Similar to hemophilia in humans, von Willebrand Disease (VWD) is a blood disorder that can cause a dog to suffer from excessive bleeding. The disease is the result of insufficient von Willebrand factor, which makes it much more difficult for the blood to clot. As with most inherited diseases, certain breeds, such as the Doberman Pinscher and Standard Poodle, are more prone to this disorder than others.
Know the symptoms
While dogs that are afflicted with VWD may not show obvious signs of the disorder, it's still important to keep an eye for any of the following:
- Nose bleeds
- Bleeding from the gums
- Blood blisters
- Increased bleeding when wounded or after surgery
- Prolonged bleeding after losing a tooth or having a toenail cut too short
If your dog is displaying any of the symptoms of VWD, see your vet right away. He or she will probably screen him with a blood test, which will indicate whether and to what extent your dog is afflicted with the disorder.
How the disease is treated
While there is no cure, transfusions with blood collected from unaffected dogs can be used to treat VWD. If the dog is also hypothyroid (meaning he has a lower-than-normal level of thyroid hormone), he will benefit from thyroid hormone replacement therapy.
Important prevention tip
Responsible breeders are committed to not using any dog that is diagnosed with VWD for breeding purposes. If your dog has been diagnosed with the disorder, make sure that he or she is not used for breeding. Because this is a genetic disorder that is inherited, your dog is likely to pass on the disorder to a litter. If possible, inform the breeder of your dog that his or her dam and sire have passed on the trait.
Also, if your dog is suffering from VWD, be sure that you do not give him aspirin or other medications that can affect blood clotting without permission from your vet first.