Understanding von Willebrand Disease

What does it mean if your dog has von Willebrand Disease?

Von Willebrand Disease (vWD) is a genetic bleeding disorder considered an inherited condition. Dogs with von Willebrand Disease suffer excessive bleeding due to a genetic abnormality that affects a dog’s blood to clot. In extreme cases, dogs with von Willebrand Disease can experience severe hemorrhaging and spontaneous bleeding.

Signs and symptoms of von Willebrand Disease include:

  • Excessive bleeding from the mouth or nose
  • Blood in a dog’s stool 
  • Bleeding after surgery, including minor surgeries such as a dental extraction 
  • Weakness and exhaustion
  • Nausea 
  • Visible bruising, especially after a surgical procedure.

However, not every dog diagnosed with vWD will bleed excessively. Many dogs carry the trait carry a recessive gene that is asymptomatic. Therefore, most dogs will only experience one episode of von Willebrand Disease in their lifetime, and it will likely last anywhere from days to weeks. However, following severe trauma, a dog with vWD may succumb to its injuries if the dog’s blood loss can’t be stopped.

Are certain dog breeds more at risk of von Willebrand Disease than others?

Von Willebrand Disease impacts many different dog breeds. However, the Doberman Pinscher is the most common breed diagnosed with vWD. Luckily, although von Willebrand Disease is widespread among Dobermans, they tend to have the mildest form of the condition.

Other breeds prone to von Willebrand Disease include:

  • Scottish Terrier
  • Shetland Sheepdog or Sheltie
  • German Shepherd
  • Golden Retriever
  • Poodle

How is a dog diagnosed with vWD?

A veterinarian can draw the dog’s blood for DNA testing to determine if a dog is a carrier of von Willebrand’s Disease. Have your dog’s blood tested for vWD before undergoing any surgical procedure, especially if they are considered a high-risk breed. 

Is it safe for a dog with von Willebrand Disease to have surgery? 

Surgery is risky for a dog with vWD. Any surgical procedure will put the dog at high risk for prolonged bleeding or severe bruising. A screening test can be done before the operation to determine if surgery is safe for your pup. 

If your dog has been diagnosed with von Willebrand Disease make sure your veterinarian knows before surgery. Your veterinarian can help determine if surgery is the best option for your pet. 

Conclusion

Although there is no cure for vWD, there are treatments available to help your dog. There may be some challenges along the way, but there is no reason why your dog can’t live a long and happy life.

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