Von Willebrand's Disease in Dogs
Platelets play a vital role in the blood-clotting process. Why is this so important? If a dog has an injury or wound, the platelets help stop bleeding and speed up the healing process by clotting at the site of the injury.
When a dog has too few platelets, wounds and injuries can be really dangerous because he or she might not stop bleeding and lose a lot of excess blood. There's a name for this: von Willebrand’s disease (vWD), which is a disorder in dogs that is characterized by excessive bleeding due to a defect in platelet function. VWD is a hereditary disease that is passed from parents to pup in a rather complicated way. It affects both male and female dogs equally, and while any dog can have vWD, there are several breeds that are at greater risk:
- Doberman Pinscher
- Shetland Sheepdog
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Golden Retriever
- German Shepherd
- Standard Poodle
- German Shorthaired Pointer
The severity of the disease varies from dog to dog and is of most concern if a dog is injured or needs surgery.
Most often, vWD is diagnosed as part of a presurgical or routine blood screen, especially for at-risk breeds.
Symptoms include any of the following:
- Prolonged or excessive bleeding after an injury
- Bleeding from the gums or nose
- Bloody urine
- Prolonged or excessive bleeding during or after surgery
- Blood in the stool
- Bruising of the skin
Specialized tests are required to diagnose vWD; specifically, your veterinarian may recommend these tests as part of a preanesthetic screening if your dog is considered at-risk. If your dog shows symptoms, other diagnostic tests may be recommended to rule out other diseases and to assess your dog's overall health. Your veterinarian will also perform a thorough physical exam and take a detailed history of your dog’s activities.
Diagnostic tests for vWD could include:
- Measurement of von Willebrand’s factor (This blood test is sometimes repeated as the levels can vary from day to day)
- Specific tests that measure clotting ability
- Buccal mucosal bleeding time (BMBT), which measures your dog’s ability to form a small clot
- Chemistry tests to evaluate kidney, liver, and pancreatic function, as well as sugar levels
- Antibody tests to identify if your pet has been exposed to tick-borne or other infectious diseases
- A complete blood count (CBC) to rule out blood-related conditions
- Electrolyte tests to ensure your dog isn’t dehydrated or suffering