Von Willebrand Disease in Dogs

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Von Willebrand disease is an inherited bleeding disorder produced by the lack of von Willebrand factor protein (vWF) in a dog’s bloodstream. This protein is responsible for controlling bleeding from a vessel in the event of a trauma that has led to a blood vessel injury. It is important to note that hemophilia is not the same thing as Von Willebrand disease as the second is a distinct disorder.

Humans and dogs can have this disease, and as we’ve already mentioned, it is transmitted genetically. There are three variants of forms of vWD, and they are defined by the structure of the plasma von Willebrand factor and its quantity in the dogs that have the condition.

In this article, we’ll look at what breeds are more predisposed to be born with this disease, its clinical signs, laboratory diagnosis, and treatment.

What Are the Breeds Most Commonly Affected By vWD?

The three types of vWD differ in terms of severity and protein concentration and structure. The types also affect different breeds. For example, type 1 is more common in Airedale Terriers, Akitas, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Doberman Pinschers, Dachshunds, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Irish Wolfhounds, Greyhounds, Schnauzers, Manchester Terriers, Corgis, Poodles, and Shetland Sheepdogs. This type has a variable clinical severity.

Type 2 is severe, and it can be encountered in German Wirehaired Pointers and German Shorthaired Pointers.

Type 3 is severe, as well, as it is defined by a markedly reduced vWF or its absence altogether. It is rarely encountered in breeds like Blue Heeler, Bull Terrier, Cocker Spaniel, Border Collie, Labrador Retriever, and Pomeranians, and it is more or less familial in Scottish Terriers, Shetland Sheepdogs, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, as well as Dutch Kooikers.

Clinical Signs

The symptoms of this disease vary from mild to severe. Some dogs can also carry the disorder, having inherited from their parents, but may never show any symptoms at all. Severe vWD causes bleeding from the mouth or nose, the intestinal tract, or the urinary or reproductive system.

Uncontrollable bleeding following either surgery or trauma is another typical clinical finding and a routine surgical procedure (such as neutering or spaying) or just a mild bruising or puncture that happens when the dog is just a puppy can lead to this diagnosis. After giving birth, females can also bleed excessively, and the hemorrhage of some dogs can be so severe that it could lead to death.

Laboratory Diagnosis

There is a screening test that can be performed nowadays and it is called the ‘buccal mucosal screening time.’ It can be performed at the vet clinic. Any prolonged bleeding caused by the test can raise the suspicion of the medical condition, particularly if the dog being tested is from a breed known to be at risk.

The specific amount of von Willebrand factor present in the bloodstream of the patient needs to be determined for an accurate diagnosis. The problem is that many dogs do not show the symptoms right after being born or even after they go through a bleeding situation when they are puppies.

Carriers of the gene can manifest clinical symptoms later on in life, and this happens with dogs that could have gone through routine surgery such as sterilization or cosmetic surgery. Even though they were capable of recovering fully and without any complications from these at that time, they might become obvious bleeders later on.


Unfortunately, no drug is capable of inducing production of the protein lacking from the patient’s blood. As such, the treatment of a severe bleeding episode always involves the transfusion of canine blood products.

Any dog known to suffer from this disease should never be given medication that could affect or interfere with the normal blood clotting mechanism, such as some types of antibiotics, aspirin, or heparin. Talk to your vet and ask them to give you a full list of these medications.

Medications You Shouldn’t Give to a Dog Suffering From vWD

We’ve already noted that you shouldn’t give aspirin or heparin to a dog known to have vWD. However, there are other drugs that can cause a bleeding crisis if you happen to administer them to your canine companion, especially by accident. One of them is carprofen, for example, and another is meloxicam. Both are commonly utilized as anti-inflammatories and even though they are non-steroidal and are generally recommended to most dogs, in these cases, they might do more harm than good.

You can’t give your dog any antihistamines, estrogens, or theophylline. From the antibiotics that should be off limits, we’ll mention Penicillin, Ampicillin, Amoxicillin, and sulfa-based antibiotics.

Preventing Bleeding Episodes

As you can expect, it can be very challenging to manage a puppy’s or dog’s life as best as possible so as to avoid any kind of trauma whatsoever. Some studies have shown that in humans, the same disease seems to be triggered by emotional stress, and while this hasn’t been proven in dogs, it is highly recommended that canine patients lead a stress-free life.

When a dog is diagnosed with this medical condition, the owner should do their best to monitor their Fido as closely as possible and make sure that whenever they have guests coming over or when they travel, the risk of bleeding or bruising is practically non-existent.



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