial cells of the blood vessels.

Remember, Von Willebrand disease in dogs is an autosomal recessive disorder. It is an inherited condition and so there is no cure!

Prognosis: Learning to Live with vWD

Fortunately, the future isn’t too grim for dogs with Von Willebrand disease. Many dogs born with this condition can go on to live long and healthy lives. However, pet owners may need to make a few changes to their pet’s lifestyle to ensure that the condition is well managed.

Firstly, if you own a dog breed that is prone to Von Willebrand disease, then it is highly recommended that you get them DNA tested. It is also essential that you let any future veterinarians or caretakers know about your dog’s condition.

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The most accurate and comprehensive Dog DNA Test on the market! They test against the most genetic markers to produce a result that is far superior to the competition. The best Health and Breed exam you can purchase.

This is because depending on the type of Von Willebrand disease, some dogs will require blood transfusions during minor surgeries.

Dogs with this condition should also be monitored during activity. In other words, pet owners should ensure that their dog does not partake in any risky activities such as rough play with other dogs.

Lastly, dog’s with this condition need to always be monitored! This is because certain drugs and supplements will not be suitable for your dog as it can cause adverse reactions. This includes vitamin C, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and drugs like NSAIDs.

Do you have questions about Von Willebrand disease in dogs? Let us know in the comments below!

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