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von Willebrand's Disease

Von Willebrand's Disease: An Overview

Von Willebrand's is an inherited bleeding disorder. In fact, it is the most common inherited bleeding disorder among dogs. The formation of a blood clot is a very complex and involved mechanism. A clot is formed by a cascade of reactions happening in a certain order. For a clot to form, all the factors involved in the cascade must be present and in working order. In Von Willebrand's the factor known as von Willebrand?s Factor (vWF) either is not present or is defective. The condition is similar to hemophilia in humans. There are three classifications of Von Willebrand's disease; Type 1, type 2, and type 3. In type 1 von Willebrand's factor functions properly but is only present in low amounts. Type 1 is the most common of all three classifications. Type 2 is characterized by having vWF which does not function properly. In the type 3 classification of Von Willebrand's there is almost zero vWF present.

There are a number of breeds which are known to be at risk for having Von Willebrand's. A few of these are Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, Pembroke Welsh Corgis, Shetland Sheepdogs, Basset Hounds, Scottish Terriers, Standard Poodles, and Manchester Terriers.

Causes of Von Willebrand's Disease

Von Willebrand's disease is inherited. This means that it is passed down from parents to offspring.

Symptoms of Von Willebrand's Disease

In Von Willebrand's disease prolonged or excessive bleeding is the major symptom. This can be seen when surgery is performed, with injuries, when a female is in heat, or when nails are clipped. In some cases spontaneous bleeding will occur from the gums or nose. As with most diseases symptoms can range from mild, with bleeding times only being extended slightly, to severe, where bleeding cannot be stopped.

Diagnosing Von Willebrand's Disease

Von Willebrand?s disease can be diagnosed by an ELISA assay, which tests for plasma von Willebrand's factor, or by a buccal mucosal screening time. In many cases this condition is not confirmed until the dog experiences a bleeding episode. In breeds which are at a high risk of having Von Willebrand's testing can be done early in the dog?s life to determine if they have the condition or not. Administered by VetGen Laboratories, a genetic test is available which can tell owners if their dog is clear of the disease, a carrier of the disease, or affected by the disease before an episode occurs. Some breeds which this test is available for are Bernese Mountain Dogs, Doberman Pinschers, German Pinschers, Kerry Blue Terriers, Manchester Terriers, Papillions, Pembroke Welsh Corgis, Poodles, German Shorthaired Pointers, German Wirehaired Pointers, Pointers, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Scottish Terriers.

Treating Von Willebrand's Disease

There is no cure for Von Willebrand's disease. If a dog is found to have this condition owners should take special precaution to make sure the dog does not injure themselves. If surgery must take place the drug DDAVP may be given a head of time. DDAVP can increase von Willebrand?s factor for a short time allowing for surgery or similar procedure involving bleeding to be performed. With genetic tests now available to breeders, practices may be put in place to help eliminate this condition from dogs.

Care for Dogs with Von Willebrand's Disease

When caring for a dog with Von Willebrand's it is important to remember that even a minor injury may need special attention. Because Von Willebrand?s disease affects blood clotting system, any injury can result in excessive blood loss. Owners should take great care when letting dogs with Von Willebrand?s play. If an injury does occur your dog should be taken to the veterinarian who can help stop the bleeding.

The AKC Canine Health Foundation and Von Willebrand's Disease

The AKC Canine Health Foundation has funded research on Von Willebrand?s disease focused on finding the mutations and genetic markers for the disease. With your support research on this disease can be continued.

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