Nearly everyone is familiar with hemophilia A, an inherited blood-clotting defect in humans. However, most people haven’t heard about the other inherited blood clotting defect that can affect humans and dogs, including Corgis.
That’s why today’s topic will be – von Willebrand’s disease in Corgis.
Naturally, you’re concerned about your Corgi’s health and well-being. Is this disease something you should keep in mind? Is it serious? Could it be treated?
There are some things you should take into consideration regarding this condition. But don’t worry; I will cover everything you need to know about von Willebrand’s disease in this article.
Let’s take a look.
What’s Von Willebrand’s Disease?
This disease is the most common inherited bleeding disorder of both dogs and humans. It’s a result of a deficiency in the amount of a specific protein that helps the blood clot.
This protein is needed to aid platelets, the blood cells used in clotting, stick together and form clots to seal broken blood vessels.
The deficient protein is known as the von Willebrand factor. Simply put, von Willebrand’s factor enhances the stickiness of platelets to sites of blood vessel injury.
If the amount of von Willebrand’s factor is lowered or doesn’t work the way it should, the dog won’t be able to deal effectively with blood vessel injury. That is because an effective platelet “plug” can’t be maintained at the site of injury.
Classification Of Von Willebrand’s Disease
Von Willebrand’s disease can be classified into three types, as defined by the structure and quantity of plasma von Willebrand’s factor in affected canines.
Let’s take a look at each of these types.
In the first type of von Willebrand’s disease, the blood-clotting protein, von Willebrand’s factor, is present in small amounts.
This type is primarily found in the Doberman pinscher, the shetland sheepdog, the German shepherd dog, and our beloved Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
The second type has multiple variants, all characterized by qualitative deficiency. The levels of von Willebrand’s factor in the dog’s body are within normal range but don’t work as they should.
The issue can be that it’s the wrong size or that it doesn’t attach to platelets at the right time. Either way, this can lead to more severe bleeding episodes.
Type two of von Willebrand’s disease is usually seen in German short-haired and German wire-haired pointers.
Last but not least, type three of von Willebrand’s disease is represented by not having von Willebrand’s factor at all; it’s either extremely low or non-existent. With that being said, it’s the most severe form of the disease.
This form can usually be seen in Scottish terriers and Chesapeake Bay retrievers.
Von Willebrand’s disease isn’t limited to the breeds listed here. Many different species can be affected by this disease – and it has also been found in cats and humans.
Diagnosis Of Von Willebrand’s Disease
These tests include an evaluation of complete blood count. That will ensure that other causes of excessive bleeding aren’t contributing to the clinical signs.
Complete blood count requires one blood sample. The number of platelets will be within the normal reference range in dogs affected by this condition, but the red blood cell count and hemoglobin can be lower.
The vet may perform a buccal mucosal bleeding time. That tests the ability of platelets to form a plug at the small cut in the upper lip.
Veterinarians will use spring-loaded cassettes to produce a small but precise cut and measure the time required for bleeding to stop.
This method is used for dogs that have regular numbers of platelets but questionable platelet function.
Next, we have a coagulation panel that can be evaluated to rule out reductions in other clotting factors as a cause of excessive bleeding. The testing requires a single blood sample that is sent to the laboratory.
The results of coagulation panel testing should be normal in canines with von Willebrand’s disease.
Candidates for these specific diagnostic tests are dogs with a history of unexplained bleeding episodes that still have normal platelets numbers and standard coagulation profiles.
For starters, immunoassays can be used to determine the concentration of von Willebrand’s factor. Immunoassay tests are based on the binding between a specific protein, immunoglobulin – an antibody – to von Willebrand’s factor for measurement.
This test usually diagnoses von Willebrand’s disease.
Von Willebrand’s factor collagen-binding assay is another specific test. It can determine the ability of von Willebrand’s factor in a dog’s blood to bind to collagen – just like it would attach to blood vessels.
Signs Of Von Willebrand’s Disease In Corgis
Clinical signs of von Willebrand’s disease can range from mild to severe bleeding episodes.
Some dogs may have this disease without expressing a bleeding tendency.
However, extreme examples of the disease may include spontaneous bleeding from the nose, mouth, urinary and reproductive organs, and the intestinal tract. Severe bleeding can also occur after surgery.
Teething and dewclaw removal can cause excessive bleeding in the disease-affected pups.
Endocrine disorders, infections, and certain medications could make the symptoms worse in Corgis that are diagnosed with von Willebrand’s disease, too.
Increased Risk In Affected Dogs
As I said, some medications can decrease platelet function and, in turn, increase the risk of spontaneous bleeding.
The research found that some medications do increase the risk of bleeding in humans – but specific research hasn’t been done on dogs. As such, the data from a human study has been merely extended to dogs.
Your vet is the best resource when it comes to the risks and benefits of specific drugs for your pet. That said, medications that can interfere with normal platelet function are:
- Certain antihistamines
- Certain antacid medications
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such ash aspirin, carprofen, meloxicam, and deracoxib
- Sulfa-based antibiotics
In some cases, emotional stress can also cause bleeding in humans with von Willebrand’s disease. We can’t be sure if there’s a similar association in dogs, but the possibility remains.
People with dogs affected by von Willebrand’s disease should maintain a stress-free lifestyle. On top of that, dogs should be monitored closely for cuts and bruises during traveling or other stressful events.
Treatment Of Von Willebrand’s Disease
When bleeding occurs or is expected as with planned surgical procedures, the best treatment is a provision of von Willebrand’s factor by transfusion.
Now, pure von Willebrand’s factor can’t be purchased from a blood bank.
However, there’s a blood product rich in von Willebrand’s factor called cryoprecipitate that can be used. The next best thing would be complete plasma, which is much more available than cryoprecipitate.
DDAVP, also known as desmopressin acetate, is a hormone that can be helpful, too.
Its use seems to result in the sudden release of von Willebrand’s factor into the bloodstream. After the activation period, which lasts about 30 minutes, the use of DDAVP shortens the bleeding time for about two to four hours after the injection.
Canine Von Willebrand’s Disease: Inheritance
Expression and inheritance patterns of von Willebrand’s disease differ from one dog to another. Generally, all males and females have two von Willebrand’s factor genes.
The presence of one abnormal von Willebrand’s factor gene appears sufficient to cause unusual bleeding in some dogs. Canines that have two abnormal genes express the most severe forms of von Willebrand’s disease.
Von Willebrand’s disease diagnostic ranges are used as guidelines to reduce the commonness of von Willebrand’s disease within a canine family. Screening for this disease will make sure that no severely affected dogs are born.
Canines that test in the normal range are perfect for use in breeding programs. Mating between two healthy parents will ensure only that the puppies are clear of von Willebrand’s disease, too.
There are cases where dogs that test in the abnormal range for von Willebrand’s disease might be used for breeding. And some puppies in these matings can still test in the normal range.
So, to sum it up: von Willebrand’s disease in Corgis is a severe medical condition, found not only in your Corgi but in other dog breeds – and even humans.
There are two things to consider when it comes to von Willebrand’s disease:
The first one is screening breeding animals so that genetic disorders are not passed on further. The second thing is identifying and treating the affected animals.
Corgis are prone to type one of von Willebrand’s disease; you should at least consider having a screening test. Also, if you plan to breed your Corgi, testing is a good idea, too.
The good news is that von Willebrand’s disease can be managed through the transfusion of von Willebrand’s factor. Cryoprecipitate and complete plasma are commonly used in this procedure.
And as always, talk to your vet about any concerns you might have about von Willebrand’s disease.