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Von Willebrand’s Disease (VWD)

By: Dr. Leah Cohn

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Treatments

Therapy of dogs with vWD must be individualized. Most dogs with Type I vWD require no treatment at all unless a surgery is planned or an injury is sustained.

  • Blood products from healthy dogs can stop excessive bleeding in dogs with vWD. Plasma is the liquid part of blood that contains many of the necessary clotting factors. Fresh or fresh frozen plasma can temporarily improve the blood-clotting ability of a dog with vWD.

  • Fresh whole blood contains plasma plus red blood cells (the oxygen carrying cells). If a dog has had significant blood loss, whole blood provides both the clotting improvements of plasma and red blood cells.

  • Cryoprecipitate is a preparation made from the plasma of several healthy dogs and contains concentrated clotting factors. Like plasma, cryoprecipitate can temporarily improve the ability of a dog with vWD to form blood clots.

  • If repeated transfusions are necessary, it is important to cross match the patient's blood with the donor's blood.

  • Desmopressin acetate (DDAVP) is a hormone that can temporarily increase Von Willebrand's factor concentrations. It may be given to a patient with vWD just prior to surgery or may be given to a healthy dog that will give blood (or plasma) to the dog with vWD.

  • If a dog with vWD is found to have hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland), thyroid hormone supplements will be given.

  • Ideally, dogs with suboptimal concentrations of vWF should not be bred. In breeds with a very high incidence of the mild Type I vWD, this may be very difficult to accomplish and still maintain an adequate and genetically varied breeding stock. In addition, many dogs with suboptimal concentrations of vWF do not exhibit any tendency for abnormal bleeding. The final decision about whether to breed such a dog should be made by an informed and educated owner.

  • Dogs identified as having the disease, or carrying a gene for the more severe forms of type II and type III vWD, should not be used for breeding.

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