Genetic Test for Von Willebrand’s Disease

06/15/2009

Von Willebrand’s disease is an inherited bleeding disorder. It is also one of the most common as it is found in a wide variety of dog breeds. In von Willebrand’s disease bleeding time is greatly increased due to a malfunction in the process in which a blood clot is formed. To form a blood clot a cascade of chemical reactions must take place in a specific order, when a dog has von Willebrand’s disease, this cascade is interrupted due to low or non-existent amounts of von Willebrand’s factor. This factor is what helps the platelets stick together and form the blood clot. Symptoms of this disease can vary but increased bleeding due to trauma or surgery is almost always seen. Von Willebrand’s can present as type 1, 2, or 3; type 1 being the mildest and type 3 being very severe. In type 1, the most common form, there is an abnormally low amount of structurally normal von Willebrand’s factor. In type 2, there is a normal amount of the factor but it is structurally deformed and therefore cannot function properly. Type 3, the rarest but also the most severe, is characterized by the animal having practically no von Willebrand’s factor at all. In all of these types increased bleeding time is seen, but in cases where type 3 is present special care must be taken to minimize trauma since blood loss associated with type 3 could be fatal.  

To help breeders control this disease, a genetic test has been developed by VetGen™ Laboratories, which can determine if the animal is clear, a carrier, or affected. Some of the breeds which now have a test for von Willebrand’s disease Type 1 include: Bernese Mountain Dogs, Doberman Pinschers, German Pinschers, Kerry Blue Terriers, Manchester Terriers, Papillons, Pembroke Welsh Corgis, and Poodles (all varieties). A test for Type 2 of the disease is available for German Shorthaired Pointers, German Wirehaired Pointers, and Pointers. A test for Type 3 is available for Shetland Sheepdogs and Scottish Terriers.

Testing kits are available through VetGen™ and are simple and easy to use, requiring only a cheek swab to perform the test, and results are sent back within about two weeks. More information about the test and a list of prices can be found at VetGen’s™ website, www.vetgen.com.  

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