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vWD

von Willebrand’s Disease
Von Willebrand’s Disease is the most common bleeding disorder in dogs, in which the blood fails to clot normally. This may result in an animal bleeding to death. Many different breeds are affected. Severe spontaneous bleeds are quite rare.
The Irish Red and White Setter has thrown up this disease, in small numbers.
It is an inherited condition without a cure. A DNA based test for vWD is available.  The DNA test, where it proves positive, creates a scenario where informed breeders, owners and their Vets can be aware of the possibility of complications due to accidents, injury and surgery. Informed breeding decisions which reduce or eliminate the disease can be made where the DNA status of potential breeding dogs is known.
It is occasionally known to occur as an acquired condition, such as when the dog is down with a virus, and to “clear” or return to normal when the underlying cause has been cured. Certain live virus vaccines have been known to trigger vWD in sensitive dogs.

Unlike haemophilia, vWD affects both the sexes. Dogs with the condition will not necessarily be clinically affected (but will still pass it on to their progeny) and those which are clinically affected (displaying symptoms) will be affected to varying degrees.

Males and females are equally affected. Inheritance seems to be recessive, but complicated. This disease is inherited as either an autosomal recessive trait or as an autosomal dominant trait, with incomplete penetrance, which in simple terms means that it is passed on direct from one generation to the next, is not sex-linked, and occurs in varying degrees in affected animals. Any dog found to have the condition has to have at least one affected parent and will itself pass it on to some of its progeny. The likelihood is that the progeny will be affected to a greater extent than the parent. Carriers of the gene, heterozygotes (which receive the gene from one parent only), may possibly never present clinical symptoms.

Homozygotes (animals which receive the gene from both parents) will usually die either in utero or soon after birth, as this is a lethal genetic effect. The vWD gene being present in both parents can thus lead to smaller than average litters, stillbirths (particularly macerated puppies), or "fading puppies".
Clinically affected animals should never be bred from.

Bleeding may be of a varying tendency and severity in affected individuals.

 
Symptoms:
Bitches may experience longer than normal seasons with more bleeding than is usual;
haemorrhage following even minor surgical procedures or whelping - which may create a scenario where they literally bleed to death;
bleeding from the mucous membranes, such as in the mouth - particularly the gums, or nose;
frequent haematoma or bruising occurs;
stillbirths (particularly macerated puppies);
swellings or lumps appear under the skin;

blood may be passed in faeces or urine;

recurrent diarrhoea with or without bleeding;
dry, flaking skin - particularly in the ears;
excessive bleeding from the umbilical cord when it is cut at birth, or from dew claw removal, or having toe nails cut too short;
gastrointestinal bleeding;
sudden death under anaesthesia, as the disease predisposes to such deaths (allergic to anaesthesia).
von Willebrand’s Disease can be a condition secondary to hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), rather than a primary disorder. In these cases, treating the underlying hypothyroidism will remove the VWD.
 
In von Willebrand’s Disease, an underlying but hidden bleeding tendency (an apparent non-bleeder) can be triggered by stress such as illness, particularly viral disease since any viral infection can prolong clotting times by impairing platelet and/or endothelial cell production. Live virus vaccines have the same effect. Where a dog has von Willebrand’s Disease, the problems associated with live virus vaccines and bleeding is greatest during the period five to ten days after vaccination, so if an affected dog has to have necessary surgery, vaccination with live virus vaccines should preferably not be carried out, or should alternatively be done well away from the surgery date.
Due to the risk of death as a result of being anaesthetised, plus the added risk of possibly uncontrolled or extended bleeding, it is not advised for dogs with von Willebrand’s Disease to have any types of elective surgery done, including spaying. Should an emergency surgery be necessary, ensure that your Vet has the “antidote” on hand.
 
Certain drugs should be avoided in the treatment of dogs with vWD as they interfere with blood clotting, and thus increase the risk of the dog bleeding to death. Such drugs include aspirin, phenylbutazone, promozine-derivative tranquillizers, oestrogens, introfurans, sulfonamides, anti-inflammatory drugs such as cortisone, penicillin compounds, local anaesthetics, phenothiazines, and plasma expenders such as dextran and HES. 

Dogs clinically affected by vWD may need to have their nails clipped at the Vet’s surgery, as should the nail be clipped too short, into the quick, the bleeding may need to be stopped by cauterisation. Ear haematomas (blood blisters) are also more commonly found in dogs with bleeding tendencies.

 
Breeds affected by von Willebrand’s Disease:
  • Basset Hound

  • Crossbreeds

  • Dachshund, (standard and miniature)

  • Doberman Pinscher

  • German Shepherd

  • Golden Retriever

  • Irish Setter

  • Irish Red and White Setter

  • Keeshond

  • Manchester Terrier, (standard and toy)

  • Miniature Schnauzer

  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi

  • Poodle, (miniature and standard)

  • Rottweiler

  • Scottish Terrier

  • Shetland Sheepdog

DNA testing:

Enquiries for DNA based testing should be made to Vikki Lett: 

 e-mail to vikki.lett@aht.org.uk or www.aht.org.uk

Physical Address:

Genetic Services,
Animal Health Trust
Lanwades Park
Kentford
Newmarket
Suffolk
CB8 7UU

VetGen, website address: www.vetgen.com also does DNA testing for vWD.  A swab of the inside of the patient's mouth is all that is required to determine whether the dog is clear, a carrier, or affected. The validity of this particular genetic test has not been independently published and remains controversial.
 

Guidelines for effective and accurate DNA testing:

Puppies can be tested as soon as they are weaned and large enough for blood to be obtained from their veins.

Bitches should not be tested within two weeks of a season, when in whelp (pregnant), or for two months following whelping.

Dogs should not be tested within ten days of vaccination, as vaccines can affect test results. If a dog is receiving medication when tested, the type of medication and the dosage rate should be specified when sending in the blood sample.

The animal should not be fed for several hours before the sample is taken.

Shipping and transport should be according to the Testing Laboratory’s instructions, and take place as swiftly as possible.

 

NEW DNA TEST CONTROL SCHEMES
APPROVED BY THE BRITISH KENNEL CLUB

At the request of the relevant breed clubs, the General Committee of the Kennel Club has approved a new DNA test control scheme, for von Willebrands Disease (vWD) in the Irish Red and White Setter, as follows:

Effective from 1st January 2011, the Kennel Club will only register litters of Irish Red & White Setters if both parents are DNA tested clear of the von Willebrands Disease (vWD) mutation, or are hereditarily clear of this mutation.

 Further information may be obtained from the Kennel Club’s Health & Information Department at: info@thekennelclub.org.uk

 

Thanks to Vanessa Mason (click here to view her website) for use of this information.