What is Von Willebrand Disease?



Von Willebrand Disease (wVD) is a disease that affects the ability to stop bleeding. Dogs i

What Is Von Willebrand Disease?

Von Willebrand Disease (wVD) is a disease that affects the ability to stop bleeding. Dogs inherit this disease and it makes it difficult for blood to clot once the flow starts after an injury. Although this disease can be life threatening it is a rare occurrence.

There is a protein that is in a dogs blood called von Willebrand factor and when the disease is inherited this protein is either at low levels or is not working properly to do the job it is meant to do, which is to help the blood clot. When an injury occurs that results in blood flow the platelates in the blood will form together to fill the hole the blood is coming from. Von Willebrand factor is what helps these platelates to stick together and clot the blood.

This disease is the most common blood disorder that is inherited, more so then hemophilia. About 1 out of every 100 to 1,000 dogs inherit this disease and it can affect both males and females.  Doberman Pinschers, Welsh corgis, German shepherds, and Scottish terriers are breeds most at risk of developing wVD.

There are 3 types of von Willebrand Disease. About 3 out of 4 dogs who have this disease have type 1, which is the mildest form of the disease. With type 1 there are low levels of the von Willebrand factor and the factor 8 proteins in the blood. Factor 8 is another agent in the blood that helps to clot.

Type 2 of the von Willebrand disease, is when the von Willebrand factor is not working properly. This type is broken up into categories to determine what needs to be done to help and this makes finding out the exact type of the disease very important so the treatment is correct.

Type 3 is when there are not any of the von Willebrand factor in the dogs blood and a low level of factor 8. This type is the most dangerous to have but it is rare that this type is found.

Diagnosis And Treatment

Veterinarians have a new blood test that measures very small and very large amounts of von Willebrand Disease with greater accuracy (and in less time) than the old test. Accurately measuring the disease helps predict if a dog will be affected by vWD or will merely be a carrier - unaffected by the disease but with the potential to pass along the defect to its offspring.

Getting an early diagnosis of this disease is important as it can help those who have it live a normal life.

This condition cannot be cured but it can be managed. Your veterinarian will discuss this with you when the diagnosis is made.

Applying pressure can usually stop mild cases of bleeding.  For more severe cases, cautery or sutures may be required.

Thyroid supplements may help to control bleeding, if your veterinarian determines that your dog is hypothyroid.