von Willebrand's Disease

by Jennie Bullock

Von Willebrand's disease is a bleeding disorder found in many breeds of dog as well as other animals. It is characterized by hematomas, nosebleeds, and intermittent limping (due to bleeding into the joints). Similarly to hemophilia A, dogs with this disorder are deficient in clotting factor VIII activity. One of the primary distinctions of von Willebrand's disease however, is that this disorder is not sex-linked.

Von Willebrand's disease appears in two variations: inherited and acquired. In its acquired presentation von Willebrand's is a complication of thyroid deficiency. With proper treatment and stabilization of the dog's thyroid levels the von Willebrand's is negated.

Hereditary von Willebrand's disease is far more complex. Each breed of dog will have a different set of "typical symptoms" of the disease. Symptoms can range from abnormally long bleeding time due to a cut toenail, to hemorrhaging during minor surgery, to spontaneous nosebleeds, with a wide assortment of presentations between. Injuries that are followed by bleeding may or may not require a transfusion. Even a small wound may necessitate veterinary treatment. Carriers of this disorder can live their entire lives with nooutward indications of this disease.

Von Willebrand's disease can be fatal. There is no cure and no effective treatment. It appears that DNA screening is the most accurate means of testing currently.

Only through testing of all prospective breeding stock (in breeds known to be prone to vWD) and selective breeding is there a hope of erradicating this disorder.


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