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Von Willebrand Disease in Dogs

What Is von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD)?

Von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD) in dogs is a prevalent bleeding disorder that can be inherited from one or both parents. This condition arises due to a deficiency in von Willebrand Factor (vWF) proteins, which are crucial for blood clot formation. If a dog lacks sufficient or normal vWF proteins, it will struggle to form blood clots to halt bleeding when injured.

There are three distinct types of von Willebrand disease:

  • Type 1: Characterized by lower levels of vWF proteins.
  • Type 2: Involves either the presence of abnormal proteins or an abnormal protein structure.
  • Type 3: Represents a severe form with minimal to no available proteins.

Regardless of the type, proper testing and treatment are equally essential. Both male and female dogs are susceptible to vWD, and since the condition can be passed on to puppies, it’s advisable to refrain from breeding any dogs diagnosed as carriers or affected by the disease.

Which Dog Breeds Are Affected With von Willebrand Disease?

The Doberman Pinscher breed is primarily linked to von Willebrand Disease (vWD), although it’s been observed in over 40 different dog breeds, including:

  • Golden Retriever
  • Schnauzer
  • German Shorthaired Pointer
  • German Shepherd
  • Scottish Terrier
  • Standard Poodle
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Bernese Mountain Dog

These breeds are among those affected by vWD, highlighting the condition’s presence across various canine populations.


The primary symptom indicating von Willebrand Disease (vWD) in dogs is any form of excessive, prolonged, or spontaneous bleeding. However, other symptoms may include:

  • Presence of blood in the urine
  • Blood in the feces, which could appear bright red or exhibit a black, tarry coloration
  • Nosebleeds
  • Bleeding from the mouth or gums
  • Excessive bleeding during the loss of baby teeth
  • Prolonged bleeding postpartum
  • Extended bleeding during the heat cycle
  • Bruising, ranging from small, pinpoint hemorrhages (petechiae) to large, merging bruises (ecchymoses)
  • Persistent bleeding following trauma or surgical procedures
  • Anemia, indicated by a decrease in red blood cell count, and in severe cases, death

It’s crucial to understand that these symptoms may not always manifest at a young age. Some dogs might not exhibit signs until later in life, often triggered by trauma.


Diagnosing von Willebrand Disease (vWD) in dogs typically involves a blood test. Additionally, your veterinarian might suggest conducting a basic blood cell count, chemistry analysis, and coagulation profile. While these tests often yield normal results and help assess your dog’s overall health status, some dogs may exhibit prolonged clotting times.

It is recommended that all dogs intended for breeding, as well as breeds predisposed to the condition, undergo screening for vWD. This screening can be facilitated through commercially available DNA tests such as Wisdom Panel™. The process involves swabbing your dog’s cheek for at least 15 seconds and then mailing the swab back to the lab. Results are typically returned within a few weeks. The test encompasses vWD Types 1, 2, and 3. Many veterinary practices now incorporate this test as a routine component of their puppy wellness visits.


Treatment for von Willebrand Disease in dogs often involves the administration of a blood transfusion. Your veterinarian is the most reliable source for all treatment options and will provide recommendations on how to best care for your dog.

Recovery and Management of von Willebrand Disease in Dogs

While von Willebrand Disease (vWD) in dogs cannot be cured, it can be managed effectively with certain precautions. Ethical breeding standards play a crucial role in preventing the condition. Dogs affected by vWD or identified as carriers should not be used for breeding to prevent passing it on to offspring.

Informing the veterinary team about your dog’s condition is essential for safe administration of medications or future treatments, or to avoid certain procedures altogether. It’s important to minimize rough play, closely monitor your dog for signs of bleeding or bruising, and take measures to reduce stress and anxiety in their life for optimal management of vWD.

FAQs About von Willebrand Disease

Can dogs survive with von Willebrand disease?

Absolutely! Dogs can live with the condition, and pet parents can assist by taking precautions like avoiding rough play and minimizing stress.

What is the typical lifespan of a dog with von Willebrand disease?

Predicting the lifespan of a dog with von Willebrand disease is challenging. While some dogs may lead relatively normal lives without major complications, others may experience premature complications due to the disease itself.


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